This is our dedicated Legislative Update page. As legislative bills concerning water and wastewater utilities come forth, we will do our best to keep you updated and informed. We will also use this area of the MRWA website to post National Headlines that impact rural water and wastewater utilities across the country. We encourage you to get to know your legislators and let them know how proposed legislation affects you and the operation of your utility.
18 May 2017 Legislative Update
I wanted to wait a few days to let the dust settle from this year’s Legislative Session before I posted the final report. One never knows exactly what comes out of it until the very end. It was a strange year, legislatively, because there were “pet” subjects to take up and most of the various bills introduced this year were forced to take a back seat and wait their turn to be addressed, which, in some cases, was the very last day, 12 May 2017.
However, Missouri Rural Water Association was there on your behalf. Like most years, this year did not require aggressive action on any particular bill, but there were a few that we watched and intervened when necessary.
Here is a list of the most pertinent legislation and how they turned out:
HB 247 – Changing the Vote For a 4th Class Municipality to Sell Water or Wastewater
This bill started out attempting to remove the vote from the public should a 4th class city decide to sell their water or wastewater system if the system did not serve the entire population. MRWA opposed the complete removal of the vote from the people and the bill supporters compromised to drop the “no vote” portion and simply change the vote from 2/3 to a Majority. MRWA did not oppose the bill at that point. This bill passed the House, failed in the Senate, and will not become law.
HB 104 – Repeal Prevailing Wage in Missouri
This was a subject that was savored right until the very last day. This bill passed the House but died in the Senate. Therefore, Prevailing Wage remains, as it has been, in Missouri.
HB 340 – Net Metering
This bill would have allowed electricity providers to assess a “percentage usage fee” to customers that were generating electricity, i.e. solar, for that customer’s usage of the electrical grid. The problem we had with the bill is it did not specify what electrical bill line item that the usage fee would be assessed, therefore, it could have made the bill rise significantly and this would have affected our membership that participated in the Brightergy Solar Program. However, the bill died in the Senate and did not pass.
HB 849 – State Auditor Reports
This bill would require the State Auditor to report any political subdivision that does not submit an annual financial statement and impose fines on those that continue to be delinquent. Wording changes to this bill were discovered on the final day, but on the last day it was amended to SB 112 and was “Truly Agreed”. Upon the Governor’s signature, this will become law.
HB 451 – Change in Population Status
This bill provides that if a political subdivision is operating under a statute requiring a specific population, the political subdivision shall not lose that status due to a loss of population. This bill was “Truly Agreed” on the last day and upon the Governor’s signature will become law.
HB 656 – Locating Cellular Towers in Public Right-Of-Way
A very sore subject in large cities, particularly, this bill would have allowed cellular towers to be installed into public right-of-ways. It died in the Senate and did not pass.
HB 353 – Changing No-Election Threshold From 1,000 to 2,000
Presently, municipalities with 1,000, or fewer, residents can skip an election if the seat in question has only one candidate. The bill attempted to change that threshold from 1,000 to 2,000, or fewer. It died in the Senate and did not pass.
HB 383 – Landlord Liability
Presently, if a renter is delinquent on utility charges then the landlord can be held liable for them. This bill would have released the landlord from that responsibility. This bill was assigned to committee but never had a hearing, therefore, it did not pass and the landlord liability for delinquent utility charges remains.
In closing, this year was mostly “bill watching” rather than needing to really interact. With the new administration, the legislative year was very slow to start, dealt with Right-to-Work, the State budget, and then ended with a flurry of activity on the very last day.
MRWA works to support you not only with technical assistance, training, and regulatory representation, but also with legislative representation. I am always open to hear your thoughts on legislative issues throughout the year. Keep in mind, we do hold our legislative planning during October. This year, our legislative planning session will be on 25 October 2017 at the Lodge of Four Seasons during our conferences being held there that week. Keep watch here, on our Legislative Corner for more information on this planning session.
At your service,
Randy L. Norden
Missouri Rural Water Association