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 (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.
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.
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.
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.