Workforce Standards & Development - Chairman
Property, Casualty, & Life Insurance
Select Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations
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I have to admit, I was a skeptic when our new Speaker announced that we were going to get the big issues on the floor early in session and keep bills flowing to the Senate. So far he has certainly exceeded my expectations! The first week we tackled the unfinished business of the Agriculture bill from last year, the second week we passed the Right to Work bill, and last week we sent a Photo ID bill out. This week the Education bill is scheduled for floor debate and that should prove really interesting. I'm not sure if there's any hidden meaning in the first two bills being Bill Reiboldt's and mine. Maybe they're getting the troublemakers out of the way first? Of course, the real good news is the Budget committee is far ahead of normal years. Tom Flanigan was challenged to finish the budget in time to present it to the Governor before the end of session. This is significant because it keeps the Governor from being able to withhold huge sums of appropriated funds to play political games. I'm not totally against playing a little politics, but in recent years our current administration has gone overboard. Just when I begin to think that some reason has returned, he sent letters to schools with FEMA projects telling them that their payments for construction were being delayed because the Legislature took away his discretion to spend additional dollars for those projects. When you dig to the bottom of the pile of excuses, they contend that they do not have the discretionary funds to pay a secretary to write the checks! You just can't make this stuff up!
Right to Work Hearing
Well, last week lived up to our expectations! We held a Workforce hearing on Monday and thoroughly vetted two Paycheck Protection proposals. They were voted out and sent on to the Select Committee for their approval before getting on the House calendar. Monday evening the Select Committee met to re-open the hearing on Representative Curtis's Right to Work bill for construction unions only. We heard an additional two hours of testimony and then voted it out along with Representative Burlison's and my Right to Work bills. We heard our two bills on Wednesday and gave them first approval. Representative Curtis's bill was also sent on for future deliberation. Our bills came back up on Wednesday and were passed by a vote of 91 to 66. They were sent to the Senate where they will hopefully gain their approval and be sent to the Governor. The significant thing that was accomplished was, for the first time in history, a Right to Work proposal was passed out of the Missouri House. We have a very long way to go before it becomes law, but it opens up a public discussion that Missourian's haven't had since 1978. In 1978 a citizen’s initiative petition placed the question on the ballot where it was soundly defeated, but we are in a very different world today. Fifty years ago I moved to Southwest Missouri from the St. Louis area. St. Louis city proper had a population of over a million! There was a Fisher Body plant that took up six-city blocks downtown and employed ten thousand people! Chrysler in Fenton had twenty five thousand autoworkers back then and St. Louis was second only to Detroit in auto manufacturing. There were industrial facilities all over our part of the state that supplied parts to the manufacturers. When I got to Joplin there were several plants that employed thousands of people.
I'm learning that one of the major problems with government, whether it is Federal or State, is the size and complexity of the various departments. One of the new committees that I have been assigned to heard a bill last week concerning the Department of Revenue's practice of demanding kickbacks from fee offices. Yup, you read that right! It seems that the bid process for fee offices has a "point system" to determine the successful bidder. Points are given for things like the number of trained employees, the size of the office, the location, oh, and the percentage of kickback to the Department. There was only one person from the Department in the hearing room and he got a phone call, presumably from his boss, advising him to get the heck out of there! This is the same Department of Revenue that we had to stop giving out our personal information on concealed carry licenses. I'm convinced that we need to spend more time on oversight of the departments and make sure that they are spending our tax dollars wisely as well as operating in an ethical manner.
The Speaker assigned me to a new Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight. We are to be tasked with reviewing the Missouri Department of Transportation's yearly report. We will also review a status report of Transportation's revenues and expenditures including a detailed summary of projects funded by new state revenue. I will be a part of the taskforce searching for affordable, effective solutions that will allow us to maintain our transportation infrastructure. I have to admit that I am looking forward to participating in this venture.