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On the CWIP front, we may be about to lose a battle, but we’d have to be a sorry bunch of incompetents to lose the war. And we’re not that.

The imminent battle is the vote on Monday of the Senate Commerce Committee. A month ago, the committee looked set to vote down Ameren’s money grab. Committee chairman Brad Lager, R-Savannah, said at the public hearing: “As is, I couldn’t even get this bill out of committee, much less out of the Senate.” A week later, I was part of a small group that lobbied Senator Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters, to vote against the bill. He didn’t commit himself personally, but he did observe that the bill was unlikely to make  it out of committee.

Part of the reason it was floundering there was opposition from Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. As he questioned Ameren CEO, Tom Voss, and his colleague, Tom Burns [on the left], the freshman senator catalogued all “the serious flaws of this bill as it pertains to consumer protection”.

And Ameren, fearful of getting singed by it, tried to get a federal judge to stop it from running during the NCAA Mizzou game. No dice, said the judge. It would be a prior restraint upon free speech and the ads contain information about an important public issue.

I couldn’t say whether senators have started getting many calls about it yet, but I can say that if the legislature passes this crap, a ballot initiative for 2010 is sure to follow. And with the economy slumping along, voters are likely to vote again to ban CWIP by an even larger margin this time than the original vote in 1976. Here’s an indicator of the truth of that claim: AARP did a robocall questionnaire on the issue last Monday and got three times the response they would normally expect from such an operation.

Republicans would be foolish to enact this legislation. Charlie Shields may think he can afford it. He’s from St. Joe, where people don’t even know what AmerenUE is, and he may figure that his constituents won’t cotton onto the fact that SB 228 is going to be picking their pockets sometime down the road. But once this issue hits the state ballot, Missouri voters are going to find out what a piece of garbage the legislature passed. Republicans–and Democrats–who have voted for it may find themselves scrambling to avoid being on the wrong end of the electorate’s pitchfork.