Workforce Standards & Development - Chairman
Property, Casualty, & Life Insurance
Select Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations
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Last week we were kept busy with committee hearings. There have been literally hundreds of bill referred to committees and the chairs will try to allow hearings for as many as possible. Having said that, it is an extremely time consuming process. I had as many as four two-hour hearings plus a two-hour session and still had to make time for office visits and phone calls. This hectic pace only lasts for a few weeks and then things start to settle down a little. I heard a bill in Workforce that provided that a labor union would be required once per year to provide their members with an independent audit of their pension plan. The bill sponsor generated this piece of legislation after hearing from many of his constituents that the Central States Teamster Pension was being cut by nearly 50% beginning in July. This comes as a terrible shock to retirees that are depending on the full amount to live on. I’ve heard from 30 year members who are now in their 70’s and have no other source of income. By requiring yearly audits of their plans, a member would at least have advance warning to invest in some other retirement options. The Workforce Select Committee met and advanced the Paycheck Protection bill as well as my bill to allow schools and municipalities to opt out of prevailing wage rates on projects less than $750,000. These bills are now available for floor debate at the time designated by leadership. We heard a bill in Emerging Issues dealing with the ban of powdered alcohol. I guess I’m leading a sheltered life, as I’ve never heard of the stuff. It’s manufactured as a sugar encapsulated alcohol. It is water-soluble and is designed to be mixed with water much like powdered soft drink mixes. It didn’t take long for us to learn of all the myriad of ways that it could be abused. People have eaten it dry, sniffed it, and found a way to inject it, all to their chagrin. Children are very prone to experimenting with it and some hard core drinkers even mix it with other alcoholic drinks. We haven’t voted on the bill to pass it to the floor yet but I’m sure in favor of its’ ban. We’ve got enough crap to try to keep away from our kids without adding another one!
We began the workweek on Tuesday morning with a roundtable discussion on the formation of an Advisory Board for the Juvenile Office Statewide Standards. There was a lot of input from those in attendance and with everyone’s help; we came up with a 15-member board that represented all the stakeholders. The great thing about using a roundtable format is that all the interested parties can help craft the legislation. Every party at the table has some ownership in the finished product. At noon we held our first Workforce Standards hearing of the session. The first bill we considered was Representative Rehder’s Paycheck Protection bill. This proposal would allow members of public trade unions to choose yearly how much they wish to have withheld from their paychecks for contributions to charities and political funds. There were several people present to testify in support and in opposition to the measure. The second bill we heard was a proposal that I sponsored that would allow school districts and municipalities to opt out of paying prevailing wages on projects that cost less than $750,000 dollars. This measure has a lot of popularity in rural areas where school districts and small towns are having a hard time coming up with money for minor repairs and improvements. There seems to be quite a bit of opposition in the larger metropolitan areas so I may amend the bill to exclude them.
We started the week with an informational hearing on Real ID. We were told that Missouri is one of 27 states that are not in compliance with the Real ID act. Because we had one of the earliest extensions in 2009, we have an early expiration date for compliance. As I mentioned last week, in 2009 the bill had bi-partisan support and the Governor's blessings. You are still able to use your Drivers License to fly and will be able to do so until at least January 22, 2018. To enter a federal building or military base, there are additional processes. In Missouri, the Eastern and Western District Courthouses will for the time being, continue to accept the state issued ID's. To visit Ft. Leonard Wood or other military installations, it's best to call and inquire as to what ID's they require. Passports, birth certificates, social security cards, DD214's, etc. are potentially what will be required as a second form of ID. If you are unable to supply the necessary document, you will be accompanied by a DoD credentialed person. If we wish to pass legislation to comply with the Real ID requirements, we must allow copies to be made of all the documents we use to get our drivers licenses, maintain copies of name changes, store digital photo images, maintain databases of drivers history, and make this information readily available to the Federal government, other states, and potentially other countries. We have three options to consider. We can comply by overturning the 2009 law and pass new legislation. We would have a tough time getting enough support currently to do this. We can create a dual ID system where our citizens can choose whether to acquire an "enhanced ID for air travel and Federal installation visits. We can stand firm and wait until the opportunity presents itself for a Constitutional challenge to the law. I'm not sure where I lean on this currently, but there will be hearings coming up and much more information will be shared with us. I'll keep you posted on the info as we get it.
The second Session of the 98th Assembly is now off and running. Both Senator Richard and Speaker Richardson set the stages for priority bills to be quickly referred to committees and work to begin. Because it's an election year, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and claim responsibility for moving ethics reform to the top of the list. I'm particularly amused by our Governor who took a $50 thousand dollar contribution from the unions the day after he vetoed right to work complaining about legislators receiving lobbyist's gifts. The bills addressing reform are not new by any means. There have been bills for the 5 years I've been there that would have corrected those issues but there have always been one or two Senators willing to spend days filibustering them. This year will be different. We have leaders who are committed to getting the job done. I believe the end result will be a limit of $25 dollars or less on lobbyist gifts and at least a one-year cooling off period before an elected official can become a lobbyist. Please bear in mind, this has not been a huge problem in the past. Actually, very few Legislators take gifts or trips from lobbyists, but those who do are readily pointed out in election cycles. Our Ethics Reports have to list every contribution as well as every expenditure. These reports are available to anyone who wishes to look at them and quite frankly, I support a bill being presented next week that requires every elected official in the state to file quarterly reports with the Ethics Commission. The entire General Assembly is set up to take a two-hour class dealing with sexual harassment. I took the same course in 1988 while I was a salesman for ABF Freightsystem. It basically teaches common sense and common courtesy which seem to be in short supply nowadays! In addition to training for everyone at the Capitol, the interns being provided by the colleges in the state have a set of rules and regulations to follow as well as an ombudsman provided by the General assembly to help guide them and deal with any complaints.