Senate Provides Strong Economic Developments Tools to the Show-Me State
Labor Reform and Tort Reform Lead the Issues on the Governor’s Desk
JEFFERSON CITY— The First Regular Session of the 99th General Assembly came to a close today as the gavel fell at 6 p.m. After five months, senators will return back to their home districts as the Constitutional deadline passes. Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said while this session seemed frustrating at times, the quality of the bills passed is much more important than the quantity.
“We have accomplished more this year than I ever thought I would see in my tenure,” said Richard. “We set out at the beginning of session focusing on three main things: labor reform, tort reform, and regulatory reform. I’m excited to announce, we have been very successful.”
In February, the governor signed the Senate’s first big priority, Senate Bill 19, making Missouri the 28th right to work state. Senate leadership said right to work is the single biggest policy to protect worker’s freedom to choose whether a union works for them. After six years, bill sponsor Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said he was gratified to see it finally become a reality.
“Right-to-work laws hold unions more accountable,” said Brown. “They encourage unions to actually work to represent the interests of their members. They not only benefit the businesses, but the employees, the employees’ families and even the unions themselves.”
A second bill sent to the governor, Senate Bill 31, strengthens the state’s collateral source rule and establishes that the appropriate recovery for medical expenses is the amount that was actually paid for those medical expenses. Bill sponsor Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said by approving this measure we restore that medical expense consists of the amount that was actually paid making an injured party whole to assure the full and appropriate recovery of medical expense in a personal injury settlement.
“Our state’s toxic legal climate is one reason businesses are moving to other areas of the country,” said Emery. “This measure ensures clarity and helps reduce the cost of insurance for doctors and businesses. What we are seeing now is as prices continue to rise, they are getting passed down to the consumer. When we unjustly shift funds away from the business community, growth is shifted away from the economy, ultimately hurting consumers. This measure restores fairness to personal injury litigation.”
A third measure the governor has signed, relating to, regulatory reform, is House Bill 130. This bill creates framework for the regulation of transportation network companies (TNCs). Transportation network companies (TNCs) offer ridesharing services normally at a lower-cost than taxi services. Bill sponsor, Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said the measure was necessary because current Missouri regulations are so burdensome, many Transportation Network Companies can’t operate in the state. This decreases competition in the marketplace and ultimately costs Missourians.
“These companies are changing the way people think about transportation, and have the potential to create thousands of new jobs here in Missouri,” said Onder. “If we can allow technological and logistical innovation in the transportation industry, we can promote choice and competition which helps grow the economy. That’s the goal of House Bill 130.”
The only Constitutional mandate for legislators is to pass an on-time and balanced budget. As budget chairman, Sen. Dan Brown said from the beginning FY 18 would be a tight budget year. But, he thanks the Appropriations Committee and staff for thinking outside-the-box to represent the priorities of Missourians in a fiscally responsible manner.
“We want the $27.8 billion budget to reflect our commitment to the Show-Me State,” said Brown. “This is a conservative budget we can be proud of. For the first time in more than a decade we have fully funded the education Foundation Formula. Together we worked to find savings where we could and to make government more efficient.”
Because of the tight budget, this week the Senate approved House Committee Bill 3, which provides funds to restore some services for seniors and vulnerable citizens. These funds will help provide services to about 8,000 elderly and disabled Missourians and will also restore about half of the proposed provider rate cuts in the budget passed last week by the General Assembly.
One of the most talked about issues this session is finding a Real ID fix for Missouri state-issued licenses. Starting January 22, 2018, Missouri state driver’s licenses will no longer be accepted as identification to board a plane for domestic flights. This week, the General Assembly approved House Bill 151, which will allow Missourians the option of choosing a Real ID-complaint license. Bill handler, Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said House Bill 151 is a good balance between privacy and compliance that lets the citizens choose what is best for them.
“If we hadn’t approved this Real ID compliant option, we would have forced financial strain on families and created severe negative economic impact on our state” said Silvey. “This measure lets Missourians decide for themselves whether or not they want to comply with Real ID requirements.”
Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said as session comes to a close, senators can look back at a number of signification accomplishments this session.
“These much-needed reforms will allow businesses the opportunity to create better jobs with growing incomes and will lead to economic growth making Missouri a pro-worker state,” said Kehoe. “We want to be competitive with our surrounding states, and we want to foster a better environment for our communities, businesses, and Missouri families. We have much more to do again next session, but we can leave today knowing this year was a success.”
Other bills to advance out of the General Assembly this session include:
- Child Protection: Senate Bill 160 – Modifies provisions relating to child protection.
- Collateral Source: Senate Bill 31 – Modifies provisions relating to the collateral source rule and provides that parties may introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value, of the medical care rendered.
- Delivery Charges: Senate Bill 16 – exempts delivery charges from sales and use taxes.
- Employment Discrimination Law: Senate Bill 43 – Modifies the law relating to unlawful discrimination.
- Illegal Reentry/Blue Alert: Senate Bill 34 – Relating to criminal offenses with penalty provisions.
- Missouri State Penitentiary: Senate Bill 486 – Authorizes the conveyance of a certain state property located in Cole County to the City of Jefferson.
- Missouri Works Training Program: House Bill 93 – Changes the laws regarding the Missouri Works Training Program.
- Project Labor Agreements: Senate Bill 182 – Modifies provisions of law relating to project labor agreements.
- Real ID Fix: House Bill 151 – Requires the department of revenue to issue REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses unless the applicant requests a license that is not compliant with the REAL ID.
- Rx Cares for MO Program: Senate Bill 139 – Establishes the Controlled Substance Abuse Prevention Fund and the Rx Cares for Missouri Program and modifies the MO HealthNet Pharmacy program.
- Tort Reform: House Bill 339, which modifies provisions relating to tort claims; House Bill 452 – Modifies definitions of “employee” and “physician employee” in actions against health care providers for personal injury or death.
- Workers’ Compensation Fix: Senate Bill 66, which modifies provisions of law relating to workers’ compensation
The Senate is next scheduled to convene during the annual veto session held in mid-September.
To see a complete list of the bills passed by the General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session and delivered to the governor, visit www.senate.mo.gov and click on the “Truly Agreed Bills” link under the “Legislation” tab.