State of the State Address
Governor Greitens delivered his first State of the State address on Tuesday evening to a joint session of the House of Representatives and Senate. He stayed the course with his message of promising a “new direction.” Governor Greitens’ speech outlined his priorities, but did not include his recommended state budget plans. Typically the Governor releases his budget recommendations during the State of the State. However, this year, Governor Greitens is planning to announce the information on February 1st.
The legislative priorities outlined by the governor in his speech mirror those laid out during his campaign, including ethics reform, right-to-work, public safety, tax credit reform and job creation. Two of the GOP top priorities, including ethics reform and right-to-work legislation, are already moving quickly through the legislative process. Both bills were debated by the House this week and are expected to move to the Senate next week. The governor also noted that he plans to decrease the state workforce and in turn increase the pay for those valued employs. The State of Missouri currently ranks 50thout of 50 in state employee compensation.
To read Governor Greitens full speech, you may click on the following link: http://themissouritimes.com/37157/gov-eric-greitens-2017-state-state-address/
Department of Natural Resources Director Announced
Governor Greitens selected another member of his cabinet this week to lead the Department of Natural Resources. Carol Comer has been hired and comes to Missouri from Indiana as the former environmental agency director. She is an environmental lawyer who served as commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management since 2015. Governor Greitens has many more state department director positions to fill including the Department of Social Services and the Division of MO HealthNet.
Right to Work
Another issue high of the Republican leadership and governor’s list is making Missouri a Right-to-Work state. This has been a very divisive legislative battle for the last several years pitting labor unions against big business but falling victim to Democrat Governor Nixon’s veto pen. With renewed energy and a new governor who will sign the measure, the House this week perfected and third read HB 91 – sponsored by Rep. Rehder (R – Sikeston) by a vote of _______.
The bill was debated on Wednesday for several hours with only one amendment offered. The amendment, which was soundly defeated, would have placed the measure on the ballot for Missouri voters to decide. The bill now moves to the Senate and awaits committee assignment.
The Senate General Laws Committee on Tuesday voted along party lines to “do pass” SB 19 – sponsored by Sen. Brown (R – Rolla), the Senate version of Right-to-Work. The bill now awaits placement on the Senate calendar to be debated by the full Senate.
Another tenant of Gov. Greitens legislative priorities is a commitment to public safety. To that end, numerous bills have been filed to both enhance penalties on crimes committed against first responders and to establish an alert system to help identify persons suspected of injuring or killing law enforcement officers. The House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday heard four bills relating to law enforcement.
· HB 57 – sponsored by Rep. Haefner (R – St. Louis County) adds to the list of hate crimes certain offenses committed against first responders and law enforcement.
· HB 302 – sponsored by Rep. Hill (R – Lake St. Louis) establishes the offense of intentionally targeting a law enforcement officer and creates a Blue Alert System.
· HB 228 – sponsored by Rep. Dogan (R – St. Louis County) establishes the Blue Alert System.
· HB 180 – sponsored by Rep. Phillips (R – Kimberling City) designates the week beginning on the second Saturday in June as “Law Enforcement Recognition Week.”
The bills were all supported by law enforcement agencies and the Fraternal Order of Police from around the state. No further action was taken on the bills.
The Missouri House of Representatives debated and passed the leading ethics reform bill this week in bipartisan fashion. The bill, HB 60, is sponsored by Rep. Alferman (R – Hermann), enacts bans on lobbyists gifts to elected officials, with some exceptions. The exceptions include flowers, plaques, and some event catered meals. The legislation stands in line with the promises made by Governor Greitens during his campaign and on his first day in office when he signed an executive order banning any of his staff to accept gifts from lobbyists.
Governor Greitens took the first step to maintain the state’s balanced budget on Monday by withholding $146 million in current spending. He made the announcement in a Facebook Live stream just one week after being sworn into office. The state’s slow revenue growth, drop in corporate taxes, and prior shortfalls has created insufficient funds for the Missouri bank account. The total in current withhold for Fiscal Year 2017 is $346 million when combined with the $200 million previously withheld by former Governor Nixon.
The bulk of the spending reductions announced this week were placed upon public universities and community colleges at nearly $68 million. Several other programs and services were also reduced across state government. You can review the list by clicking on the following link: https://oa.mo.gov/sites/default/files/Expenditure_Restrictions_January_16_2017.pdf
The House Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Fitzpatrick, agreed that the withholds had to occur and feels it should be enough to keep the budget balanced to end the current fiscal year on June 30th. The House Budget Committee is expecting to obtain the Governor’s budget recommendations on February 1st. After that point, the committee will begin hearing from each of the various state departments regarding the budget information before they draft their version of the state operating budget for Fiscal Year 2018.
Transportation Network Companies (TNC) UBER
Establishing a statewide regulatory framework for transportation companies like Uber is another hot button issue that Gov. Greitens supports. He has asked his Republican colleagues in the legislature to work on the issue and put a bill on his desk. To that end, on Thursday, January 19th the Senate Transportation Committee heard SB 185 – sponsored by Sen. Onder (R – Lake St. Louis), the bill dealing with transportation network companies. Several citizens with disabilities from rural Missouri testified in support of this legislation claiming there were no or very few cabs in their area and that if they did have a cab service, it was very unreliable. They praised Uber and Lyft and supported the bill. St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann testified in support and entered into the record letters of support from the St. Charles area Chamber of Commerce, and the St. Charles County Economic Development Agency. Also testifying in support of this bill was the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Uber, and Lyft. The only opposition witness was the CEO of St. Louis County Cab who asked the committee for parity in the legislation for taxi’s and taxi drivers. The St. Louis Metropolitan Taxi Commission testified for informational purposes and provided some suggestions to the committee to be included in the bill. There was no further action taken on this bill as there were a number of questions from committee members concerned with SB 185 creating an uneven playing field between taxi’s and TNC’s.
Next week the House is expected to take up for debate HB 130 – sponsored by Rep. Mathews (R – Pacific), the House version of the Transportation Network Company (TNC) legislation.
HB 95 – sponsored by Rep. McGaugh (R – Carrollton) modifies provisions relating to collateral source rule and provides that parties may introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value of the medical care rendered. This bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, January 17th. Testifying in support of the bill were the Missouri Hospital Association, the Missouri Defense Lawyers Association, Washington University, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Missouri, Ford Motor Company, the Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Grocers Association, the Missouri Insurance Coalition, State Farm, the Missouri State Medical Association, Kansas City Power and Light, Johnson and Johnson, Doe Run, Enterprise Rent A Car, Monsanto, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Missouri Petroleum Council, The Doctors Company, the Missouri Railroad Association, the National Property & Casualty Insurance Association, Shelter Insurance, BJC Hospital, and Cox Health. Proponents argued the need for transparency in medical cost to accurately reflect true out of pocked expenses. This measure is one of several pieces of legislation that address tort reform. Testifying in opposition was the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. Opponents argued the measure would violate the rights to a trial by jury and whether someone has insurance or not shouldn’t determine what they receive for their hardship. No further action was taken at this time.
HB 153 – sponsored by Rep. Corlew (R – Kansas City) modifies provisions relating to expert witnesses. This bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, January 17th. Testifying in support of the bill were the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Shook Hardy and Bacon, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, the Missouri Hospital Association, the Missouri Insurance Coalition, State Farm, Chubb Insurance, The Doctors Company, the Missouri Petroleum Council, the Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Grocers Association, Associated Industries of Missouri, the Missouri State Medical Association, Johnson & Johnson, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City Power and Light, Doe Run, Enterprise Rent A Car, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Missouri Railroad Association, the Missouri Society of CPA’s, and Shelter Insurance. Proponents argued the bill is necessary in order to increase the likelihood of accurate witnesses in court. Testifying in opposition so far was the Presiding Judges Association. The hearing ran out of time and was postponed until this Monday, January 23rd at 1pm.
SB 5 – sponsored by Sen. Richard (R – Joplin) modifies provisions relating to tort actions specifically unlawful merchandising practices, products liability claims, and venue requirements. This bill was heard in the Senate Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, January 18th. Testifying in support were the American Tort Reform Association, Associated Industries of Missouri, Ford Motor Company, the Missouri Grocers Association, the Missouri Retailers Association, Heartland Credit Union Association, the Missouri Bankers Association, State Farm, the Missouri Insurance Coalition, Chubb Insurance, The Doctors Company, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the Property and Casualty Insurance Association, the Missouri Petroleum Council, Washington University, JE Dunn Construction, Shelter Insurance, the Missouri Railroad Insurance, General Motors, Monsanto, Enterprise, the Missouri Hospital Association, and Pfizer. Proponents argued frivolous lawsuits regarding product liability have no positive impact on society and the need for showing real proof of defection. This legislation is also needed to clarify venue where cases can be brought. This is another measure consisting of a broader tort reform effort by the Republican legislature. Testifying in opposition were the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, Langdon and Emison, and The Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom. Opponents argued the measure would insulate companies that fraudulently sue citizens from having any recourse. No further action was taken at this time.
SB 31 – sponsored by Sen. Emery (R – Lamar) modifies provisions relating to collateral source rule and provides that parties may introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value of the medical care rendered. This bill was voted “do pass” and now awaits placement on the Senate calendar for full Senate debate.
Other Bills of Interest
SB 37 – sponsored by Sen. Silvey (R – Kansas City) and SB 244 – sponsored by Sen. Rowden (R – Columbia) allows the Department of Revenue to issue REAL ID compliment drivers licenses and identification cards. Both of these bills were heard in tandem in the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Thursday, January 19th. Testifying in support were the Associated General Contractors of Missouri, the Missouri Truck Drivers Association, Lambert St. Louis Airport, the Kansas City Aviation Department, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. There was no opposition testimony provided and the Department of Revenue testified for informational purposes only. No further action was taken on the bill.
SB 66 – sponsored by Sen. Schatz (R – Sullivan) modifies provisions of law relating to workers’ compensation. This bill was heard in the Senate Small Business and Industry Committee on Tuesday, January 17th. Testifying in favor were the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the Missouri Insurance Coalition, Associated Industries of Missouri, the Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Property and Casualty Insurance, the Missouri Merchants and Manufacturing Association, and the Missouri Self Insurance Association. Testifying in opposition was the Missouri Trial Attorneys. No further action was taken on the bill.
SB 113 – sponsored by Sen. Schatz (R – Sullivan) modifies the law relating to discharge of employers under workers’ compensation statutes. This bill was heard in the Senate Small Business and Industry Committee on Tuesday, January 17th. Testifying in favor were the Evans & Dixon Law Firm, the Missouri Insurance Coalition, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Missouri, the Missouri Retailers Association, and the Missouri Merchants and Manufacturing Association. Testifying in opposition was the Missouri Trial Attorneys. No further action was taken on the bill.