Editorial

Yes vote on Amendment 4 makes sense

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

A constitutional amendment that will be voted on at the Nov. 5 election affects the treatment of public utilities in our state.

Proposed Amendment 4, which enjoys wide bipartisan support, pertains to public utilities owned and operated by citizens of a city or county.

Current law exempts such local utilities from regulation by the state Public Service Commission. The PSC was established decades ago with a mandate to regulate private, investor-owned utilities that enjoy a monopoly within their designated service areas. Inasmuch as local public utilities are accountable to the citizens they serve, usually either through the city council or a county commission, this exemption makes sense. However, if multiple cities or counties jointly run a public utility, that joint venture is subject to PSC rulings.

Amendment 4, put on the ballot by state lawmakers, would change the Constitution to grant the same freedom from state regulation to all public utilities, including joint ventures.

Spearheading the Yes on 4 campaign, as its executive director, is former PSC commissioner Duncan Kincheloe, who was appointed by former Gov. John Ashcroft. The amendment also enjoys the backing of two former officeholders with familiar names, who have signed on as co-chairs: former Republican State Auditor Margaret Kelly and former Secretary of State Rebecca Cook, a Cape Girardeau Democrat.

The co-chairs put it this way in an op-ed piece published around the state, including on this page: "Missouri's 88 city-owned electric utilities want to do their part in maintaining the state's energy self-reliance, but most are too small to economically build individual plants to meet their needs.

"By addressing this issue through partnerships, Amendment 4 helps the customers of the state's smallest utilities and contributes to Missouri's overall energy security. ... It could save state revenue and imposes no new costs."

We urge a yes vote on Amendment 4.

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