May 15, 2022 10 min read

Moving Missouri Forward

Challenging session yields strong progress — destructive proposals defeated

Missouri is leading the post-pandemic economic recovery. We are overtaking other states in rankings of job creation, per-capita income and GDP. Our state is among the leaders for tech industry growth.

In short, Missouri is making strong progress as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry pursues its Missouri 2030 vision.

Despite these successes, the 2022 Legislative Session was a challenging environment where the Missouri Chamber was often focused on stopping proposals that threatened to derail our progress. But backed by a united business community, the Missouri Chamber used its strength to turn back anti-business efforts while passing key priorities to keep our state moving in the right direction.

Our successes included:

  • Protecting the right to Let Business Decide on vaccine policy
  • Blocking an effort to short-change our transportation infrastructure
  • Extending and expanding the vital Fast Track workforce training program
  • Addressing the childcare crisis with innovative business-led solutions
  • Bolstering efforts to onshore high-tech manufacturing in Missouri
  • Encouraging Missouri-made business innovation
  • Keeping energy reliable and affordable

“I’m proud to say we moved Missouri forward during a very challenging 2022 Legislative Session. Right now, we are in a critical moment that will determine how well our state will thrive in the post-pandemic economy. The policies passed during the 2022 legislative session will allow us to continue to seize this historic opportunity for growth,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber. “Our progress this year did not come easily. Far too often, the Missouri Legislature was sidetracked by economically destructive proposals. The Missouri Chamber will always stand up against anti-business extremists at all levels of government, including making our voice heard in the upcoming elections. Even with these hurdles, we continue to make strong progress toward the goals of our Missouri 2030 strategic vision. As always, our work will remain focused on transforming Missouri into a global economic leader.” 

Stopping government overreach

The Missouri Chamber stood up against a federal government attempt to dictate employer vaccination policies — and we continued to voice our opposition when state lawmakers sought to follow the Biden administration down this path of interfering with employer rights.

In both cases, our position was simple — Let Business Decide. 

Dozens of bills were filed this session that aimed to revoke the long-held employer right to make workplace decisions about vaccination. These anti-business bills went against the principle of free enterprise. Some were aligned with trial attorney interests, seeking to open businesses up to a flood of new lawsuits.

The Missouri Chamber worked to raise awareness of the issue across Missouri. Hundreds of employers and business leaders co-signed a Missouri Chamber letter asking lawmakers to oppose this legislation. The Missouri Chamber also defeated more than a dozen amendments on this topic and ensured this anti-business language was removed from the state budget legislation. 

“The Missouri Chamber will always defend free enterprise. No matter the issue, when government attempts to reach into business affairs, our position is simple — let business decide. Employers have long had the ability to set their own vaccination policies and thanks to our effort they will continue to have this right in Missouri,” said Mehan. “We will always be consistent. When it comes to workplace policies, government should stay out of the way. The best approach is to respect free enterprise and let business decide.”

Protecting our transportation investment

In 2021 Missouri took a major step toward modernizing our transportation infrastructure. A funding bill approved by lawmakers is creating a $1.8 billion positive impact on Missouri’s economy, according to a Missouri Chamber study. This legislation is also creating $722 million in additional earnings across the state and will generate more than 17,000 jobs. The bill passed last year with support from a strong, bi-partisan coalition in the Missouri General Assembly, backed by the broad Missouri Can’t Wait coalition spearheaded by the Missouri Chamber.

Despite these benefits, legislation to repeal or diminish the funding was under consideration for much of the 2022 session. The Missouri Chamber worked for months to successfully defend this critically-needed funding.

“Shortchanging transportation funding in Missouri would be a major step backward for our economy. It’s clear that Missouri has the potential to become a logistics hub for the Midwest and North America. But we can only accomplish this goal if we have a transportation system that’s capable of supporting our future economy,” said Mehan. “While it was disappointing to see some lawmakers attempting to diminish our progress, we are grateful that a bi-partisan majority in the legislature understands that our transportation system is vital to our economic future.”

In addition, this session the Missouri Chamber successfully advocated for additional, targeted investments in our transportation system:

  • $30 million in support for river ports, plus an additional $37 million for planning and construction
  • $13 million to restore two trains a day to the Missouri River Runner Amtrak service 
  • $5 million to attract international flights to Kansas City International Airport 

The state is also investing in enhancing the state’s broadband infrastructure. The budget dedicates $250 million to enhance efforts to ensure Missourians have access to high-speed internet and can participate in the online economy.

Extending and expanding Fast Track

With Missouri employers confronting a growing talent shortage, 2022 was not the time to let an innovative workforce training program expire. 

Championed by the Missouri Chamber and passed into law in 2019, Fast Track addresses workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue a certificate, degree, or industry-recognized credential in a job field designated as high need. Fast Track fully covers tuition and fees when combined with other federal and state financial aid. 

But under current law, Fast Track was set to sunset this year. However, Senate Bill 672 extends the program and expands the benefits so they will now be available to Missourians pursuing apprenticeships. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Hough, a Republican from Springfield. The state budget passed on May 6 includes $4.7 million in funding for Fast Track.

The Missouri Chamber also successfully advocated for reforms to the state’s One Start workforce assistance program, allowing the program to be used to help recruit people to join Missouri’s workforce. The legislation passed as part of House Bill 2400, sponsored by Rep. Dan Houx, a Republican from Warrensburg.

In addition, language passed this week in Senate Bill 681 and Senate Bill 718 will require all public high schools to offer some form of computer science coursework. It also would allow high school students to use computer science credit toward graduation requirements and be equivalent to science or practical arts credit for satisfying public higher education institution admission requirements. These policies would encourage more students to take computer science courses, a vital skillset needed for many technology jobs. 

The bills will also benefit adult Missourians who have not graduated from high school. The legislation creates new avenues to help these Missourians attain a diploma, which is seen by many employers as a prerequisite for work. The legislation will help upskill our workforce and make the most of our state’s existing talent pool. 

The bills were sponsored by Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, a Republican from Shelbina, and Sen. Barbara Anne Washington, a Democrat from Kansas City. 

The Missouri Chamber also championed several budget appropriations aimed at enhancing the state’s work to prepare the workforce, including: 

  • $21 million to help recruit and retain quality K-12 educators
  • $7 million to help train more nurses
  • $5 million for tech training to help grow the state’s geospatial workforce 
  • $750,000 to train Missourians to code via the LaunchCode system

Investing in childcare

Many Missouri parents want to work but can’t because they can’t find childcare. The problem is so severe that nearly 1 in 10 working parents in Missouri report quitting a job due to childcare issues, and nearly one in three parents have changed jobs due to childcare in the last year. This situation is costing the state a staggering $1.35 billion, according to the Missouri Chamber and the US Chamber Foundation.

The Missouri Chamber successfully advocated for a new $10 million program that will provide grants up to $250,000 to help businesses form partnerships with childcare providers or establish dedicated childcare centers to serve employees. Small businesses will also be encouraged to band together and offer this benefit. An additional $10 million was dedicated to establish a grant program to help provide childcare for essential workers, including state employees.

“Workforce remains the number one issue impacting business growth across Missouri — with the childcare crisis being a major factor. Thanks to this new funding, Missouri will be on the leading edge as businesses work to develop innovative childcare models that will help parents get back to work,” said Mehan. “Missouri lawmakers deserve much credit for their urgent response to this issue after the Missouri Chamber sounded the alarm. We look forward to working with employers across Missouri to take advantage of this opportunity to help solve their workforce challenges by prioritizing childcare.”

Onshoring high-tech manufacturing

In response to recent global supply chain disruptions, the Missouri Chamber has successfully championed a $15 million appropriation supporting efforts in Missouri to onshore high-tech manufacturing industries that are vital to national security. The funding will go toward helping Missouri attract semiconductor and pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing as those industries look to domestic production options.

“There are strong national security and economic arguments being made right now about the need to onshore semiconductor and pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing. As these industry functions look to expand in the United States, we think Missouri — a leading state for tech manufacturing growth — stands to benefit,” said Mehan. “If we succeed in attracting this industry expansion, the effects will ripple across our economy for decades to come.”

Missouri-made innovation

Perhaps the best way to grow Missouri’s economy is to grow from within by encouraging research and development in the state. This year, the Missouri Chamber passed legislation to enhance this work. The proposal would allow businesses to claim a tax credit worth 15% of qualified expenses. If the research is conducted in collaboration with a Missouri college or university, businesses could claim a tax credit worth 20% of expenses.

The legislation will help spur research and development growth in Missouri, with a special focus on growing Missouri’s technology industry. The legislation was included in House Bill 2400 by Rep. Houx. The research and development language was added to the bill in an amendment offered by Sen. Brian Williams, a Democrat from Ferguson. Rep. Houx and Sen. Williams are both founding leaders of the recently-created Legislative Tech Caucus, a growing group of legislators who champion policy to advance Missouri’s tech and innovation economy. This legislation was championed by the Missouri Chamber’s Missouri Technology Alliance and its passage is indebted to longtime supporters like Rep. Don Mayhew, a Republican from Crocker.

“Innovation is critical to our economy and this legislation will enable businesses to develop products and jobs to fuel our future,” said Mehan. “Since our R&D tax credit program expired in 2005, Missouri has been without this economic development tool that the majority of other states have. If we want to be home to the life-changing products of tomorrow, we must invest today in the foundation of innovation – our employers.”

Reliable, affordable energy

Seeking to continue Missouri’s progress on utility modernization, the Missouri Chamber succeeded in passing legislation with several important regulatory updates. 

In recent years, the Missouri Chamber has helped pass a number of bills aimed at ensuring Missourians can continue to benefit from reliable and affordable utility services. A long-needed grid overhaul law was passed in 2018. Then, last year, lawmakers tackled legislation needed to speed wastewater repairs and expand access to renewable natural gas and other renewable energy sources.

Building on this progress, the legislation passed this year includes a number of important provisions that would help spur investment to modernize utility infrastructure and ensure energy remains affordable, reliable and resilient. 

This important language passed in Senate Bill 745 by Sen. Mike Cierpiot, a Republican from Lee’s Summit. 


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