Earlier this year, the St. Louis Regional Chamber announced a strategy for the upcoming legislative sessions in Missouri and Illinois: New Year, Same Priorities. Those 2020 priorities helped the Regional Chamber and our region capture another great set of wins that will spur economic development, help improve our workforce, and provide much needed upgrades to Missouri’s infrastructure.
Although the Missouri legislative session was shortened due to COVID-19, the Regional Chamber was able to help craft the largest workforce bill to pass the Missouri Legislature this year. HB 2046, the Regional Chamber’s top workforce priority, eventually grew to include several other top Regional Chamber priorities. The workforce “omnibus” bill will be very important during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is designed to provide opportunities for individuals to more quickly enter the workforce. Included in HB 2046 were three primary components:
- Licensing Reciprocity: Streamlines the process for re-licensing individuals who have moved to Missouri or want to work in Missouri by enabling professionals to continue working in their professions without delay
- Fresh Start Act: Opens more opportunities for Missourians with past criminal convictions by outlawing state licensing authorities from disqualifying individuals for a professional license because of a prior conviction
- Expanded Workforce Act: Makes strides to further the momentum in apprenticeships by allowing apprentices to obtain industry licenses as part of an apprenticeship
The Regional Chamber was also able to see our top legal reform priorities pass this year. Tort reform has been a long-standing Regional Chamber priority, and the legislation passed by the General Assembly yesterday includes two primary components:
- Punitive Damages: Requires plaintiffs to present clear and convincing evidence that harm was intentional in order to receive punitive damages
- Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA): Stops abuse of Missouri’s consumer protection act
Although there was little appetite for a comprehensive transportation & infrastructure package this session, the Regional Chamber was able to help advocate for the passage of broadband expansion in Missouri which will help those who need it most during the COVID-19 pandemic, legislation that would support a Hyperloop in Missouri, and a bill to help improve our state’s natural gas infrastructure.
The Regional Chamber saw many wins, but there is still more work to be done. Specifically, a Wayfair fix and a statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Missouri remains one of only two states in the nation without a mechanism to collect internet sales tax from out-of-state sellers. This inaction leaves our region’s brick-and-mortar businesses at a competitive disadvantage. In addition, Missouri is still the only state in the nation that does not have a PDMP, leaving medical professionals without a necessary tool to reduce the misuse and abuse of medication. The Regional Chamber will be advocating for a special session to be called by the Governor to address both of these much-needed policies in Missouri.
While we had great wins this year in Missouri, we could not have done it without the help and support of the Regional Chamber’s Public Policy Council, our members and investors, and community-at-large. We thank you for your continued support.