MO’s first legislative week: right to work, ridesharing, ed. savings

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With the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration and Governor Eric Greitens’ first State of the State behind it, the General Assembly tackled its first full legislative week with a flurry of activity.

Executive Order

This week, Governor Greitens fulfilled the commitment he made in his first State of the State when he issued an Executive Order forming a commission to study the state’s tax credit system and make recommendations to reform it.  The goals of the committee are:

  1. Compare Missouri’s tax credit programs and its tax rates to those of its peer states;
  2. Assess the economic impact of existing state tax credit programs;
  3. Assess the possibility of financing cuts to overall state tax rates with cuts to tax credit programs; and  
  4. Recommend comprehensive tax reform legislation to the Governor no later than June 30, 2017.

You can read the full text of the Executive Order here.

Right to Work

Following more than three days of debate, the Missouri Senate voted 21-12 to send Sen. Dan Brown’s (R-Rolla) right to work bill to the House.  This bill has been fast-tracked by House and Senate leadership who declared it a priority when Republican Eric Greitens was elected Governor.

There were three Republicans who joined every Democrat in voting against the legislation: Ryan Silvey (Kansas City), Gary Romine (R-Farmington), and Paul Wieland (Imperial).

The House has already passed a version of right to work and is expected to pass the Senate’s version in the next few weeks.  Governor Greitens has pledged to sign the bill as soon as he receives it.

Ridesharing

Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) declared passing a statewide regulatory system for transportation network companies (TNC), like Lyft and Uber, a priority during his speech on the first day of session.  This week he demonstrated that commitment when the House approved Rep. Kirk Mathews’ TNC bill by a vote of 140-16.

The bill has been sent to the Senate where a hearing on the Senate version of the same bill was held in the Senate Transportation Committee last week.

Education Savings Accounts

On Wednesday, the Senate Government Reform committee heard Sen. Ed Emery’s (R-Barton County) Education Savings Account (ESA) bill.  Sen. Emery’s bill would establish a benevolent tax credit to pay for ESAs for children who have previously been enrolled in a Missouri public school.  An ESA tax credit would allow for the creation of scholarship granting organizations.  Donors to these organizations would receive a tax credit for money donated.  These scholarship granting organizations would provide student applicants with a scholarship equivalent of the state dollars designated for a child’s education in a personal account that parents can manage to cover the cost of customized learning.  Account funds can cover multiple education options, including private school tuition, online education, tutoring and dual enrollment.

Although Sen. Emery’s original bill offered scholarships only to students with special needs, he presented a substitute version of the legislation to the committee that would allow any student who had been enrolled in a Missouri public school at some point in the last 100 days.

Tort Reform

House and Senate leadership and Governor Greitens have said tort reform is a major priority for this legislative session.  As a result, there are several tort reform measures moving rapidly through the legislative process.

Rep. Kevin Corlew’s (R-Kansas City) expert witness bill advanced from the House Rules Committee on Legislative Oversight and now could be debated as early as next week.

Rep. Joe Don McGaugh’s (R-Carrolton) collateral source bill also advanced from the House Rules Committee on Legislative Oversight and now could be debated as early as next week.  Rep. McGaugh’s bill that deals with Time Limited Demands was referred to the Judiciary Committee, which he also chairs.

Senate President Ron Richard’s (R-Joplin) merchandising practices bill was voted out of the Government Reform Committee and is likely to be debated on the Senate floor in the next week or two.

Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown) has a package of tort reform bills that are all scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, February 1.  These bills include:

  1. SB 258 – Modifies civil procedure for joinder, intervention, and venue in civil actions
  2. SB 259 – Amends Supreme Court Rule 52.12 to prohibit intervention in a tort action when jurisdiction and venue cannot be independently established
  3. SB 260– Amends Supreme Court Rule 51.01 to require the independent establishment of venue and jurisdiction for joinder or intervention
  4. SB 261– Amends Supreme Court Rule 52.05 to modify procedures for joinder in tort actions
  5. SB 262 – Modifies Supreme Court Rule 52.06 relating to the dismissal of a claim due to misjoinder where venue does not exist