Legislative Bill Watch
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Senate Bill 944 – Sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown, the Utility Transparency and Fairness Act would require both utilities and the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) to open the ratemaking process more to consumers.
1. All regulated utilities – like Ameren Missouri, KCP&L and Laclede Gas -- would be required to file quarterly earnings reports that are open to the public. This would add much-needed transparency so consumers could know when these monopolies are earning more than their caps, which are set by the PSC. Utilities already file these reports -- but they are secret.
2. The PSC would also be required to analyze in writing how rate increase proposals would impact consumers. When establishing a utility’s earnings cap it would have to take into account current economic conditions as well as consumer testimony. Now the PSC just has to consider the utility’s reasons for a rate increase.
Senate Bill 702, filed by Sen. Brad Lager, is a Transmission and Property Tax Tracker.
This bill would let certain electric utilities violate basic principles of fair ratemaking by requiring customers to pay extra for certain expenses. This eliminates the incentive for electric utilities to control these costs to the best of their ability. The Senate Commerce Committee passed this bill; it now goes to the full Senate for debate.
Senate Bill 909, filed by Sen. Mike Parsons, is Special Accounting for Regulated Electric Companies. This legislation would change the way the PSC calculates rates in favor of utilities. It would add significantly higher charges on the monthly bills for the customers of Ameren Missouri, KCPL and Empire District Electric Company.
House Bill 1358, filed by Rep. Tom Flanigan, would impact consumers of almost all monopoly water utilities. It would expand statewide a surcharge that is currently limited to the old St. Louis County Water Co. service area, where it is used to replace or repair aging pipes, etc. The Missouri Senate defeated a similar bill last year by a 16-17 vote. The House Utilities Committee is considering the bill.
Personal Finance Legislation
Senate Bill 694, sponsored by Sen. Mike Cunningham, loosens Missouri's already loose payday loan laws. It will still allow the financially destructive cycle of debt caused by payday lenders' 300 percent annual percentage rate for payday loans, and it will remove the provisions that attempt to limit the fees that can be charged with each refinancing of a payday loan.