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Greitens’ Special Session

Politicians love jobs.

They crave them — especially if they are the high-paying, quality variety. They campaign on their ability to land them and salivate when they help bring them home to their city, district or state.

Truth is politicians will do everything in their power to attract new jobs. It’s axiomatic.

So when Republican Gov. Eric Greitens shamed the Missouri Legislature back in session this week to consider a jobs bill that lawmakers failed to get done in the session — one that could create hundreds of jobs to the depressed bootheel — you knew there was more to the story.

There’s always more to the story. After all, if it was just about jobs, the bill would have sailed through the Legislature.

The bill Greitens wants the Legislature to consider would allow utility companies like Ameren to charge lower electric rates for a steel mill looking to locate in New Madrid and a company that has acquired the former Noranda aluminum smelting plant nearby.

That’s not controversial, give them the special power rate and get the jobs. Turns out it is a little more complicated than that.

The bill also includes a number of new utility rate mechanisms that the state’s largest electric utility has been pushing for the past few sessions. The bill stalled this session over concerns that it could raise electric rates for all Ameren customers even if the two companies don’t come here or create any jobs.

Greitens didn’t highlight that portion of the measure when he was unloading on lawmakers for not passing the bill in the run-up to the special session. He also didn’t mention the fact that Ameren was one of his largest campaign contributors in his run for governor. Whoops.

The special session is shaping up to be a test of wills between Greitens and a group of GOP senators who opposed the bill during the session.

The rookie governor has repeatedly taunted the lawmakers as “career politicians.” 

In fact, he’s turned up the rhetoric to sell the special session which began Monday afternoon. He says he’s “changing the game on them” and bringing them back from “vacation” to do the job they couldn’t finish during the session. He’s even brought a camera crew along to record the smack down.

Frustrated lawmakers are pushing back. They say Greitens’ real motive in calling the special session is to throw a bone to a large campaign contributor. They’ve used the phrase “pay to play” to describe the call for an extraordinary session by a governor who campaigned on a platform of cleaning up the corruption in Jefferson City.

They plan to use the special session as a platform to re-engage the ethics debate and the governor’s use of “dark money,” or campaign money that can’t be traced, and his connection to A New Missouri, Inc., a nonprofit formed to advance the governor’s agenda.

The entity has been responsible for robo calls criticizing senators who don’t tow the governor’s line and has drawn the ire of lawmakers who dismiss the tactics as cheap politics.

Greitens has proved to be a master of the political sound bite and social media campaigning. But his high-toned and often over-the-top rhetoric has cost him a lot of goodwill in the Legislature.

There is a path forward to get a jobs bill done in the special session. We are about to find out if the governor has any skills in diplomacy.