Budget advances in Missouri

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The state’s $27billion budget was advanced out of the House Budget committee this week. While few changes were made, there was a bit of surprise when Kirkwood Democrat Deb Lavender offered an amendment, which was approved, that took more than $6million from Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office and gave it to the state’s Public Defenders. It is expected that there will be an effort to move the money back to the Attorney General’s office.

The House appropriations staff has announced the budget bills will be heard on the House Floor next Tuesday and third read and sent to the Senate on Thursday.

House Passes Bill Repealing Prevailing Wage

On Thursday, the Missouri House sent Warren Love’s (R-Osceola) bill that repeals Missouri’s prevailing wage law to the Senate. While House and Senate leadership have pledged to pass several bills that are viewed by democrats as anti-labor, the repeal of prevailing wage is widely viewed as the most contentious because repealing prevailing wage will directly impact the salaries of union members. Under current law, contractors and subcontractors working on public works projects are required to pay employees the prevailing wage for the particular locality in which the project is being completed. This bill changes the law to require contractors and subcontractors to pay employees state or federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. Contractors and subcontractors would be permitted to pay higher than the minimum wage, but that would not be a requirement.

The bill is expected to move through the Senate Committee process quickly, but will likely face a filibuster from pro-labor Senators.

House Sends Real ID Legislation to the Senate

After giving Congress and the President a month to repeal the Federal Real ID requirements, the House voted to send a bill that would give Missourians the option to choose a Real ID to the Senate. Missouri is one of a handful of states that has yet to comply with the Federal law. If the legislature does not approve this bill, Missourians will need a passport to fly domestically and will be unable to use their Missouri driver’s licenses to enter federal facilities.

Course Access is One Step Closer to the Governor’s Desk

This week the Senate Education Committee heard Representative Bryan Spencer’s (R-St. Charles) course access bill. This legislation would ensure that Missouri’s students would have access to the courses they need to be successful in college and career. This bill is a priority of both Governor Eric Greitens and Speaker Richardson. No action was taken on the bill.

Economic Development Legislation on the Move

The House committee on Local Government heard Senator Wasson’s (R-Christian County) bill that will modify the language relating to agreements that may be entered into by municipalities who participate in industrial development projects. The bill easily passed the Senate. No action was taken on the bill.

Additionally, the Senate Education Committee heard Representative Jeanie Lauer’s (R-Jackson County) legislation that will allow students to take the ACT WorkKeys assessments instead of the ACT Plus Writing Assessment. While no action was taken on the bill this week though the Senate Education Committee is expected to vote on it next week.

House and Senate Both Perfect Legislation Dealing with Time Limited Demands

Both House and Senate leadership pledged to pass significant tort reform legislation this year, and this week another part of the tort reform agenda advanced. Each chamber passed legislation that would ensure insurance companies have adequate time to review claims before deciding to settle. Both bills will now work their way through the committee process in the other chamber.

Electric and Water Utilities Infrastructure Bills Stalled

This week Senator Ed Emery (R-Barton County) presented two utilities bills on the Senate Floor, one dealing with rate stabilization for water and sewer corporations and another dealing with ratemaking for electric utilities. Much like similar bills in the past, a handful of Senators launched a filibuster and forced Senator Emery to lay the bills over. It is possible the Senate will give these bills some additional floor-time, but they both continue to face significant opposition.