House completes work on budget

The Missouri House passed the state’s $28 billion budget this week.  This budget marks the first time the House has fully funded the K-12 foundation formula since this formula was passed in 2005.  The House also restored the K-12 transportation budget to last year’s level.  The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin working on its changes to the budget next week.  The Senate budget chair, Dan Brown (R-Rolla), has said he does not think the Senate will maintain the House’s education funding level, which means an agreement on funding will have to be worked out in a conference committee in early May.

Governor Greitens Prioritizes Rural Broadband

Governor Greitens announced a $6 million program to cover gaps between what schools could afford and a federal matching grant.  There are roughly 100 school districts in Missouri that currently lack high speed internet connections.  Governor Greitens has announced that with this state fund and the federal fund,  every school in Missouri that wants to access high speed internet will now have the resources to do so.

Tort Reform Measures Continue Advancing

Each chamber sent legislation that would ensure insurance companies have adequate time to review claims before deciding to settle to the other chamber.  Additionally,  a House Bill that contains the same provision and a tort reform measure that is referred to as reservation of rights was voted out of committee and could be debated on the Senate Floor soon.

Bill Proposing Changes to Bonding has Hearing

Representative Rob Vescovo’s (R-Jefferson County) bill that changes the law regarding the sale of public bonds to require some political subdivisions to issue debt at public sale was heard in in the House Ways and Means Committee early this week.   Additionally Representative Vescovo added this language as an amendment on a Senate Bill in the House.

Senator Schaaf Makes Major Announcement on Prescription Drug Monitoring

This week took an unexpected turn when Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) announced he was ending his nearly decade long opposition to a bill that would make Missouri the 50th state to adopt a prescription drug monitoring program.  Schaaf stipulated that in order for the bill to keep his support there would have to be an amendment added that mandated utilization of the PDMP by doctors.  This amendment will likely be fought by several physician groups.

Education Savings Accounts Get Senate Floor Time

Senator Andrew Koenig’s (R-Manchester) education savings account bill was debated on the Senate floor for about 90 minutes Tuesday morning.  The bill was laid over when Senator Scott Sifton (D-Affton) attempted to add a 100 page amendment that was nearly identical to the transfer bill vetoed by Governor Nixon in 2014.

REAL ID One Step Closer

The Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard the House version of Real ID this week.  Missouri is one of a handful of states that has not complied with the Federal Real ID law.  If Missouri does not come into compliance before January, 2018, Missourians will not be able to fly domestically without a passport or enter military bases and other federal facilities without alternative forms of ID.

Governor Greitens’ Appointments

After three weeks of delay and a private meeting with Governor Greitens, the Senate confirmed several of the Governor’s appointments.  The Senate Republicans held the appointments up because they were upset about the Governor’s executive order on paid family leave.  Governor Greitens met with the Caucus on Wednesday to discuss they executive order, and as a result the following appointments were confirmed on Thursday:

  • Darryl Chapman, Jeff Layman and Jamie Farmer to the University of Missouri Board of Curators
  • James Bean as State Fire Marshall
  • Craig Frazier and Carol Silvey to the Missouri State Board of Governors

Additionally the Senate Committee on Gubernatorial Appointments held a confirmation hearing on Governor Greitens’ nominee to run the Missouri Department of Insurance, Chlora Lindley-Myers, who was previously the deputy commissioner of the same department in Tennessee.

Lastly, Governor Greitens appointed Anna Hui as the Director of the Department of Labor.  Hui is currently Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Labor.

Budget advances in Missouri

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.

Missouri moves to align with federal Real ID law

After a long debate and the adoption of several amendments, the Missouri House perfected Rep. Kevin Corlew’s (R-Kansas City) legislation that aims to bring Missouri into compliance with the federal Real ID law. Most of the amendments were offered by members of the conservative caucus who want to ensure Missourians preserve their right to privacy.

There was also movement on the Real ID legislation in the Missouri Senate where Sen. Ryan Silvey’s (R-Kansas City) version of the legislation was debated for a few hours and then laid over with no action taken.

Both the House and Senate versions allow Missourians to choose an ID that complies with the federal law or continue using a non-compliant Missouri ID. If Missouri does not comply with the federal law, Missourians will not be able to fly domestically without a passport or enter federal facilities including military bases.
The legislation is expected to be third read next week.

Budget Situation

Governor Eric Greitens announced on Thursday afternoon that he will recommend to the legislature that the $50 million the state was recently awarded from a tobacco settlement be used to fill two budget holes in the state’s $27billion budget. First he wants to use a portion of the money to increase the state’s portion of the K-12 transportation costs. In the 2003 the state paid roughly 47% of the state’s K-12 transportation costs. Without this infusion of money, the state would be funding about 16% of the costs in the current fiscal year.
Second, the Governor wants to use the remaining money to replace funds he cut from elderly and disabled Missourians who receive in-home care. Both the House and Senate budget chairs cautioned that this was one-time money that was not going to solve the state’s budget issues long-term.

Education

The House third read Rep. Bryan Spencer’s (R-St. Charles) Course Access legislation that will now move to the Senate. The House approved the legislation by a vote of 124-31 signaling strong bipartisan support. The bill will now be sent to the Senate.

Sen. Andrew Koenig’s (R-Manchester) education savings account legislation was heard in the Senate Education Committee. Koenig’s bill allows children who are foster children, have special needs, or who have parents serving on active duty in the military to receive a scholarship that will give them and their parents the flexibility to create an education program that meets the child’s education needs. No action was taken on the legislation.

Transgender Bathrooms

On Tuesday the Senate Education Committee had a two hour hearing on Sen. Ed Emery’s (R-Barton County) legislation that would require students in Missouri’s public schools to use the restroom that aligns with the gender on their birth certificate. No action was taken on the bill. There are two similar bills filed in the House.

Pay Check Protection

The Senate General Laws Committee heard and voted on Rep. Jered Taylor’s paycheck protection legislation this week. This legislation would require certain unions to get authorization from members before it could use dues and fees to make political contributions. The legislation also requires unions to get consent from members before withholding earnings from paychecks.
Paycheck protection has long been a priority of many Republicans and has faced stiff opposition from labor unions.

Time Limited Demand

On Tuesday the House Judiciary Committee approved Rep. Joe Don McGaugh’s (R-Carrolton) legislation that would set a time limit for accepting settlement offers of some tort claims. A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) is moving through the Senate.

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.