Legislative session brings major workforce, education success
The 2019 Missouri legislative session, which ended May 18, was ultimately successful for several important Chamber priorities. After long hours and hard work, numerous critical business issues crossed the finish line this year.
Workforce and economic development
The Chamber worked with lawmakers and partners from around the state throughout the session to advance the Gov. Mike Parson’s package of workforce development priorities.
Missouri One Start, the Fast Track Program, and the Deal Closing Fund were all part of Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Hough. In addition to these critical workforce programs, the bill also included an extension of the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act, to incent $1 billion in expansion investment for the General Motors plant in Wentzville.
After passing the house and overcoming a nearly 30-hour filibuster by a small group of senators on May 13 and 14, SB 68 passed the Senate and was sent to the Governor.
Transportation infrastructure also made it over several hurdles before its final passage this year.
Early in session, the Governor proposed a bonding package to address critical bridges throughout the state. Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 addressed the state’s top infrastructure needs through bonding and general revenue funding. The House, Senate and governor’s office all worked together to create this compromise that starts a long-term investment into the transportation needs of our state.
This $301 million bonding plan will address more than 200 decaying bridges throughout the state and includes one-time general revenue funds for bridge repairs and interest repayment, as well as a cost-sharing program. This bill was passed out of the senate in mid-April; the house passed the bill on the last day of session.
The budget for FY 2020 includes funding for several key programs for Springfield and the State of Missouri. This budget prioritized education training in a significant way, which will positively impact the lives of Missourians and address workforce needs
- Missouri State University received a $10 million increase to their core funding to help create equity with other public universities in the state
- Ozarks Technical Community College received $4.75 million in funding for its Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Technology
- The Ozarks Regional Nursing Collaborative project between MSU and OTC received $3.1 million to help meet the need for nurses in the region
- OTC received $1.25 million for its center in Republic
- Missouri One Start received a $10 million increase for jobs training
- The Missouri Fast Track program received $10 million in funding
- The foundation formula for public schools was once again fully funded, receiving an increase of $61 million from last year
- Broadband Internet was funded at $5 million to help provide Internet service to rural parts of the state
- Transportation infrastructure funding includes $50 million in an upfront capital investment for the cost sharing program
The budget awaits the Governor's signature.
In a major step toward improving the state’s business climate, the legislature passed reforms to our state’s venue and joinder laws, restricting the ability of plaintiffs with no connection to Missouri from bringing mass and class action suits to the state.
Progress was also made related to innovative approaches to K-12 education with legislation supporting teacher externships and funding for computer science education.
In addition, the Greene County Circuit Court was granted an additional judge to help meet the significant burden and backlog on our courts, and a bill expanding the list of non-violent crimes that could be expunged from a person’s record also received final approval, a step in addressing the state's workforce shortage.
Work to be done
Although there was progress on significant priority issues, work remains in some key areas. Top business priorities that failed to make it across the finish line included a mechanism to collect online sales tax. This would create parity between online sellers and brick-and-mortar companies by collecting a tax that the state is already owed.
Although approved by the House early in session, the Senate failed to pass legislation enacting a prescription drug monitoring program to help combat opioid abuse, once again leaving Missouri as the only state in the nation without a statewide program.
In addition, we still hope to see progress in the coming years toward improving our approach to unemployment insurance and shoring up the trust fund, improving Missouri’s initiative petition process and passing enabling legislation to allow Springfield voters to consider increasing our hotel-motel tax.
With each new session comes both challenges and victories. There are many people to thank for the progress made this session, including:
- The governor for his dedication to workforce development and infrastructure the entire session
- Our local delegation from both the Missouri House and Senate for their hard work and dedication throughout the 2019 session
- The coordinated efforts between the Department of Economic Development and Higher Education under the leadership of Director Rob Dixon and Commissioner Zora Mulligan
- Chamber members who gave their time to be a part of the legislative process – volunteer engagement in Jefferson City was unprecedented this session and you had an incredible impact on the outcome through advocacy days, letters, phone calls and office visits