Legislative Update: Progress on Chamber priorities, work remains in last five weeks of session
The 2017 legislative session is headed toward the finish line, with only five weeks until adjournment on May 12. The first few months of session have been productive, with many Chamber priorities making steady progress or crossing the finish line.
Here is an update on some top Chamber priorities as of April 6. While important progress has been made in 2017, more work remains and the Chamber will continue to work with legislators to advocate for passage of other business priorities before the end of the session.
- Right to work: In August, Missouri will become the 28th right to work state after the legislature passed the measure early in the session and Gov. Greitens signed it into law. This has been a top Chamber priority for many years and we were the first Chamber in the state to advocate in favor the legislation.
- Expert witness: Prior to spring break, the legislature sent an expert witness bill to the Governor’s desk. The legislation allows Missouri to join 42 other states and federal courts in applying a stricter standard for expert witness testimony. Gov. Greitens signed this important advance for tort reform in March.
- Workforce development: Just before spring break, the Senate approved SB 10, sponsored by Sen. Jay Wasson. This legislation will make it easier for businesses to access customized job training programs. Workforce development is a top issue for employers and for the Chamber. This bill now heads to the House.
- Transportation network companies: The House passed HB 130 with strong bipartisan support and a vote of 140-16. This bill would set up the framework for Transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to operate statewide. This legislation was modeled on the TNC bill passed by Springfield City Council last year. The measure now is in the Senate.
- Unemployment Insurance Reform: By a vote of 100-56, the House passed a measure linking unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate to help ensure the solvency of the unemployment trust fund. A similar measure passed in 2015 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon.
- Real ID: Missouri is currently out of compliance with the federal REAL ID Act. If the legislature fails to address this issue during the 2017 session, a Missouri driver’s license will not be a valid form of identification to board an airplane or enter a military base beginning in January. The House passed a version of the legislation at the end of March, and the Senate has not yet voted on its version of the bill.
- Budget: This week, the House approved all 13 budget bills that make up the state’s $27.7 billion budget. These include increased allocations to some items the Governor’s budget had cut entirely, although they were not fully restored. The Springfield Clinical Campus Partnership with CoxHealth and Mercy, Missouri State University’s cooperative programs with UMKC for pharmacy and Missouri S&T for mechanical engineering saw increases of about half, while the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC), which helps fund entrepreneurial efforts at The eFactory and the Jordan Valley Innovation Center, saw its budget cut by more than 90 percent. The budget will now move to the Senate; the legislature is constitutionally required to pass a budget by May 5.
- Transportation funding: Transportation funding always remains a top Chamber priority, but there has been little discussion of a long-term funding solution during the 2017 session. This is a critical issue for the state, and the Chamber will continue to advocate for innovative solutions to the funding puzzle.
- Early childhood education funding: For many years, the Chamber has advocated for enabling legislation giving Springfield voters the opportunity to decide how to locally fund early childhood education. Sen. Bob Dixon is once again carrying this legislation. Passage of SB 264 would enable Springfield or other cities located within Greene County to propose ballot measures that ask voters to approve early childhood funding for their own community. This would keep the burden of funding at the local level and not count on limited state funds. The bill is anticipated to soon come up for debate in the Senate.