Kelvin Simmons

Greiten’s tax commission releases findings

In January of this year, Governor Eric Greitens issued an executive order establishing the Committee on Simple, Fair and Low Taxes.  The mission of the committee was to review the state’s tax code and tax credit system and to produce a report and recommendations by June 30, 2017.

The committee, which was comprised of ten members appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem, began meeting in February and held a series of town halls to gather information and input from Missourians.

The full report can be read here and a summary of the report’s recommendations are below.

Missouri Works

As the state’s number one incentive tool for expansion and retention, this program helps businesses access capital through withholdings or tax credits to embark on facility expansions and create jobs.  This program can also help businesses purchase equipment to maintain its facility in Missouri.

Recommendations:

  • The Committee recommends maintaining current funding levels.  There is no annual limit on the retained withholding taxes.  Tax credits issued for the program are capped at $116 million annually.
  • The Committee recommends removing the distinction within Missouri Works Training between “new” and “retained” jobs.  Incentives would now be considered for all jobs seeking training assistance.
  • The Committee recommends giving the Director of the Department of Economic Development the discretion to deny an application for a project that does not have a positive fiscal return as measured by a REMI analysis.  Discretion would also be granted to deny applications for projects that fail the “but for” test – where the jobs would be created without the incentives.  Finally, discretion would be granted to deny an application for a project that could not reasonably be brought to fruition.
  • The Department would have 5 days to issue a rejection of an application.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit

Missouri’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is designed to supplement the federal LIHTC and provides a state tax credit to investors in affordable housing.  The LIHTC can be used each year for 10 years and is allocated to the owner of an affordable housing development.  Tax credits must be used for new construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition and rehabilitation.

Recommendations:

  • The Committee recommends restructuring the program as a “soft loan” instead of a tax credit. The loans could be repaid, extended, or forgiven as needed to complete a project.
  • The program would have a $50 million annual cap.  The program issued $101 million in tax credits in Fiscal Year 2016.
  • The Committee recommends the creation of a tax credit clearing house to buy up existing tax credits from this program.
  • The Committee recommends that this program’s funding be subject to the annual appropriations process of the General Assembly.

Historic Preservation Tax Credit

This program incentivizes developers to maintain the integrity of Missouri’s historic buildings, giving them new life.

Recommendations:

  • The Committee recommends combining the Historic Preservation tax credit program with the Brownfield Remediation tax credit program.
  • The combined program would have a $50 million annual cap.  The annual cap for the Historic Preservation program is currently $140 million. The Brownfield Remediation program does not currently have a cap.  That program issued approximately $10 million in tax credits in Fiscal Year 2016.
  • The Committee recommends that this program’s funding be subject to the annual appropriations process of the General Assembly.

Greitens OKs budget, withholding $251mm

Late Friday afternoon Governor Eric Greitens signed Missouri’s nearly $28billion fiscal year 2018 budget into law.  At the same time, he announced he would be withholding $251 million to help balance the budget, as revenue has not grown as quickly as expected.  Fiscal Year 2018 begins July 1.

Most of the withholds are from the Department of Social Services and the Department of Higher Education, including an additional withhold from the higher education core funding which brings the core funding for higher education to 9 percent  below FY2017.

He did not withhold any funds from the foundation formula.  As a result, the formula is expected to be fully funded.  He did withhold some funds from K-12 transportation funding.

You can read the withholds here and here.

Governor Greitens Vetoes Fund Sweep Legislation

The governor also announced he was going to veto House Committee Bill 3 which would have directed the Commissioner of Administration to sweep funds from state funds into general revenue to pay for long-term care and nursing homes.

Proponents of the legislation felt it was a necessary to keep vulnerable Missourians in their homes.  Opponents felt it was an unconstitutional one -time fix to a long-term problem.

Governor Greitens Signs Workplace Discrimination Legislation

Governor Greitens also signed Senate Bill 43 (Gary Romine-Farmington).  This legislation will raise the standard of proof for employment discrimination cases under the Missouri Human Rights Act, exempts supervisors and managers who are not employers from being sued for discriminatory conduct, and set caps on damages awarded to successful plaintiffs.

Supporters of the bill believe it will improve the state’s economic climate and foster job growth. Opponents of the bill say it guts the Missouri Human Rights Act.

Governor Greitens Announces Plans on Minimum Wage Preemption

Lastly, Governor Eric Greitens announced that he would allow the legislation that will prevent municipalities from raising the minimum wage to become law without his signature.  The law will go into effect on August 28, 2017.  Currently, the City of Saint Louis is the only municipality with a minimum wage higher than the state’s minimum wage.  Therefore, on August 29, the minimum wage in Saint Louis City will go from $10/hour back down to $7.70.

Missouri special session update: what’s passed, what’s signed, and what hasn’t

During the second week of the second special legislative session, the House of Representatives made a few changes to the Senate bill. The most major change is that under the House bill, the Attorney General could prosecute an abortion related offense without notifying the local prosecutor.  Under the Senate version, the local Attorney General could only prosecute an abortion related offense if the local prosecutor failed to do so.

Because the House changed the Senate Bill, the bill must go back to the Senate.  The Senate is expected to reconvene the week of July 3.

Update on Greitens’ Actions on Legislation

The General Assembly sent Governor Greitens seventy-nine substantive bills this legislative session.  To date, he has signed 14.  Any bill he does not sign or veto by July 15 will become law.  Below you will find two lists.  First is a list of legislation that the Governor has already signed and second is a list of bills that were passed and are, so far, unsigned.

Bills the Governor has signed

  • SB 19 – Creates new provisions of law relating to labor organizations
  • SB 108 – Grants reemployment rights to members of the military
  • SB 160 – Modifies provisions relating to child protection
  • SB 161 – Establishes the Ozark Exploration Bicentennial Commission
  • SB 182 – Modifies provisions of law relating to project labor agreements
  • SB 248 – Repeals the expiration date for tax refund contributions to the Organ Donor Program Fund
  • SB 279 – Adds certain forms to the list of documents sufficient to demonstrate eligibility for a veteran designation on an applicant’s driver’s license or non-driver identification card
  • HB 14 – To appropriate money for supplemental purposes for the several departments and offices of state government
  • HB 34 -Changes the laws regarding the Uniform Commercial Code to adopt the current version of Articles 1 and 7
  • HB 130 – Enacts provisions relating to transportation network companies
  • HB 151 – Allows the Department of Revenue to issue REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards
  • HB 153 – Modifies provisions relating to expert witnesses
  • HB 662 – Allows the Department of Agriculture to assess civil penalties for the use of a herbicide for a crop for which the herbicide was not labeled for use
  • HCR 4 – Disapproves the salary recommendations of the Missouri Citizens Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials

 

Bills awaiting the governor’s signature

  • SB 8 – Modifies the law relating to flashing lights on motor vehicles and equipment
  • SB 16 – Exempts delivery charges from sales and use taxes
  • SB 31 – Modifies provisions relating to the collateral source rule and provides that parties may introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value, of the medical care rendered
  • SB 34 – Modifies and creates new provisions relating to criminal offenses
  • SB 35 – Modifies public notice and hearing requirements for certain land purchases made by the Department of Natural Resources or the Commissioner of Administration on behalf of state departments
  •  SB 43 – Modifies the law relating to unlawful discrimination
  • SB 49 – Modifies several provisions relating to local sales taxes
  • SB 50 – Modifies several provisions relating to health care
  • SB 52 – Creates several provisions relating to suicide awareness and prevention
  • SB 62 – Modifies provisions regarding various pension systems and forfeiture of a pension benefit due to a felony conviction
  • SB 64 – Gives designation to certain infrastructure
  • SB 65 – Exempts vessels propelled by outboard jet motors and vessels not originally manufactured with adequate guards or railing from the provisions prohibiting passengers from riding in certain areas of a boat
  •  SB 66 – Modifies provisions of law relating to workers’ compensation
  • SB 88 – Establishes a two year statute of limitation for claims of malpractice or negligence against veterinarians
  • SB 95 – Extends the expiration dates on certain provisions relating to public funds
  • SB 111 – Modifies various provisions regarding bonds issued by a political subdivision, qualifications for candidates of public office, limited liability companies who own property in certain cities, public administrators, and guardianships
  • SB 112 – Modifies provisions relating to political subdivisions
  • SB 128 – Modifies various provisions regarding criminal offenses, the Attorney General, the Department of Revenue, child support and custody, trusts and estates, guardianships, judges, court surcharges, court reporter fees, and victims of crime
  •  SB 139 – Modifies provisions relating to health care
  •  SB 222 – Modifies provisions relating to vehicle lighting equipment
  • SB 225 – Modifies provisions relating to transportation
  • SB 240 – Creates a statewide license for electrical contractors
  • SB 283 – Enacts provisions relating to political subdivisions
  • SB 322 – Designates certain memorial infrastructure
  • SB 329 – Modifies provisions relating to motor vehicle franchise practices
  • SB 376 – Designates “Old Drum” as the historical dog of the state of Missouri and “Jim the Wonder Dog” as Missouri’s wonder dog
  •  SB 395 – Modifies provisions relating to the practice of public accounting
  •  SB 421 – Modifies provisions relating to the conveyance of state property
  • SB 486 – Authorizes the conveyance of a certain state property located in Cole County to the City of Jefferson
  •  SB 501 – Modifies provisions relating to health care
  •  SB 503 – Requires the Committee for 911 Oversight to designate a state 911 coordinator
  •  SCR 1 – Appoints members of the General Assembly to the Inauguration Committee
  •  SCR 4 – Applies to Congress for the calling of an Article V convention of states to propose certain amendments to the United States Constitution which place limits on the federal government
  •  SCR 26 – Authorizes independent certified public accountant or certified public accounting firm to conduct an audit of State Auditor’s office
  •  HB 1 – Appropriates money to the Board of Fund Commissioners
  • HB 2 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the State Board of Education and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • HB 3 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Higher Education
  • HB 4 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Revenue and Department of Transportation
  • HB 5 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Office of Administration, Department of Transportation, and Department of Public Safety
  • HB 6 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Conservation
  • HB 7 – Appropriates money for the departments of Economic Development; Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration; and Labor and Industrial Relations
  • HB 8 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Public Safety
  • HB 9 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Corrections
  • HB 10 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Mental Health, Board of Public Buildings, and Department of Health and Senior Services
  • HB 11 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, and distributions of the Department of Social Services
  • HB 12 – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of statewide elected officials, the Judiciary, Office of the State Public Defender, and General Assembly
  • HB 13 – Appropriates money for real property leases and related services
  • HB 17 – To appropriate money for capital improvement and other purposes for the several departments of state government
  • HB 18 – To appropriate money for purposes for the several departments and offices of state government; for projects involving the maintenance, repair, replacement, and improvement of state buildings and facilities
  • HB 50 – Provides that Division Twelve of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit shall sit at the City of Independence
  • HB 51 – Authorizes county commissions that are trustees for a cemetery trust fund to utilize investment managers to invest, reinvest, and manage fund assets
  • HB 93 – Modifies several provisions relating to job training
  • HB 115 – Modifies provisions relating to intoxicating liquor
  • HB 190 – Allows community college police officers to establish regulations to control vehicular traffic on any thoroughfare owned or maintained by the college
  • HB 292 – Modifies provisions relating to banks, trust companies, and other financial institutions
  • HB 336 – Provides that life insurance providers may exclude coverage for suicides occurring within one year of issuance of the coverage
  • HB 339 – Modifies provisions relating to settlement agreements in tort claims
  • HB 451 – Provides that a change in population shall not remove a city, county, or political subdivision from the operation of a law
  • HB 452 – Modifies provisions regarding the liability of a health care provider for the actions of an employee
  • HB 850 – Modifies the complaint process for members of the state military forces
  • HB 1194 – Prohibits political subdivisions from requiring a minimum wage that exceeds the requirements of state law
  • HCB 3 – Fitzpatrick – Modifies provisions relating to funds for vulnerable senior citizens
  • HCR 19 – Authorizes the issuance of public bonds for half of the financing of a new conservatory building at UMKC
  • HCR 28 – Reaffirms Missouri’s support of the services of the sheltered workshops of our state
  • HCR 47 – Establishes the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force

Missouri supreme court, House spar over minimum wage preemption

Last week Missouri’s Supreme Court threw out a 2015 law that preempted Missouri’s cities from raising the minimum wage. This week, in an effort to prevent Saint Louis from raising its minimum wage, the House fast-tracked legislation that, once again, aims to preempt municipalities that wish to raise their minimum wage. The measure was approved by the House by a vote of 112-46 and will now be sent to the Senate.

HOUSE APPROVES TIME LIMITED DEMAND AND RESERVATION OF RIGHTS

On Thursday the House approved Rep. Bruce DeGroot’s (R-Chesterfield) measure that deals with settling tort claims. DeGroot’s legislation, which will now be sent to the Senate, includes two important provisions referred to as Time Limited Demand and Reservation of Rights which will ensure insurance providers have adequate time and information when making decisions about settling claims.

RIDE SHARING DEBATED IN SENATE

The Senate spent several hours debating a bill that would have created a statewide framework for ride sharing which would allow companies like Lyft to operate in all corners of Missouri. Proponents of the bill, including House Speaker Todd Richardson and Senate Assistant Floor Leader Bob Onder, are supportive because ride sharing will create thousands of jobs across the state and send a clear message that Missouri welcomes innovation. However, after several hours of debate, largely unrelated to ride sharing, the bill was laid over.

HOUSE SENDS VENUE/JOINDER LEGISLATION TO THE SENATE

The House approved several pieces of legislation that would limit a plaintiff’s ability to combine lawsuits and require plaintiffs to individually establish the county or district where a case is held. The controversial measure was approved by a vote of 100-54. Supporters of the measure claim that current law allows too many suits to be brought to Saint Louis while opponents of the legislation say the measure will prohibit Missourians from working together to fight deceptive practices.

HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE APPROVES BILL REMOVING RENTERS FROM THE CIRCUIT BREAKER TAX CREDIT

Amid a $580 million budget deficit, the House budget committee voted to save more than $60 million by repealing the “circuit breaker” credit for seniors and disabled renters. The legislators who support the repeal claim the tax credit was intended to offset property taxes paid by seniors who own their homes. Opponents of the repeal claim landlords pass the property tax on their rental property on to their senior residents. Budget chair, Scott Fitzpatrick, wants to use the money keep people in nursing homes or for meal programs for senior citizens.

HOUSE LITIGATION REFORM COMMITTEE ADVANCES SENATE BILL DEALING WITH ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS

A measure that provides that in an arbitration agreement between an employer and an at-will employee the arbitrator shall make all initial decisions was advanced from a House committee. The bill also establishes criteria for when the arbitrator shall determine that the arbitration agreement is valid, and that the arbitrator must be mutually agreed on by both parties. The bill will now be sent to the House Rules Committee where it must be voted on before it can be sent to the House Floor for debate.

THE COMMITTEE FOR SIMPLE, FAIR AND LOW TAXES HOLDS FIRST MEETING

Gov. Eric Greitens’ Committee for Simple, Fair, and Low Taxes met in Jefferson City yesterday. At this first organizational meeting, the committee defined its goal and outlined the structure they will use to achieve it. The committee aims to create a tax structure that is more business friendly and conducive to job creation. They will be organized into three subcommittees: tax credits, income tax, and sales/consumption tax. The committee will host four town hall style meetings across Missouri to gather public input. The committee has not released the date or location of its next meeting.

THE SENATE CONFIRMED THE FOLLOWING APPOINTMENTS FROM GOVERNOR GREITENS:

• Darryl M. Chatman, Democrat, as a member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators
• Jamie L. Farmer, Republican, as a member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators
• Jeffrey L. Layman, Republican, as a member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators
• Col. Sandra Karsten, as Superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol

Greitens’ cabinet clears Senate confirmation

Several of Governor Eric Greitens’ appointments were confirmed by the Senate this week marking an important milestone for the new governor as he builds his cabinet.  The following positions were confirmed by the Senate on Thursday:

  • Chris Chinn-Director of the Department of Agriculture
  • Sarah Steelman- Director of the Office of Administration
  • Drew Juden-Director of Public Safety
  • Anne Precythe- Director of the Department of Corrections
  • Carol Comer-Director of the Department of Natural Resources

Additionally, on Thursday Governor Eric Greitens announced that he was appointing Dr. Randall Williams as the Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services.  Dr. Williams is an obstetrician and gynecologist who served as North Carolina public health director.

Real ID 

The House Committee on Government Efficiency approved Kevin Corlew’s (R-Kansas City) bill that would allow Missouri to implement the federally mandated Real-ID.  This bill, like the bill approved by the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs committee two weeks ago, gives Missourians the opportunity to choose whether they want to get the Real ID or continue using the non-compliant ID currently issued by Missouri’s Department of Revenue.  If Missouri does not approve a Real-ID bill during this legislative session, Missourians will have to use their passports to travel domestically starting in 2018.

Right to Work

On Monday, Governor Eric Greitens was joined by many long-time advocates of Right to Work at several bill signing ceremonies across the state.  This marks the first bill signed into law from the 2017 Legislative session and is a major victory for the Republican leadership in both chambers and for Governor Greitens.

Paycheck Protection

The House third read Representative Jered Taylor’s (R-Springfield) bill that is commonly referred to as paycheck protection.  The bill requires authorization for labor unions to use dues and fees to make political contributions and requires consent for withholding earnings from members’ paychecks. Paycheck protection is part of the labor reform package that has long been a priority of Republican leadership.

Project Labor Agreements

The Missouri Senate spent much of this week perfecting Senator Onder’s (R-St. Charles) bill dealing with project labor agreements.  Senator Onder’s bill would repeal a provision in current law that prohibits the state, or any agency or instrument of the state, from requiring, or prohibiting, bidders from entering into agreements with labor organizations for the construction of public projects that are 50% or more state funded.  The bill is expected to be third read and sent to the House next week.

Utilities

The Senate Committee on Commerce Energy and the Environment voted to advance Senator Ed Emery’s (R-Barton County) legislation that would modify how rates are set for public electric utilities.  Similar legislation has stalled in the past as ratepayers, the utility companies and the Public Service Commission have disagreed on whether changes were necessary and how to balance necessary modernization with protecting ratepayers.

The House Committee on Utilities began its hearing process on Chairman Rocky Miller’s (R-Camdenton) bill that would modernize the ratemaking process for public gas utilities.  The committee ran out of time and was unable to hear from all the witnesses.  The hearing will be continued next week.

Time Limited Demands

The Senate Committee on Government Reform heard Senator Caleb Rowden’s (R-Columbia) bill that sets a time limit for accepting settlement offers of some tort claims.  You can read the current version of the legislation here.

Tax Credit Commission

Late last week, Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) appointed Representatives Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield), Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) and Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) to the Governor’s Commission on Simple Fair and Low Taxes.  The Commission is tasked with studying the state’s tax credit programs and offering recommendations to the Governor on improving the programs.

Sales and Use Tax

On Thursday the Senate third read and passed Senator Will Kraus’ (R-Lees Summit) legislation that makes clear that delivery charges shall not be subject to sales and use taxes.  Senator Kraus filed the bill following a 2015 state Supreme Court ruling that allowed the state to impose a tax on deliveries and a subsequent letter from the Department of Revenue in July of 2016 indicating businesses could be subject to the tax.

Greiten’s state of the state

Gov. Eric Greitens delivered his highly anticipated first State of the State Address this week.  He broke from tradition and did not use the speech to unveil his budget priorities or release his budget requests to the General Assembly.  Instead, he focused on the policy changes that he would like to make.  Reform was the theme of the night:

  • Ethics reform: ban all gifts from lobbyists to elected officials; prohibit elected officials from becoming lobbyists for a certain period after their service; and create term limits for the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Auditor.
  • Labor reform: pass a Right-to-Work law; eliminate Project Labor Agreements; and eliminate Prevailing Wage laws.
  • Tort reform: move to the Daubert standard for expert witness testimony; change joinder and venue rules to end out of state lawsuits; and reform the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
  • Regulatory reform: place a freeze on the creation of new regulations and conduct a complete review of every regulation in the state.
  • Civil service reform: reduce the number of state employees and pay the ones we have better.
  • Tax credit reform: with a team of “outsiders and legislators”, he will conduct a thorough, end-to-end audit of the tax credit system.
  • Welfare reform: rebuild the welfare system so that individuals are no longer incentivized to earn less money.
  • Public safety: update peace officers’ standards and training; establish a Blue Alert system; pass the toughest laws in the country for anyone who assaults a peace officer; equip peace officers with nonlethal tools and adequate body armor; aggressively apply for Homeland Security, AFG and SAFER Grants; and make it easier for military police officers and firefighters to come back home and serve as police officers and firefighters.
  • Corrections reform: engage the faith community to work within our prisons.
  • Education reform: pay teachers more and protect their pensions; expand access to Advanced Placement classes; and implement Education Savings Accounts for children with special needs.

Gov. Greitens has indicated that he will release his requests for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget to the General Assembly by February 1.  His budget requests are expected to cut approximately $500 million from the 2017 budget.

Legislature Continues Moving Priorities

 Right to Work

After hours of heated debate, the Missouri House of Representatives passed Holly Rehder’s (R-Sikeston)Right to Work bill by a vote of 100-59.  The bill will now go to the Missouri Senate. The legislation is expected to have any easy path through the committee process as the Senate General Laws committee already approved a similar measure sponsored by Senator Dan Brown (R-Rolla).  Though there is little doubt the Senate will send this bill to Governor Greitens, it is expected that the Senate will have a lively debate over the bill as Senate Democrats will fight hard to protect the unions who are vehemently opposed to Missouri becoming a right to work state.

Tort Reform

The Senate Government Reform Committee held a hearing on President Pro-Tem Ron Richard’s (R-Joplin) tort reform bill that deals with merchandising practices and venue reform.  This committee also voted to approve Senator Ed Emery’s (R-Barton County) collateral source legislation.  The House is also moving quickly on several tort reform measures as the House Litigation Reform Committee heard Kevin Corlew’s (R-Kansas City) expert witness bill and Joe Don McGaugh’s (R-Carrollton) collateral source bill.  These hearings will resume next week.

Ride Sharing

Senator Bob Onder’s (R-St. Charles) legislation that would create a statewide regulatory framework for companies like Uber and Lyft was heard in the Senate Transportation committee this week and is expected to be voted on by that committee late next week.  Similar legislation is expected to be debated on the House Floor next week.

Real-Time ID

Senators Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) and Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) presented their identical bills that would repeal a law barring Missouri’s Department of Revenue from issuing a federally required driver’s license known as Real-Time ID.  The legislation would also allow the Department of Revenue to continue issuing the old license to those Missourians that remain concerned about the federal government collecting data on individual citizens.  If Missouri does not begin allowing the issuance of Real-Time IDs, in January 2018, Missourians will not be able to board a domestic flight anywhere in the United States without a passport and will not be able to enter military bases.  Forty-three other states have already complied with the federal law.

Governor Greitens’ Appointments

 Director, Department of Natural Resources-Carol Comer, currently leading Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management

Department Directors still to be named:

  • Department of Insurance
  • Department of Economic Development
  • Department of Health and Senior Services
  • Department of Social Services
  • Department of Revenue

Right to work, tort and ethics reform rise to top in new Mo. session

On January 4, 2017 at 12:00pm the 99th session of Missouri’s General Assembly began. There are now 117 republican members of the House of Representatives and 46 Democrats.  In the Senate, there are now 24 Republicans and 9 Democrats (there is one vacancy as Senator Mike Parson will be leaving his Senate seat to become Lieutenant Governor).

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin) was re-elected to his position as President Pro-Tem of the Senate and Representative Todd Richardson was also re-elected to his position as Speaker of the House.  Both men gave opening statements to their respective chambers.

Speaker Richardson used his speech to lay out his priorities for the upcoming legislative session which included:  regulatory reform, passing statewide regulations that would allow ride-sharing, school choice and tort reform.

Senate President Richard used his speech to set the tone for the 2017 legislative session.  He spoke of how the Capitol building should serve as a reminder to all members of the weight of the issues they are tackling on behalf of Missourians.

House and Senate Committees Named

On Thursday, January 5th, both chambers appointed committees.  There were some significant changes in the House Committee structure.  Rather than having standing committees that report bills to a larger select committee as has been the case for the last two years, the House will have roughly thirty committees that are divided into two groups.  One group will report bills to the Standing Committee on Administrative Rules and the other group will report bills to the Standing Committees on Legislative Rules.  The two rules committees will serve as a second hearing process to vet bills again before they are sent to the House floor. You can see the House Committee list and a list of committee members here.

The Senate also named its committee members on Thursday.  While there are a few new committees, the Senate structure remains largely the same.  As of the writing of this report, the committee assignments were not on the Senate website, but you can read the chairs below:

  • Agriculture, Food Production & Outdoor Resources- Brian Munzlinger
  • Appropriations-Dan Brown
  • Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy & the Environment-Ryan Silvey
  • Economic Development- Jay Wasson
  • Education- Gary Romine
  • Fiscal Oversight- Mike Cunningham
  • General Laws-Bob Onder
  • Government Reform-Ed Emery
  • Health and Pensions-Rob Schaaf
  • Insurance and Banking-Paul Wieland
  • Judiciary & Civil & Criminal Jurisprudence- Bob Dixon
  • Local Government-Dan Hegeman
  • Professional Registration-Jeanie Riddle
  • Progress & Development-Gina Walsh
  • Rules, Join Rules, Resolutions & Ethics- Mike Kehoe
  • Seniors Families & Children- David Sater
  • Small Business & Industry- Doug Libla
  • Transportation, Infrastructure & Public Safety- Dave Schatz
  • Veterans & Military Affairs- Wayne Wallingford
  • Ways & Means-Will Kraus

Legislative Priorities

When Republican Governor-Elect Eric Greitens is sworn in on January 9, for the first time ever, there will be a Republican Governor and a supermajority of Republicans in both chambers of the legislature.  This line-up means many Republican priorities that were vetoed by Democratic Governor, Jay Nixon, are likely to become law this session.  Leadership in both chambers and Governor-Elect Greitens have made it clear they agree on several issues that the General Assembly is expected to begin working on as soon as session gets underway.

Those priorities include:

Right to Work– This measure guarantees that no person can be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or not to join, nor to pay dues to a labor union.  While it is widely expected this measure will be one of the first, if not the first, measure to pass both chambers, it will have considerable opposition from national and local labor unions.

Tort Reform– Reforming Missouri’s judicial system has been a priority for Missouri Republicans for many years.  There are roughly fifteen different kinds of tort reform being discussed among interest groups, but Senate President Pro-Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin) signaled his tort reform priorities when he filed two tort reform bills dealing with venue. (See them here and here)

Ethics Reform– When it comes to ethics reform, there appears to be consensus among legislative leaders and Gov. Greitens on two proposals: a complete ban on lobbyist gifts and placing an initiative petition on the ballot that would impose term limits on all statewide office holders.  A third proposal by Governor-Elect Greitens that is likely to meet some resistance in the legislature, includes lengthening the time elected officials must wait before becoming registered lobbyists.

Greitens’ Team Takes Shape

With his inauguration just days away, Governor-Elect Greitens’ team has begun to take shape with some familiar and some new names:

Cabinet positions:

Director Department of Corrections, Anne Precythe, North Carolina’s current Director of Community Corrections in the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Director Department of Agriculture, Chris Chinn , a fifth generation Missouri farmer.

Director Department of Public Safety, Drew Juden, Sikeston, MO Chief of Police.

Deputy Director of Public Safety, Greg Favre, Saint Louis Fire Department Captain.

Governor’s staff:

Senior Advisor, Austin Chambers, Greitens’ campaign manager and senior advisor to the Governor’s transition team.

Chief of Staff, Mike Roche, former Anheuser Busch executive and attorney at Armstrong Teasdale.

Deputy Chief of Staff, Caleb Jones, Republic State Representative from Boone County, MO.

General Counsel, Lucinda Luektemeyer, an attorney with Graves Garrett who has a lot of experience working with governments.

Legislative Director, Jennae Neustadt, former Chief of Staff to Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis) and Senator John Lamping (R-Saint Louis County)

Policy Director, Will Scharf, policy director of Catherine Hanaway’s gubernatorial campaign and Eric Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign.

In late December, Chambers did a press call in which he said the Governor-Elect is expected to roll out additional hires in the coming days.  One of those to be named shortly is that of Chief Operating Officer, a new position within the Governor’s office.  During his campaign, Greitens discussed that his COO would be someone who comes out of the highest levels of the corporate world and whose primary responsibility would be finding waste in government, cleaning up state departments and making state operations run more efficiently for Missourians.

Pre-filed Bills to Watch

Tort Reform- As stated above, tort reform is a priority for the Governor-Elect as well as House and Senate Leadership.  There have been several tort reform bills pre-filed including: two bills by Senator Pro-Tem Ron Richard that address venue issues, and others that include collateral source and expert witness legislation that was passed by the legislature and vetoed by Governor Nixon in the past.

Social Conservative Issues- Two bills (one in the House and one in the Senate) have been filed that would require all restrooms, that are not single occupancy, to be gender specific. Senator Ed Emery (R-Barton County) filed the bill in the Senate and Representative Jeff Pogue (R-Salem), in the House.

Tax Credits – There are, once again, several bills filed dealing with Missouri’s tax credit programs. The most discussed legislation is Senator Ron Richard’s (R-Joplin) that would cut the cap on Missouri’s Historic Tax Credits from $140 million to $120 million and use the additional funds to pay for upgrades to the capitol building.

Utility Regulation- There have been many bills filed, especially by Senator Ed Emery (R-Barton County), dealing with the regulation of utility companies.  Senator Emery’s bills primarily deal with what the utility companies refer to as “regulatory lag” and ratemaking.  Utility issues have been especially contentious in the last several sessions, and while many remain hopeful this year could be the year that rate-payers and the utility companies come together to reach an agreement, it is likely to still be a hotly debated issue.