I had the pleasure of hosting both Fordland and Hartville students this week at the Capitol when they traveled to Jefferson City to learn more about state government first hand.
General Assembly Concludes Highly Productive 2019 Legislative Session
As the clock hit 6 p.m. tonight, members of the Missouri House and Senate reached the conclusion of a highly productive legislative session that saw a number of important policy reforms cross the finish line. After months of work, legislators were able to pass more than 70
bills and send them to the governor’s desk. The bills that received final passage include a number of priorities outlined by House leadership, as well as issues supported by the governor.
We worked to enhance economic incentives meant to create and retain jobs, and implement a workforce development program to train Missourians to fill jobs in areas of high need. The legislature also approved the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, which is one of the strongest pro-life bills in the nation. Additionally, lawmakers gave final approval to bills that will protect some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, make substantive reforms to Missouri’s criminal justice system, encourage agricultural development and ensure food security, and improve the state’s legal climate.
The legislature’s efforts during the 2019 session also include passage of a fiscally responsible state spending plan. The $29.7 billion budget provides a record level of funding for K-12 education and fully funds the school foundation formula for the third year in a row. The spending plan also provides funding boosts for state scholarship programs and for the state’s institutions of higher learning. Additionally, the budget funds a portion of necessary repairs for the state’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure.
Fast-Track – SB 68 is designed to fill workforce gaps in high demand industries by providing financial aid for adult learners. The program will provide short-term training in fields like manufacturing, nursing, welding, and information technology. It will also help students complete degrees in majors that prepare them for work in high-demand fields.
Missouri One Start – Another provision will help improve Missouri’s workforce programs that help businesses recruit and train large numbers of job applicants during major expansions. It will also enact performance-based funding for training providers, and claw back protections for taxpayers.
Missouri Works – Deal Closing Fund - The bill enables our Economic Development Department to make agreements with companies to create new jobs in the state. The bill helps businesses access capital through withholdings or tax credits to embark on facility expansions as well as create jobs. The program also includes a claw back provision.
Automotive Economic Development Tools – SB 68 will also help retain automotive jobs by granting tax credits to auto manufacturers that invest $500 million or more in plant upgrades and agree to retain jobs. The bill would provide $5 million annually in credits for 5 years, and a company could qualify for an additional 5 years of credits if it makes an additional $250 million investment. The program also contains a claw back provision to protect taxpayers. The bill is in part meant to incentivize General Motors to make a $750 million expansion to its plant in Wentzville. More than 12,000 people in Missouri are employed either by the large auto manufacturers or in many small businesses which supply parts and materials and are spread across the state.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable
Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act - HB 126 will prohibit physicians from performing an abortion after a fetal heartbeat or brain function is detected, which is typically around 8 weeks gestational age. Because similar provisions have been struck down in other states, should the fetal heartbeat requirement not stand a Constitutional challenge, the bill has a tiered approach that would then enact bans at 14 weeks, 18 weeks, or 20 weeks.
The bill also states it is the intent of the state of Missouri to prohibit all abortions in the state under any circumstances. The comprehensive ban on abortion would go into effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, or if changes are made at the federal level to empower states to further regulate abortion. The only exception to the abortion ban would be in the case of a medical emergency.
Additionally, I was able to make two amendments to the bill containing provisions that would expand the existing tax credit for pro-life pregnancy resource centers and require referrals for out-of-state abortions to include the same informed consent materials that are required for an abortion performed in Missouri. In addition to the requirement that doctors who do provide abortions must maintain comparable levels of malpractice to other physicians.
Hailey’s Law – Another provision in HB 397 is meant to better protect children by improving the state’s Amber Alert system. Once an officer enters information about a missing child into MULES, it would at the same time be available to the Amber Alert system.
Simon’s Law - HB 397 and HB 138 would also prevent do-not-resuscitate orders from being issued for Missouri children without a parent’s permission.
Nathan’s Law – Another provision will limit the total number of young children allowed at an unlicensed day care to six. This includes a maximum of three children under age two. Children who live in the caregiver's home and who are eligible for enrollment in a public kindergarten, elementary, or high school shall are not included in the total.
Child Fatality Review Panels - HB 397,which contains language I sponsored, is also designed to help save the lives of young people by allowing child fatality review panels to share vital information. The director of the Department of Social Services would have the discretion to release certain non-identifying information so that fatalities can be studied to identify trends or areas where prevention efforts and education should be focused, and to look for ways to change state policies to better protect children.
Protecting Missouri’s Agriculture Industry
Joint Committee on Agriculture – SB 391 also establishes the Joint Committee on Agriculture. The committee will study the economic impact of Missouri’s agriculture industry, as well as efforts to improve environmental stewardship while improving the economic sustainability of Missouri agriculture.
This bill will also provide consistency in the way farm operations across the state are regulated. The bill addresses a problem in current state law that has resulted in inconsistent regulations placed on farms throughout the state by county commissions and health boards. The bill will not block county ordinances or restrict local control it is designed to create a uniform agriculture policy and regulation state-wide that will encourage agricultural development, protect jobs, and ensure food security. Improving Missouri’s Legal Climate
Joinder and Venue Reform - SB 7 The legislation will reduce costs and increase access for Missouri residents to the court system by reducing the number of cases filed in Missouri courts by plaintiffs with no connection to the state.