Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guernsey Resolution to Disapprove New Rates

This morning Rep. Casey Guernsey will hold a hearing on his resolution regarding the agricultural land assessments proposed by the State Tax Commission.  It’s become a Spring ritual every other year for the legislature to vote to disapprove raising the rates for rural areas.

The problem is that it’s been nearly two decades since agricultural land has seen its rates rise; no unbiased observer would contend that they are anything but undervalued.  Yet legislature always rides a wave of rhetoric about how miserable it would be to raise fees on farmers.

The result, though, is an asymmetry of land values.  The deformations that result can been from the need for special taxes to provide adequate services to the foundation formula which draws much more money from suburban areas than it does from rural areas.

In past years the Tax Commission has attempted to bring the assessments into line through a radical revaluation, recommending 30%+ increases.  This time the Commission has suggested a baby step, 5%.

Guernsey’s resolution appears to be almost a conditioned reflex.  But with more thought and debate, perhaps more mature minds might see the slight increase a reasonable first step to addressing the imbalance.

Senate Crumbles to NRA

Yesterday the Senate reconsidered the previously perfected SB 613.  That’s the gun bill, which was criticized by the National Rifle Association, after Sen. Jamilah Nasheed’s amendment requiring gun-owners to report when their guns are stolen.  Nasheed filibustered for hours yesterday, finally succumbing to fatigue and frustration around 10 p.m.

See the AP article here.

Bahr: NRA’s Lying Lobbyist

From Rep. Kurt Bahr’s recent Capitol Report (see it here):

Lying Lobbyist

 

Last week the State Senate passed the "Second Amendment Preservation Act" SB613 out of committee.  The NRA immediately started lying about an amendment added to the bill calling on their members to oppose this good bill.  While the sponsor of the amendment has several anti-gun bills filed the amendment is benign.  The NRA however is lying to its members initially confusing the bills with this amendment.  It is sad to see a group that I and many members of the General Assembly belong to try to make themselves relevant through deception pitting pro-Second Amendment citizens against like minded politicians.

Ameren’s Side

On the heels of Noranda’s two Public Service Commission filings last week, here’s Ameren’s side of the story.

First, they’re confident that they will prevail in the “overearning” complaint.

They had a rate case just last year that set the rates currently in effect, have $1 billion in investments and upgrades underway, and have publicly declared their intention to seek another rate increase later this year.  In other words, their rates were recently approved by the PSC and they will soon be opening their books to the Public Service Commission again to make that point.

If this proves true, then from Ameren’s point of view the overearning complaint is a distraction from the other filing, in which Noranda seeks to modify the rate design to lower their bill and shift the cost to other customers.  According to their calculations, Ameren believes that Noranda’s request would shift well over $200 million on to the backs of other customers between now and 2020, which Ameren says understates the real number since Noranda’s rate shift proposal goes out for 10 years and the cap in future rate increase cases would make the subsidy level even higher as time marches on.  Ameren is “stunned” that Noranda, “who already pays the lowest rates in MO, rates more than 60% below what residential customers pay, would now insist it should receive a big shift to lower its rates well below its cost of service and shift these cost to other customers.”  Ameren has said it will “vigorously defend the interest of its customers in these proceedings.”

And Ameren insists that rate design matters.  Even though they would receive the same amount regardless of who pays, Ameren “cares about its customers and its community and is on the phone every day with folks worried about getting electric service at a fair price.”  Also, Ameren is bringing up a policy question:  “This rate shift is really an economic development project funded through electric rates.  Projects like this that choose winners and losers should be in the purview of the general assembly since this is effectively a tax and places a significant burden on other regions of the state to benefit one area.  This seems like a very slippery slope for MO to entertain in the regulatory process.”

Of course all of this now is in the hands of the Public Service Commission it seems.  And one wonders how that will strike some legislators.  In the past, Ameren efforts (CWIP, ESP etc) have been derided by the opposition as de facto tax increases. Increases which were exposed to legislative vetting.  Now there’s the prospect that, depending on how the PSC rules, Ameren rate-payers will see their bills rise.  Will those opponents (AARP, OPC, Consumer's Council, MASW, etc...) be similarly aghast at potential increases without the process of democratic representation?

 

 

Meanwhile

Meanwhile in a potentially new front in the “utility wars,” Sen. John Lamping filed a bill (SB 878) that “requires the Public Service Commission to establish a transparent request for proposals process that will apply to all electrical corporations acquiring or constructing a supply-side resource expected to generate more than 5 megawatts of energy with contracted terms 18 months or longer.”

The bill’s goal is to reduce regulatory risk for energy costs for the state, reduce litigation heavy after-the-fact review and substitute it for a transparent competitive process.

Lynne Flowers, Managing Director of Competitive Energy For Missouri, LLC, is one of the prime supporters of the bill. 

Jefferson County Charitable Fund

A new political action committee was started last week.  It’s the Jefferson County Charitable Fund.  The treasurer is Bill McKenna.  And the address is the same as the address of former senator Ryan McKenna’s campaign committee.  Perhaps the new Labor Director will be transitioning his old campaign war-chest ($81K) into the new charitable PAC?  We’ll see…

IP Bits

Post-Dispatch reports that public schools opposes efforts to create a tax create program to help both public and private schools.  See it here.

Kansas City Star reports that Attorney General Chris Koster is providing some muscle behind the early voting initiative petition.  Could really help juice his turnout in 2016 if it passes… Read it here.

Casey Funeral

Here are the arrangements for Ron Casey.

Viewing: Tuesday from 2-8 PM Wednesday 9-10 AM at Second Baptist Church, Festus, MO, 63028

Funeral: Wednesday 10 AM, Second Baptist Church.

Wednesday’s House session will convene at 2 p.m. so members may attend Casey’s funeral.

$5K+ Contributions

Hanaway for Governor - $10,000 from Matthew Bartle.

Friends for Debbie Dunnegan - $35,000 from JD Record Searches.

MO Insurance Coalition PAC - $10,000 from RightChoice Managed Care Inc.

Friends of Lincoln Hough - $10,000 from H E Whitener.

St. Louisans for a Sustainable Future - $5,140 from Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.

Notes on Money

Former senate Matt Bartle, a former Jeff Roe client, gives $10K to Hanaway.

Debbie Dunnegan is running for Recorder Of Deeds in Jefferson County.

H E Whitener is CEO of Trailiner.

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Gate Way Group website:

Jeffery N Brooks, and Cynthia Gamble added AEP Transmission Asset Strategy and Policy.

Jack Cardetti added OCM LLC.

Fundraising Calendar

From Mary Scruggs’ indispensable events calendar:

Auditor Tom Schweich Reception – Capital City Cork, Jefferson City – 5-6:30 p.m.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer Reception – Jefferson City Country Club – 6-7 p.m.

Linn State Legislative Tour – Bus departs 5:15 p.m. Senate Garage  - 7:30 p.m. return

Birthdays

Happy birthday Rep. Jeffery Justus (60).