Top Ten Recap: the legislative session so far
The 2018 legislative session is halfway over, and the Missouri Chamber has been busy as a leading advocate on a variety of issues important to the state’s business community. Though there is still much work to do, a lot of exciting progress has been made. Here’s our top ten:
#1 Legal reform
Missouri’s existing venue and joinder laws allow thousands of out-of-state cases to be transferred here and clog our court system. This legislation ends that unfair practice and helps address Missouri’s reputation as having one of the nation’s worst legal climates.
Latest action: passed House; sent to Senate
#2 Investing in transportation infrastructure
Missouri has always enjoyed a logistics advantage because of its central location, navigable rivers and large railroad and highway systems. However, more infrastructure investment is needed to position Missouri as a competitive hub for commerce in the Midwest.
Latest action: This transportation infrastructure discussion is well under way. After a seven-month, in-depth look at the current state of infrastructure in Missouri, the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force completed its report of findings and legislative recommendations. Stemming from those recommendations, several House bills to adjust fuel tax rates for inflation were recently heard by a House committee. The Missouri Chamber is strongly supporting these bills. The chamber also supports looking to a broad spectrum of possible funding sources to help invest in improving the system. Toward that goal, at the chamber’s Transportation Future Summit in February, state and national stakeholders explored the challenges and opportunities ahead.
#3 Promoting computer science education
This bipartisan effort would incentivize more Missouri high schoolers to take computer science courses by allowing those courses to count toward graduation as a math, science or elective requirement. It also establishes rigorous new computer science standards and curriculum guidelines, creates a certification for computer science teachers, creates a fund to help train computer science teachers and brings an online program to Missouri that showcases STEM careers to students. Missouri already has about 10,000 open computer science jobs and these careers are growing at a much faster rate than jobs in most other fields, so this is a practical step toward closing the computer science skills gap in the state.
Latest action: The House and Senate have both passed their versions of this legislation. Next, each chamber will hold hearings on the other chamber’s version.
#4 Opening classroom doors to business professionals
Under this visiting scholars certification bill, instead of a long and costly teaching certification process, business professionals could receive a one-year visiting scholar certificate if they complete an application and a background check. This change would help boost CAPS programs in Missouri, which give high school students the opportunity to test drive career options before they graduate. Workforce issues continue to be top concerns of Missouri business leaders, and this could help more high school students graduate with skills that are desirable to today’s employers.
Latest action: sent to the Governor’s desk
#5 State tax reform
One of the legislature’s biggest priorities this session is redesigning Missouri’s tax system, reducing the burden on businesses and individuals to grow the state’s economy and competitiveness.
Latest action: Sen. Eigel’s bill has been debated by the Senate and awaits a perfection vote. Meanwhile, a House bill by Rep. Haahr has passed House committee as well as Rules-Administrative Oversight committee. The Missouri Chamber continues to engage with legislators in this discussion and is closely following all of the tax reform bills under consideration.
#6 Utility modernization
This bill will help modernize the state’s utility infrastructure while ensuring energy consumers receive the full benefit of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 by hastening the passage of more than $100 million in federal tax savings to Missouri utility customers.
Latest action: passed Senate; sent to House
#7 Asbestos trust system
This bill brings fairness and transparency to the asbestos trust system by addressing the issue of trial lawyers harming future claimants with “double-dipping” practices that deplete limited trust fund resources. It allows for the fair allocation of fault and for plaintiffs and all victims to receive their compensation faster by filing the trust claims up front. It will also help protect smaller businesses from being pulled into illegitimate claims.
Latest action: Passed House; sent to Senate
#8 Tying jobless benefits to unemployment rate
This legislation changes the length of state jobless benefits to a sliding scale based on the unemployment rate, helping protect Missouri from the huge debts the state absorbed to be able to pay benefits during past recessions. Those debts ultimately came out of employers’ pockets—with interest. It also raises the fund’s threshold before rate reductions are triggered, which will help stabilize the fund to weather future economic downturns.
#9 Missouri Works and Works Training
Missouri Works allows companies to keep a portion of their withholding taxes for a set period of time. Missouri Works Training helps expanding businesses meet their workforce needs by offsetting training costs during times of expansion and growth. These programs are two of Missouri’s most popular and successful job-creation incentives. They are set to expire next year, but the legislature is working quickly to extend them through 2030.
Latest action: passed Senate; sent to House
#10 Business Premises Safety Act
Under current law, companies are at risk of being held liable for crimes committed on their property by third parties beyond their control. This bill protects businesses from liability for unpreventable criminal acts on their premises.
Latest action: Passed Senate; sent to House
Thank you to all the bill sponsors and legislators who have been working hard to move these pieces of legislation closer to the finish line. We at the Missouri Chamber look forward to continuing to help these and other important changes get passed into law this year. Here’s to a productive final half of the session!