In Jefferson City, state legislators try to look at how Washington’s operating and do the opposite. During the contentious debate over the President’s healthcare law in Washington, former U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reminded folks that ‘we have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it’. That is the wrong-headed approach for Washington, and the opposite of what we are doing here in Missouri.
For the first time ever, Missourians can now access amendments to legislation online before they are considered by the full House. While this may sound small, it has the potential to bring great change to the lawmaking process in Missouri.
Two years ago, the House implemented a new tracking program that has paid great dividends for taxpayers. Before then, legislators received 1.1 million pages of paper on their desks in the House chamber every year. Last year that number had dropped 80% and the cost of printing has gone down substantially. Information is more organized and legislators are better prepared for upcoming debates; it is harder for unscrupulous legislators to sneak things into bills.
In years past constituents could follow bills, but it wasn’t until after the bills were adopted that they would be able to find out what changes were made to them. Every once in a while, constituents call to let us know that we passed a bill which will create a new problem even bigger than the original problem we were trying to fix. These legislative failures often occur because the law-making process isn’t as transparent as it could and should be.
It used to be considered reasonable that House members would re-write a simple 20-page bill into a 200-page behemoth on the last day of session, have it printed and distributed, and suddenly that day, it went to the Governor to become law. We have put roadblocks in the way of that practice in the Missouri House by requiring a new version of a bill to be submitted at least one day in advance, though more time for review would be even better.
As your elected State Representative, I work for you in Jefferson City. It is my job to do the best I can to make good laws that govern all Missourians. Unlike the now-infamous statement of former U.S. Speaker Pelosi referenced above, I want you to have more opportunities to help us shape the laws we will all live under.
If you are interested in learning how to view House amendments and help us craft more effective laws, please visit www.house. mo.gov and click on ‘help finding amendments’ under “Related Links.”
By now I am sure many have you have received calls about House Bill 1316. Some of these calls go as far as calling HB 1316 a “bailout bill” for Ameren. However, HB 1316 would simply allow Missouri to keep open the option of building a second nuclear power plant in Callaway County, just northeast of Jefferson City. Similar legislation overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in 2011 by a vote of 121-21.
In its current form, HB 1316 requires a utility company to obtain a site permit prior to requesting cost recovery from the Public Service Commission (PSC). Moreover, it sets a hard cap on costs that may be recovered. Limiting it to no more than 45 million dollars or less than two dollars per year for the average residential consumer. This is a relatively small price to pay for energy security for the future. Most importantly, if the early site permit expires and the new plant is not built, the utility company must return the costs, with interest, to consumers if the PSC determines the utility acted in an imprudent manner.
Affordable and reliable energy is a pivotal deciding factor not only for the average consumer but for businesses looking to relocate or expand. In order to ensure that Missouri has enough energy to meet demands, we must explore our options in the expansion of energy production. Adding an additional nuclear power plant could be the most viable option to keep electric rates low in the long term, and avoid having to borrow energy from neighboring states.
For more information about House Bill 1316 mentioned above or about any others that have been introduced please visit the House of Representatives website, www. house.mo.gov. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House of Representatives.