The legislative week was fairly quiet with the House and Senate debating pertinent legislation in their respective chambers and continuing to hold hearings throughout the days and evenings. March 1st is the new bill filing deadline that was enacted this year for both chambers. The procedure is intended to stop committee level work from continuing on new legislation in April and May.
Greitens Announces More State Directors
Governor Greitens announced three new cabinet members this week to lead state departments:
· Dr. Randall Williams was named the new Director of Health and Senior Services. He is the former State Health Director and Deputy Secretary for Health Services in North Carolina.
· Joel Walters was named the new Director of Department of Revenue. Mr. Walters is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and formerly assisted U.S. operations of foreign headquartered companies in identifying tax planning opportunities.
· Chlora Lindley-Myers was named the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration. All three appointments must be confirmed by the Missouri Senate. She is the former deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Governor Greitens has yet to name a Director of Social Services or a Division Director of MO HealthNet.
NAACP Silenced in House Committee
On Monday evening, Rep. Lant (R – Pineville) made a bold move when he silenced Missouri NAACP President, Rod Chapel. President Chapel was testifying in opposition to legislation that would significantly alter the way discrimination lawsuits are handled in the state. After approximately 30 seconds of presenting, President Chapel referenced the bill to a “Jim Crow” law. Rep. Lant turned off President Chapel’s microphone and said he would close the hearing if he continued to testify. House Democrats have called upon House Speaker Todd Richardson to remove Rep. Lant as chair of the committee for his unacceptable behavior toward the witness.
Since the incident Rep. Lant has released an apology statement and said he would schedule a redo of the committee hearing so all interested parties have the ability to present their position on the legislation.
The House Budget Committee continued holding lengthy hearings this week to hear from the various state departments regarding Governor Greitens’ Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) executive budget requests. Next week, the Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Fitzpatrick (R – Shell Knob), will file the thirteen budget bills. It is expected that he will file budget bills that mirror Governor Greitens’ executive budget. Once the budget bills have been filed, the five House Appropriations Committees will prioritize and recommend budget changes for the full House Budget Committee to consider. The five Appropriations Committees are expected to finalize their budget priorities by March 2nd.
The House Budget Committee will consider the five Appropriations Committee’s priorities and draft their own version of the FY2018 budget by the end of March. The delayed timeline will provide the Senate Appropriations Committee with only one month to review the House changes and draft their own version of the FY18 Budget. The hard constitutional deadline to pass a state operating budget is May 5th.
To review the state department’s requests along with Governor Greitens recommended budget items, go to the following link: https://oa.mo.gov/2018-department-budget-requests
Other Bills of Interest
HB 694 – sponsored by Rep. Redmon (R – Canton) creates a graduated tax system for propane fueled vehicles. Tax rates are specified in the bill and the taxes are collected and used for the same purposes as the state road tax. Propane fueled vehicles may continue to apply for and use alternative fuel decals in lieu of paying the tax. No fuel decal is required for vehicles that fuel at stations collecting the new propane tax. However, there is no refund policy for vehicles with fuel decals that choose to obtain fuel at unattended stations where tax is automatically collected at the point of sale. This bill was brought up in an executive session of the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday, February 15th and was voted out “do pass” Consent. The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee for approval to be placed on the House Consent calendar, where it cannot be amended.
HB 552, 676, 550 – sponsored by Rep. Austin (R – Springfield), Rep. Plocher (R – Clayton), and Rep. McGaugh (R – Carrollton) changes the laws regarding the Missouri Human Rights Act and employment discrimination. This bill was heard on Monday, February 13th in the House Litigation Reform Committee. All three bills were heard together and will be combined into a House Committee Substitute. Testifying in support of the bill were the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Grocers Association, the Missouri United School Insurance Council, the University of Missouri, the Associated Industries of Missouri, Micks Goldman, and Ellis, Ellis, Ammons, and Johnson. Proponents argued this measure simply matches Missouri with federal law using the “but for” standard. A discrimination based firing would have to be proven as the contributing factor not the current standard of a motivating factor. Testifying against the bill were Promo, Empower Missouri, the Missouri AFL CIO, the Missouri National Education Association, MATA, United Steelworkers, and the Missouri State NAACP. Opponents argued the bill would grant immunity to the employer and allow for easier discrimination based firings. The bill would embolden bigotry in the workplace. The hearing will continue next week allowing the opponents of the legislation more time to testify to the committee.