The last five months have been extremely busy as legislators have worked to get their priorities through the process. Unexpected obstacles hindered some from moving forward and others found ways to work through these complications and make their bill a better bill.
As the clock hit 6 p.m. on Friday, May 17, 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.
One bill approved by House and Senate members would create 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 repairs for the state’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure.
Over the next few weeks I will highlight some of the bills that will be sent to the Governor.
Strengthening Missouri’s Economy
• Fast-Track – SB 68 is designed to fill workforce gaps in high demand industries by providing financial aid for adult learners. Fast Track will give adults whose income is below the Missouri average an opportunity to gain skills that boost their earning potential and prepare them for work in high-demand occupations. 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 of SB 68 would allow the Missouri Department of Economic Development to improve and consolidate its workforce development programs. Missouri One Start is meant to improve Missouri’s workforce programs that help businesses recruit and train large numbers of job applicants during major expansions. The changes made to the programs will make them easier for businesses to navigate. They will also enact performance-based funding for training providers, and claw back protections for taxpayers.
• Missouri Works – Deal Closing Fund - SB 68 would also give the Missouri Department of Economic Development an additional tool to bring new jobs to Missouri. The bill would modify an existing state program to establish a closing fund the department can use to make agreements with companies to create new jobs in the state. The bill would enhance the existing Missouri Works Program, which helps businesses access capital through withholdings or tax credits to embark on facility expansions and create jobs. The program includes a claw back provision to provide protection to taxpayers.
• Automotive Economic Development Tools – SB 68 would 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.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable
• Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act - HB 126 is a bill that supporters are calling one of the strongest pieces of pro-life legislation in the country. Referred to as the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, the bill would 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, the bill contains additional clauses to protect the lives of the unborn. Should the fetal heartbeat requirement not stand, the bill has a tiered approach that would then enact bans at 14 weeks, 18 weeks, or 20 weeks.
The legislation 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, the bill contains 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.
• Fighting Sex Trafficking - HB 397 is meant to protect underage victims of sex trafficking from prosecution. Lawmakers endorsed the change to ensure young people who are forced into prostitution aren’t further traumatized by facing criminal charges. Current law in Missouri makes it an affirmative defense for a minor charged with prostitution to have been acting under coercion at the time of the crime. House Bill 397 would remove the coercion requirement and make it an affirmative defense that the defendant was under the age of 18.
Close of Another Legislative Session
As another legislative session comes to a close, I want to take the opportunity to thank you all for allowing me the privilege of representing you and your values in Jefferson City. I have spoken with many of you throughout the year about important issues, whether it was in person, on the phone, or by email, and I have always done my best to make decisions based on what was best for the majority of the people of our district. I realize that we may not always agree, but I am pleased that most understood my positions and the reasons for my decisions. Even though the legislative session is over, I will still be working for you and all the people of our district, so please feel free to reach out to my office at any time with any issues or concerns you may have. I will be traveling throughout the 144th District often and would be happy to meet with you. You may contact me by email at email@example.com or by phone at 573-751-2112.