Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Noranda: Job Cut Coming

Noranda held a news conference yesterday to announce that it was starting “a workforce reduction that is expected to eliminate 125 to 200 jobs at the smelter over the next six months; suspending its $30 million capacity expansion project and will withdraw the expansion permit request it previously submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources; (and is) exploring the opportunity to move the construction of a new state-of-the-art rod mill to a neighboring state.”

But they held out hope that it didn’t have to be this way, saying they would file a motion with the Public Service Commission to request a rehearing of their rate design change request which was denied.

Noranda CEO Kip Smith was quoted saying, “If our rehearing request is successful, and depending on how quickly an affordable rate can be secured, we would be in position to re-evaluate these actions and minimize job losses.”

One assumes that the PSC Commissioners will reject the notion that they are somehow responsible for the job losses.  And the opponents of Noranda’s rate shift case have questioned if lower rates would simply be passed along to their shareholders.  The Post-Dispatch article (read it here) gets to this concern: Noranda’s largest shareholder, New York private equity fund Apollo Global Management, has a history of paying itself special dividends with Noranda cash. Apollo has received more than $400 million in dividends since buying Noranda in 2007 while saddling the aluminum company with $1 billion in debt to pay for its purchase. The commission, in its order denying Noranda’s request, noted that Noranda also warned in 2010 it would close unless it was granted a lower electric rate. “The New Madrid smelter did not close because of that decision,” the PSC wrote. “But in 2011, Noranda’s board of directors voted to give its shareholders a special dividend totaling $44 million.”

Governor Jay Nixon, who enter the governor’s mansion in 2008 at the onset of the Great Recession promising to “fight for every job,” weighed in, saying that he liked the halfsies proposal of the Office of Public Counsel to give Noranda some but not all of the relief they seek.  No word yet how many job non-cuts that path would yield.


Someone’s Polling on Constitutional Amendment 10

One source says someone was in the field polling last night asking questions which seemed to center on Constitutional Amendment 10.  That would restrict the governor’s withhold powers.  The ballot question is:  Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to require the governor to pay the public debt, to prohibit the governor from relying on revenue from legislation not yet passed when proposing a budget, and to provide a legislative check on the governor’s decisions to restrict funding for education and other state services?


The messaging questions focused on whether it was viewed as a way to preserve the state’s bond rating and pay debts, and whether the governor should be able to act in emergencies, or if there needed to be checks and balances.

Additional questions asked favorable/unfavorable for Chris Koster and Tom Schweich, as well as questions about teacher tenure and paycheck protection.


Caught in the Crossfire

The withholds are real… from the Kirksville Daily Express (read it here): “The annual budget battle between Gov. Jay Nixon and the Republican-led Missouri Legislature in Jefferson City seems poised to claim its latest victims: children’s books. Public libraries across the state are feeling the pinch with Nixon restricting about $6.5 million in their total funding, an action his office says was necessary to combat bills passed in the General Assembly that would have put the state budget ‘severely out of balance.’ The $786 million total withholdings and line-item vetoes went along with several bills Nixon vetoed, actions the Missouri Legislature could attempt to override during the upcoming veto session beginning Sept. 10.”


Questions of Execution Implementation

National Public Radio’s Chris McDaniel has the blockbuster story this morning (read it here) in which Director of the Department of Corrections, George Lombardi, apparently lies under oath…

Pull Quote:  "And I'm testifying right now to tell you that will not be the case. We will not use those drugs," Lombardi said.  He was under oath.  That deposition took place in mid-January. By then, Missouri had already carried out two executions in which the inmate received Midazolam, and has since carried out seven more using the drug, according to records obtained by St. Louis Public Radio….  In a separate deposition that also took place in January, Director of Adult Institutions David Dormire originally said Missouri didn't even have Midazolam. Later in the deposition, he changed his story.  "I was reminded that we had purchased those items as a back-up," he said.  But the documents show that the Midazolam was not just a back-up: It has in fact been used in each execution since November. What's more, these two men who offered assurances that the drug would not be used have signed off on its use each execution.


There’s an ideological divide on this issue.  Conservatives are more likely to shrug, and point to the crimes committed by the convicted, as if they’re getting what’s due; liberals often opposing any death penalty find the “botched” one create apparently horrifying scenes of the convicted “gulping like a fish on dry land,” appalling.  Both might admit that compared to the beheadings in the news, at least there’s some civility to the process here.

However conservatives should probably take this issue seriously. The botched executions are asking for a court to step in and put a halt to the practice – at least temporarily.


MO Lottery

The Post Dispatch reported on travel expenses of Missouri Lottery officials.  Read it here. Some think the new “questions” about why the lottery isn’t running a bigger profit is aimed at removing the current director, May Scheve Reardon. The school of thought notes that “all the info from the Post story has comes from the Office of Administration,” implying that Nixon’s folks are helping make the case.

Governor Jay Nixon then gave the Post an add-on story saying that their travel story “added to questions.” (Read that here.)

We’ll see…


Cell Tower Legislation Update

I previously wrote that the Missouri Municipal League had sued to prevent SB 649 and SB 650 from going into effect.  Their motion for a temporary injunction was denied.  So they stand as law… for now.


Roorda’s Ties With Ferguson Fundraising

The LA Times ran article over the weekend questioning the fundraising effort to support Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael BrownRead it here.

Pull Quote: The page "Support Officer Wilson," which raised $197,620, is run by a St. Louis police charity called "Shield of Hope," which has been certified by GoFundMe as a valid donation recipient. The three officers listed on Shield of Hope's state nonprofit records are Joseph Eagan, Timothy Zoll and Jeffrey Roorda.

This is most likely a non-issue for Roorda who is a law enforcement guy.  I don’t see any impact in his Senate 22 race.


STL Chamber Adds to Gov Relations Dept

St. Louis Regional Chamber hired Austin Walker as their Manager of Government Relations.  Walker will focus primarily on lobbying efforts in Jefferson City, Springfield (IL) and Washington, D.C.  See his Linkedin profile here.  It includes previous stints in St. Louis…

Advocacy Advisor, Employment Specialist, Paraquad, Inc, October 2007 – August 2010 (2 years 11 months)St. Louis

Advocated for the employment and civil rights of consumers, and worked to modify and create favorable laws, regulations, and policies in Missouri. I educated Missouri legislators and members of Congress about challenges facing their constituents, and contributed to the passage of meaningful pieces of legislation in Missouri…


Community Organizer, Association of Community Organizations for Reform, December 2006 – September 2007 (10 months)

Worked in St. Louis City and New York City to organize neighborhoods for the purpose of civic progress. In St. Louis I worked with the office of Mayor Slay to help improve public schools on the north side…


Follow-Up on Hodge

I wrote yesterday about Jessica Hodge terminating her lobbyist registrations.  She’s teaching Pilates full time now at Wilson’s Fitness in Columbia, and going back to school for physical therapy / neuromuscular massage.


Tweet of the Day

Rep. Vicki Englund… @venglund: And now I've almost seen it all. Spoke to a voter at the door with a parrot on his shoulder, glad parrot did not fly away


Help Wanted

Department of Social Services, Division of Legal Services seeks Staff Attorney, “located in the Jefferson City, Missouri office.  Salary range is between $38,544 - $47,628; depending on work experience. The position provides legal advice to the Department of Social Services and its divisions for the central region of the State of Missouri. Majority of caseload involves active representation of Children's Division in child protection cases…” See the ad here.


Fundraising Calendar

Today’s fundraising events from Mary Scruggs’ indispensable events calendar:

Sen. Eric Schmitt Golf – Forest Park Golf Course, St. Louis.

Rep. Don Phillips Dinner & Auction – Ledgestone Restaurant, Branson – 6 p.m.


Lobbyist Registrations

From the Gate Way Group website:

Rodney D Gray, Tami Holliday, and Susan Henderson Moore added Faultless Linen.

Norma J Collins deleted AARP Missouri State Office.

Dee George deleted The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Paul Luther Junkans deleted Office of Adjutant General.

Melissa Lorts deleted Missouri State Teachers Association.

Thomas F Richards deleted University of Missouri.

Dave Berry added American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Rodney Boyd, Brian J. Grace, and Kelvin Simmons added Tropicana Entertainment Inc.


$5K+ Contributions

7th District Congressional Republicans Committee - $10,000 from The Larson Group Inc.

Realtors Political Action Comm MO - $16,976 from National Association of REALTORS.

MO FOP PAC - $14,000 from Missouri Fraternal Order of Police.

Missouri Association of Nurse Anesthetists Political Action Committee - $50,000 from Missouri Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

Realtors Political Action Comm MO - $6,190 from Kenneth Hill.