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

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

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.