Conference committees dominate legislative workweek

Posted May 9, 2013 at 12:25 pm


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We are now in the final week before the State Budget must be on the governor’s desk for his consideration. We have until Friday, May 10, at 6 p.m. to accomplish this. Conference Committees have been appointed to reconcile the differences between the spending plans passed by the House and Senate. One bright spot that developed late is an unexpected increase in state revenues the past few months. Even though the revenue estimate on which the budget was crafted was decided months ago, any sign of a recovering economy is encouraging. This year’s budget totals $24.7 billion and is the culmination of a process that began in early January.

In the Senate, we spent a considerable amount of time debating legislation that would allow the Public Service Commission to intervene in some legal proceedings regarding utility companies. Basically, this legislation would allow utility companies to more easily pass along surcharges to their customers in order to pay for infrastructure updates such as wires, poles, pipes, pumps, etc. Currently in order to do this, companies first have to get the permission of the PSC through a traditional rate case. However, House Bill 432 would allow these utility companies to bypass this step and implement an Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge, commonly referred to as ISRS, to fund new infrastructure projects.

As I have publicly stated earlier, I understand and support the need for companies to be able to maintain and upgrade their generation and delivery systems. My concern was that there weren’t enough protections in the legislation for the rate paying customers, both at the residential and business levels. I, along with several other senators made a commitment we would put the well being of the customers first and foremost. When the issue was raised during a late evening session we were ready to discuss the bill at length to make our point. After much debate, this measure was set aside. There are still two weeks left in Session, so the issue could certainly come back at any time. However, given the number of Senators opposed to subjecting so many Missouri residents and businesses to higher utility rates, it appears unlikely to pass this year.

More than 20 Senate bills were passed out of the General Assembly and delivered to the governor for his signature. Senate Bill 16 was one such piece of legislation. It would exempt farm work performed by children under the age of 16 from certain child labor requirements, including prohibited hazardous jobs, such as operating and maintaining power-driven machinery, climbing ladders, operating vehicles and working with certain chemicals. The legality of farm kids doing routine chores was never an issue until the Federal Department of Labor tried to prohibit it in early 2012. Under the bill, these future farmers would only be able to work on their own family farms unless they have the permission of their parents, in which case they could then work on other farms as well. It’s important for our next generation to be able to learn valuable life lessons, many of which can only be experienced from direct hands on work.

‘Nothing is Politically Right Which is Morally Wrong’

If you have any questions or comments regarding issues in state government or within the 28th Senatorial District, please feel free to contact my office. Senator Mike Parson, State Capitol Building, Room 420. Phone: 573-751-8793 or 800-752-8256. Email: mparson@senate.mo.gov.