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News & Press: Legislative

Four issues to watch for in the 2018 Missouri Iegislature

Tuesday, January 9, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kerry Cordray
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by Ewell Lawson (adapted from article in Winter 2017 edition of Alliance Advantage magazine)

Missouri lawmakers reported for duty last week as the 2018 legislative session got underway. While the calendar has changed, four issues impacting hometown utilities will be the same.

In the comedy “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray plays a weatherman caught repeating the same situations. Like Murray, some readers might see familiar issues impacting hometown utilities and ask, “Is it Groundhog Day?”

Unlike Murray’s character, close observers will notice differences - likely no anti-municipal broadband legislation, federal tax law changes driving state budget discussions, and an industry-driven push to bring state compliance with federal coal combustion residual regulations.

However, if Murray were following the issues Missouri hometown utilities face legislatively, he might be unnerved by four similar subjects:


After the Legislature and Republican Gov. Eric Greitens approved a controversial “right to work” law and other pro-business reforms last year, prevailing wage laws will be an even bigger focus in 2018. Legislation is sure to be introduced, especially after an interim committee focus last summer.


MPUA supports some needed changes impacting service costs to citizen ratepayers,

especially those clarifying definitions of construction-maintenance.

The deployment of wireless antennas, or “small cell” technology, will again be an issue. Last year wireless providers failed in mandating a “least cost” approach to right-of-way and pole attachment deployment, so they will return.

There is nothing “small” about this technology when attaching to electric poles. Providers say antennas are the size of a “pizza box.” However, the legislation they push would allow them to have antennas as large as 6cf and require ancillary equipment of up to 28cf. In the pizza box world, that’s 27 pizza boxes per antenna and 127 boxes for ancillary equipment. No “small” matter.

In the constant need to stay connected, cellular and wireless companies are targeting utility poles and public rights of way as the needed deployment space. There’s only one problem: they see local governments as obstructionists. Their view is that simple community oversight of locally-owned assets is overburdensome and market pricing for public asset usage cuts into profits. But to hometown utilities, what is the fair rate of return to electric ratepayers? Shouldn’t the customer who paid for the electric pole see some return benefit?

Competition has pushed wireless providers to offer rental rates of $500 to $750 per pole, and in some highly competitive urban populations over $1000 per pole. These rates are offered in the hopes of being first to market. However, these same providers now turn to legislators claiming that it’s the local government demanding these “exorbitant” prices. They want state legislators to do the “price fixing” they can’t do collectively and cap rental rates at expenses below market and sometimes at below cost.

MPUA supports the deployment of improved wireless and data communications, but safety and just compensation must be a part of this deployment framework.

Missouri American Water (MAW) will again seek to make it easier to buy public water and wastewater systems with fewer community votes needed for a sale. Currently, a supermajority must approve public asset sales and is the only requirement of due diligence. MAW wants to lower that threshold to a simple majority community vote.

MPUA’s position is that if the threshold is to be lowered, then additional due diligence steps are needed to properly inform the public on the impact to the community of the sale.

All customers benefit from electric grid availability whether they use it or not. Now state statutes have changed the way electric utilities must look at recovering costs for grid availability and load demand. Current net metering allows customers with renewable generation to shift the costs normally shared by all to those without renewable generation. Special interest groups are working to shift these costs even more, by increasing the size of renewable generators eligible for subsidy and changing the pricing utilities are mandated to pay for such “new” energy to the grid.

MPUA supports the expansion of renewable generation when affordable for electric ratepayers and if the costs are shared by all. No doubt legislation will be introduced this year on this issue. MPUA will be reporting to you on this issue as it develops.

It’s no Groundhog Day, but MPUA will again watch out for hometown utilities to alert members when to engage legislators. Please tune into our monthly legislative meetings to see how you can help – watch for updates at

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