Workforce Standards & Development - Chairman
Property, Casualty, & Life Insurance
Select Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations
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Right to Work Hearing
We had a short week last week but there was a lot of action. Finally, after six years of attempts, Representative Flanigan got his tax amnesty bill passed. What this bill does is allow a taxpayer who is behind in their Missouri taxes to pay up without any penalties or additional charges. This is a one-time offer and of course, there are certain qualifications to be met, but it has the potential of creating $70 million dollars of additional revenue. Now remember this $70 million, it's going to come back later in my report.
A couple of weeks ago I reported that the House had completed the budget and sent it to the Senate for their adjustments. Well, the senate worked on the budget last week and, as is typical of the senate, they got hung up on a few little things and pulled an all-nighter working them out. When the smoke cleared at 4:00 A.M. Thursday morning, Senator Schaffer threw everybody a curveball! It wasn't just a curveball, it was low and outside! His version of the portion of the Budget that includes Health and Senior Services, Social Services, Mental Health and Children's Service to name a few, are all in one lump sum with a cut of $300 million dollars. The idea is for the budget to have one whopping sum of money allocated to ALL of the departments and they just kind of go grab what they need. Do you see any holes in that theory? Does it sound like there needs to be a little more work on this plan? The procedure now is for the Senate version to be returned to the House with their changes and the two bodies go into conference to work out their differences. The House budget people were a little dazed on Thursday, but they were working on plans to return to the House version by Thursday evening.
Our first week back after the spring break followed pretty much the same path as the first half of Session. Our Leadership team in the House and Senate continue to tackle the big issues. We took up and passed Senate Bill 11, which is Senator Richard's Ethics Bill. We did add a few amendments to make some of the requirements even stricter. The bill would bar all members of the General Assembly from acting as a paid political consultant, require a one year cooling off period before becoming a lobbyist, and cap individual gifts at $25 per gift. It includes all elected officials in the state including superintendents and school board members and bars lobbyist expenditures for out of state travel and lodging. It also includes a requirement for all political officers to complete one hour of ethics training within 120 days of taking office. There was a sometimes-heated debate on the bill with the biggest objection coming from the Minority Assistant Floor Leader who didn't like the restrictions on gifts and travel, but in the end we won out. These are just a few highlights of the bill and I'm certain there will be provisions added in future Sessions.
Jane and I attended the McDonald County Schools Foundation Banquet last Saturday evening. For those of you that don't know what this is, the Foundation is committed to enhancing the educational programs offered by the McDonald County R-1 School District. The Foundation assists in providing optimum educational experience for their students that will provide the skills that are necessary for a productive future. The Foundation will give the community the opportunity to support and fund programs that will build upon the courses of study provided by the McDonald County School District. That is quite a mission statement! We enjoyed the evening tremendously. It began with a demonstration by the Drill Team, then the Presentation of Colors, followed by the National Anthem and a Humorous Interpretation. We were then treated to a fabulous meal prepared by the culinary department. What a fabulous display of talents by our High School students! The Clifford and Susie Thornton Family were honored with the 2015 Heart of Education Award for their loyal support of both the foundation and the school district over the years. My hat is really off to the Board of Directors and all the faculty who helped make this effort a terrific success.
We have reached the mid way point in Session and have made history several times. For the first time ever, a chamber of the General Assembly passed a Right to Work bill and sent it to the other side of the building. Two pieces of legislation - one a proposed constitutional amendment and the other a statutory change to require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots have passed the House. Medical Malpractice reform, restoring reasonable limits ($350,000) on non- economic damages, passed with ease. Education reforms addressing the transfer issue in failing schools gained wide support. The Dairy Revitalization Act was passed to help revitalize Missouri's struggling Dairy Industry and Welfare Reform adding new eligibility and work requirements for welfare recipients to help them return to the workforce and become self - supporting and independent also passed with bi-partisan support. Add to these, the first thing we did was to reject a proposed pay increase for State elected officials. Those are just the major pieces of legislation that we passed and of course, we also sent a budget to the Senate earlier than ever before. Our leadership team has asked us to work smarter than in previous years and have been there to help us achieve some really good things. The Senate has also been on a faster pace and has many companion bills to send us after the break.