Southeast MO lawmaker not giving up after impassioned speech doesn’t win jobs amendment passage

A fiery speech from a state representative was not enough to propel language he proposed that aimed to secure hundreds of jobs for his district, where people are struggling after it lost 900 jobs last year.

Representative Don Rone (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Don Rone (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Don Rone (R-Portageville) said the legislature needed to act to allow one company to proceed with plans to reopen an aluminum smelter, and another to build a new steel plant, both in southeast Missouri.  Both companies are hoping for lower utility rates that would allow the facilities to be profitable, but the Public Service Commission needed the General Assembly’s approval to even consider setting lower rates.

Rone attached language to multiple bills that would’ve given the PSC that approval, but it wasn’t passed before the session ended on Friday.  That was despite an impassioned speech from Rone, who called out three senators for blocking his language.

Earlier story:  Frustrated Representative calls out senators as ‘heartless,’ ‘selfish’ for blocking jobs in Southeast Missouri

“I got a little passionate there at the end and it’s because I work for the people of my district really hard and I take it very serious, and I was disappointed in the outcome,” said Rone.

Rone said the only hope now is for Governor Eric Greitens (R) to call the legislature back together for a special session to consider the issue.

“I will be reaching out to ask him to consider a special session to address this issue,” said Rone.

Special sessions are both rare and expensive and offer no guarantee of success, especially with Rone’s proposal opposed by some in the Senate.  Rone points out the legislature has been called into special sessions in similar situations in the past, when economic development and jobs were on the line in the St. Louis and Kansas City regions.

Rone said the impact in his region would reach beyond the 500-plus people he said would get new jobs from the two new facilities.

“500 jobs would probably relate to 2,000 people and all of the secondary jobs that would come around.  Restaurants staying open, businesses staying open, our port facilities becoming even a greater asset to us here at New Madrid because of bringing in the alumina to make aluminum, back in to bringing the scrap metal in to making steel.  Our port becomes even more valuable than it is today,” said Rone.

Rone said he understands that there is little time for the entities considering moving forward with those plants to make a decision.

“The gentleman is wanting to make a decision, I understand, by the end of May for the steel plant, and the Magnitude 7 people that are dealing with the aluminum mill, they’re out money every month to maintain that facility, to put guards up to maintain that facility, and I question how long that they will be willing to have money going out and nothing coming in,” said Rone.

Rone said his district is in need of these jobs as much as any portion of the state, particularly after the closure last year of the Noranda alumni smelter.  He said the major industry in the region – agriculture – is in need of fewer people to work because of advances in technology.

“I tell my friends in the legislature if they want to see poverty, come to southeast Missouri,” said Rone.

Rone’s speech last week raised eyebrows not only in the Capitol but in much of the state, when he accused three senators of being selfish, egotistical, and heartless in rejecting his proposal.  Normally soft-spoken and even in his tone, Rone became so emotional during his speech that he developed a nose bleed before sitting down.  In response the House overwhelmingly voted to attach his language to the bill that was before it, after giving him a standing ovation as a show of support.

Frustrated representative calls out senators as ‘heartless,’ ‘selfish’ for blocking jobs in Southeast Missouri

Frustration with the state Senate boiled over on the House Floor as one representative called out three Senators he called “heartless,” “selfish,” and “egotistical.”

Representative Don Rone (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Don Rone (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Don Rone (R-Portageville) told his colleagues he was rebuffed when he went to some senators seeking support for a measure that would allow the reopening of an aluminum plant and the construction of a steel mill in southeast Missouri.

Scroll to the bottom of the story to hear Rep. Rone’s entire speech.

The amendment would authorize the Public Service Commission to set a lower utility rate so the aluminum plant could be profitable.  Rone said that would have restored more than 400 of the jobs lost when the Noranda smelter shut down last year, and the new steel mill would create around 200 jobs.

“My people lost 900 jobs, but we had the ability to bring back 500 of em, plus, and all we had to do was give the Public Service Commission the right to negotiate,” said Rone.

Rone, normally soft-spoken and calm in debates, became emotional when describing what happened when he and other representatives from southeast Missouri went to the Senate seeking support for the amendment, which had been added to Senate Bill 302.

“King [Senator Doug] Libla sitting over on the far side telling [Senator Rob] Schaaf to come over and talk to me and the rest of us and try to convince us that their way was the right way.  The first thing Schaff did was pull a piece of paper out and slap it in my face and said, ‘This is how much money that these senators got,’” said Rone.

Rone was asking his fellow House members to vote to add his amendment to another bill, Senate Bill 124.  They listened intently as he grew more passionate.

“I have traveled this entire United States and I have dealt with a lot of people … but I’m here to tell you that I have never dealt with, don’t ever want to deal with, the most selfish, the heartless, egotistical people as Libla, as [Senator Gary] Romine, in my life.  Never.” said Rone.

Rone claimed when Senator Romine was asked whether he was, “willing to walk away from 500 jobs,” Romine’s response was, “You bet.”

Representative Don Rone (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Don Rone (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Now isn’t that a fine how do you do when we’re offering them 500 jobs at no cost to the state of Missouri, shovel ready, ready to go, 120 days and we’re doing something,” said Rone.

Rone pleaded with his fellows to again support his amendment so the bill could be sent back to the Senate as a “last-ditch” effort to give the PSC the authorization Rone said it needs.

“I serve some of the finest people you ever want to be with, but they are so poor.  They are all so poor,” said Rone.   “Thank you all so much.  You all agreed to do it, but anything that goes on [in the Senate] we shouldn’t even pass anything that they do, because they’re heartless, they’re selfish, and I’m asking you to pass this amendment.”

Rone was given a standing ovation by the members, many of whom have criticized the Senate this session for what they’ve called “dysfunction,” or a “lack of integrity.”

His amendment was adopted 148-2.

Click here to hear representative Rone’s entire speech on the House Floor.