Missouri’s 99th General Assembly reached its legislative halftime with Spring Break this week, touting significant midsession momentum with the newly elected Governor and reenergized Republican supermajority.
The 2017 legislative session kicked off with the House and Senate taking swift action to pass long-anticipated right-to-work legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Eric Greitens just weeks after session began, making Missouri the 28th state with similar laws on the books. The legislature also moved quickly to tackle tort reform measures in the first quarter of the year, with Rep. Kevin Corlew’s bill adopting the Daubert expert witness standards clearing both chambers before the break, a reform that is also expected to be signed by the Governor.
Effective MTC Program in Danger of Elimination
Governor Greitens put forward a $27.6 billion budget proposal in early February, which includes $572 million in state funding cuts made in part because of the $150 million shortfall in corporate revenue last year. These cuts include steep reductions for higher education and other state funded programs. The Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC) could possibly be eliminated, with the Governor recommending a reduction in funding from $22.9 million to $5 million. The House Budget Committee has gone even further and proposed to cut funding for MTC entirely. If the Senate Appropriations Committee fails to restore some funding for the program, MTC will be eliminated and Missouri will effectively become one of the least competitive states funding statewide programs to attract and cultivate entrepreneurs and innovative businesses.
The Governor has also issued a few executive orders concerning ethics reform, regulatory reform, establishing a Chief Operating Officer in Missouri, creating a new Governor's Committee for Simple, Fair, and Low Taxes, and paid parental leave.
Speaker Moves House Priorities
Speaker Todd Richardson made progress on several top priorities in the House, including the effort to reduce unnecessary government, which he views as a hindrance to innovation and job creation in the state. The House approved legislation to ensure the state licenses and regulates occupations and professions only when necessary to protect the welfare of the public. The House also passed a measure that would allow ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber to expand their operations in Missouri, a move the Speaker feels will help grow private enterprise in the state.
Chamber’s Top Legislative Issue Advances
Legislation establishing a Missouri Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was introduced again this year in the House and Senate that if passed into law, would cut taxes for over a half million low-to-moderate income families in Missouri. Rep. Mike Kelley and Sen. Caleb Rowden are sponsoring this Regional Chamber backed legislation that will encourage work, boost local economies, and help lift families out of poverty. Before the break, this bill was passed unanimously out of a new committee created by the Speaker, the Committee on Tax Policy for Working Families.
The House also passed legislation to nullify a minimum wage increase in St. Louis City after the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a St. Louis City ordinance hiking the minimum wage from $7.70 to $11 per hour. Inconsistent minimum wage ordinances would contribute to regional fragmentation and hurt St. Louis City businesses and workers, making this type of wage increase better addressed at the state or federal level. The current bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Chipman, requires cities to conform to statewide minimum wage standards. Chipman’s bill overwhelmingly passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate.
What to Expect in the Second Half
Showdowns on a few bills are imminent after session resumes next week. The fight to establish a prescription drug monitoring database comes to a head as Sen. Rob Schaaf threatens to defeat Rep. Holly Rehder’s bill establishing a statewide system to curb prescription drug abuse. Creating this database is critical to saving lives in Missouri, which is currently the only state in the nation without a system in place. The effort to pass REAL ID legislation also faces a standoff in the Senate, with a group of Senators opposing Sen. Ryan Silvey’s bill that seeks to join 45 other states in complying with a federal law established after the 9/11 attacks to improve identification security and better protect American citizens. If Missouri fails to comply by 2018, citizens of the state will no longer be able to use their driver’s license to board an aircraft, enter military bases, courthouses, and federal buildings.
A delegation of over 90 private sector executives and leaders visited Jefferson City on January 18th as part of the St. Louis Regional Day at the Capitol. The Chamber once again joined with eight partner organizations and local chambers of commerce to discuss regional policy and legislative priorities with newly-elected Governor Greitens and leaders in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.
The delegation shared the Chamber’s top priorities with the Governor and General Assembly, and had the opportunity to hear from the top executive and legislative leaders about their vision for the future of business in Missouri. The policy priorities, part of the 2017 Agenda for Regional Prosperity, continue the Chamber’s focus on advocating for forward-thinking economic policies that will create jobs and grow the regional St. Louis economy.
The Chamber’s top legislative issue for 2017 is passing a statewide Earned Income Tax Credit, which will break the cycle of poverty and grow Missouri’s economy by encouraging more individuals to enter the workforce. EITC has strong legislative sponsors in both the House and Senate and the policy closely reflects Governor Greitens’ State of the State remarks calling for a system that lifts people out of poverty and into the middle class, based on hard work and personal responsibility. Other priority legislative issues for Missouri include supporting local public safety initiatives, building and investing in infrastructure, ensuring competitive Missouri Technology Corporation funding, and significant tort reforms. In addition to meetings with Governor Greitens and his senior staff, the delegation met with Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, Speaker Todd Richardson and Minority Leader Sen. Gina Walsh. In all, the delegation met with over 50 legislators from the St. Louis region and across the state to advocate for policies that will make St. Louis a more inclusive and attractive place to live, work and invest for all people.
Group photo of the St. Louis Regional Day at the Capitol delegation of more than 90 business and civic leaders that traveled to the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Warner Baxter, Chairman, President & CEO of Ameren Corporation and Chairman of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, introduces Governor Greitens to the delegation.
Governor Eric Greitens shares his priorities for his first year in office. The delegation met with the Governor in his office and had an engaging conversation touching on a variety of topics.
(from left) Bailey Tripp and Nelly Balley, St. Louis Regional Chamber,
Cheryl Norton, President of Missouri American Water, Warner Baxter, Chairman, President & CEO of Ameren Corporation,
John Sondag, President of AT&T Missouri, Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), Joe Reagan, President & CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Rick Sullivan, CEO of St. Louis Public Schools, Doug Sitton, President of Sitton Energy Solutions
Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) speaks about his bill to establish an Earned Income Tax Credit in Missouri, SB 197, which is the top legislative priority of the St. Louis Regional Chamber in Missouri this year.
(from left) State Treasurer Eric Schmitt, Warner Baxter, Chairman, President & CEO of Ameren Corporation,
Cheryl Norton, President of Missouri American Water,
Kitty Rattcliffe, President of St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, Austin Walker, St. Louis Regional Chamber,
John Sondag, President of AT&T Missouri
(from left) Craig Unruh, AT&T Missouri, Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff), and Christine Page, Missouri American Water, at the reception.
(from left) Tom Campbell, Polsinelli and
Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh (D-St. Louis County) at the reception.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin) addresses the delegation at lunch, sharing his insight on how this year's session will progress.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) speaks to the assembled
delegation about growing up in St. Louis and the importance of transportation infrastructure.
(from left) Kitty Rattcliffe, President of St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin), and Rep. Gretchen Bangert (D-Florissant) at the reception.
Small groups of the delegation met with members of the legislature in the afternoon.
(from left) Angela Tate, Behavioral Health Response, Rebecca Zoll, North County Inc, Greg Laposa, St. Louis Regional Chamber,
Christine Page, Missouri American Water, Mary Adams, University City
Chamber of Commerce, and Reggi Rideout, Simply Strategy
More information on the Chamber’s policy agenda can be found on the blog. You can view additional photos from the day on the Chamber's Flickr page.