The Capitol hallways were filled with advocates from all walks of life this week speaking to legislators about their issues. It made for packed meeting rooms and long lines at the security check-in entrances. The Missouri State Budget was the primary topic this week as the House Appropriations Committees finalized their recommendations. The Senate worked on one issue for two days before perfecting the bill, and also worked on non-controversial consent measures to eliminate them from the calendar while the House continued working on bills of a variety of topics. Only two weeks remain before the half-way point of the legislative session.
Supreme Court Upholds St. Louis Wage Hike
The City of St. Louis will see the minimum wage increase per hour by 2018 to $11 thanks to a Missouri Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday. A new implementation schedule will be adopted to allow businesses to have a grace period to become compliant between now and 2018. The state’s minimum wage is currently $7.70 per hour. The high court’s ruling says charter cities have the authority to enact ordinances of its inhabitants. Businesses that have annual revenue of $500,000 or less or employ 15 or fewer people would be exempt from the city’s law.
House Speaker Creates New Subcommittees
The Speaker of the House, Rep. Richardson (R – Poplar Bluff), created three new subcommittees this week. Two of the committees are chaired by Democrats. The committees include:
1. Subcommittee on Urban Community Economic Development, Chaired by Rep. Dunn (D – Kansas City)
2. Subcommittee on Police & Community Relations, Chaired by Rep. Franks (D – St. Louis)
3. Subcommittee on Student Debt Relief, Chaired by Rep. Andrews (R – Grant City)
Last Day to File Legislation
The last day to file bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate occurred on Wednesday. The final day brought an abundance of new bills being filed. Numerous bills were filed at the last minute which appear to tackle the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing the minimum wage increase in St. Louis. The new filed bills would prohibit subdivisions from raising their minimum wage above the state’s minimum wage.
Jeb Bush in Missouri
On Thursday, Jeb Bush was walking the halls of the Missouri State Capitol to promote his education reform non-profit, Excellence in Education. Many education reform bills have been filed this session. Elementary and Secondary education remains a top priority for the Greitens Administration and Republicans in both chambers.
Missouri Supreme Court Nominations Announced
Three nominees have been selected to fill the vacancy on the Missouri Supreme Court created when Judge Richard B. Teitelman passed in November. The nominations made by the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission submitted the list to Governor Greitens on Wednesday. Governor Greitens has 60 days to select from the three nominations. The nominees include:
• Lisa Hardwick, a Kansas City judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District;
• Benjamin Lipman, a lawyer with Lewis Rice LLC in St. Louis; and
• Brent Powell, a circuit judge in Jackson County.
The House of Representatives took another step forward this week to draft their version of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, when the five House Appropriations Committees finalized their budget recommendations. The five House Appropriations Committees budget recommendations will go before the full House Budget Committee for consideration next week. The forty members of the House Budget Committee will review the Appropriations Committees work and begin drafting their version of the budget during the week of March 13th.
The month of February closed with an increase in collections up 4.9%. The positive uptick is reassuring in a tight budget situation, but the House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Fitzpatrick (R – Shell Knob) still believes he needs to fill a $500 million shortfall to pass a balanced budget along with enough to forego future withholds.
Workplace Discrimination Legislation Perfected
After two long days of debate in the Senate, the workplace discrimination bill, SS / SB 43 sponsored by Sen. Romine (R – Farmington) was given first round approval and perfected in the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 1st. The bill would make it harder to sue a businesses for discrimination by requiring those suing to prove that the protected trait, (race, color, religion, national origin, etc.), was not just a contributing factor to the discrimination or firing, but was the motivating exclusive purpose. This is one of many proposed liability lawsuit measures that have been introduced this session by Republicans in an attempt to reduce frivolous lawsuits and make doing business in Missouri easier. This bill was third read and passed on the Senate floor on Thursday, March 2nd. The bill now moves to the House and awaits committee assignment.
Streamlined Sales Tax
SCS / SB 105 – sponsored by Sen. Wallingford (R – Cape Girardeau) requires the Department of Revenue to enter into the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. A Senate Committee Substitute (SCS) was adopted and the bill was voted out "do pass" from the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, February 28th. We are pleased to report to you that the SCS contains the language MAMA had requested on page 185 and page 208 of the substitute to protect our business interest in the event this bill was to become law. The bill now awaits placement on the Senate calendar for floor debate.
Other Bills of Interest
HB 81 – sponsored by Rep. McGaugh (R – Carrollton) modifies provisions related to employer requirements for employee benefits. Construction companies with five or less employees can opt out of workers’ compensation. This bill was voted out “do pass” from the House Special Committee on Employment Security on Tuesday, February 28th. The bill now moves to the House Rules on Administrative Oversight Committee for review before being placed on the House calendar for floor debate.
HB 153 – sponsored by Rep. Corlew (R – Kansas City) modifies provisions relating to expert witnesses. This bill was heard in the Senate Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, March 1st. Testifying in support of the bill were the Associated Industries of Missouri, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, State Farm, the American Insurance Association, the Missouri Insurance Coalition, Chubb Insurance, the Missouri Railroad Association, the Missouri Petroleum Council, Eli Lilly and Company, Doe Run, Enterprise, Monsanto, the Missouri State Medical Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Missouri Hospital Association, Johnson and Johnson, the Missouri Society of CPA’s, The Doctors Company, BNSF Railway, the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Missouri Hospital Association, the Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Grocers Association, Washington University, BJC Healthcare, Cox Health ,Pfizer, and Ford Motor Company. Testifying in opposition were the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, Missouri AFL-CIO, and the Missouri Circuit Judges’ Association. In an executive session the bill was voted out “do pass” and now awaits placement on the Senate calendar for floor debate