The state legislature’s regular session ended on Friday with the General Assembly accomplishing some GOP priorities and leaving others behind. Of the nearly 2,000 measures filed this session, lawmakers passed 59 policy bills and 16 budget bills. Here’s a recap of some of the key legislation that passed:
A decade-long mission by Republicans to make Missouri a Right-to Work state became a reality earlier this year with the legislature’s passage of Rolla Sen. Dan Brown’s bill. The measure, which bars mandatory union fees in the workplace, has been historically thwarted by opposition launched largely by Democrats. It was promptly signed into law by Republican Governor Eric Greitens and takes effect on August 28.
Repeal of Project Labor Agreements
In April, the Missouri Legislature passed a ban on project labor agreements for public construction projects for things like fire stations and court houses. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, and Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, would also cut state funding to Missouri cities and counties that force non-union contractors to pay workers union wages for those jobs.
The legislature adopted a bill in the nick of time that would put the state in compliance with stricter federal identification requirements so that Missourians don’t have problems boarding planes starting next year. The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, and Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, would also let residents choose whether they want a so-called REAL ID for access to military bases and federal facilities.
With minutes to spare before the legislature’s constitutional requirement to end its session, lawmakers passed a proposal that would prevent Missouri cities from enacting minimum wage levels that are higher than the state’s minimum wage rate. The bill, which was sponsored by state Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Steelville, was filed in response to St. Louis minimum wage ordinance, which took effect a week ago. It could end up in court to determine if St. Louis’s minimum wage increase can be struck down.
Changes to employment discrimination laws
A controversial bill that would make it tougher for employees to win workplace discrimination lawsuits passed during the final week of the session. It would require employees to prove that race, religion, sex or other protected status was the motivating factor for discrimination or being fired. Under the legislation, it would also stop workers from suing their colleagues and limit damages that could be awarded in such lawsuits.
Changes to Missouri’s legal system
State Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, sponsored changes to the procedure for determining expert witness testimony in jury court cases. The bill, which has been signed into law by Governor Greitens, increases the threshold for admitting expert testimony by calling on judges to decide the accuracy of an expert’s conclusions, rather than determining simply whether the witness is qualified as an expert. The new law moves the state legal system in line with the Daubert standard, which makes trial judges the gatekeepers of expert testimony, rather than having juries decide if the information is accurate.
Another measure passed this session by the General Assembly would limit the evidence a jury can receive in special damages claims cases. The bill, which is on the governor’s desk, would take into account what the insurance company would pay out, instead of any additional damages beyond what the settlement is.
Here’s a list of some of the key bills that died this session:
A labor bill that did not manage to make it across the finish line this session would have ended wage requirements on construction projects for things like schools and jails. It would have repealed a stipulation for employers to pay the prevailing wage in a particular location where a project is being performed. Brief delay tactics by Senate Democrats led to setting the bill aside.
In March, the Missouri House passed a proposed statewide expansion of charter schools by one more vote than the required 82 minimum. State Rep. Rebecca Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, sponsored the bill that did not make it out of a Senate committee.
Charter schools, which are publicly-funded public schools that operate independently of the established public school system, are currently limited to St. Louis and Kansas City school districts, and any that are unaccredited.
Prescription drug monitoring program
State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, has championed legislation for several years that aims to reduce opioid drug abuse and illegal distribution. It would have required the creation of a statewide prescription drug monitoring system for doctors and pharmacists to look for cases of misuse. The House and Senate both passed the measure with changes and members in both chambers tried to work out their differences on the bill, but a final vote failed to make it to both floors.
Missouri is the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program.
At the end of April, the House passed State Rep. Diane Franklin’s legislation that would have required annual, random inspections of abortion clinics. The proposal also would have made it a felony to donate fetal tissue for medical or scientific research and require, with some exceptions, a minor’s custodial parent to inform a non-custodial parent before an abortion is performed. The bill was assigned to a Senate committee but did not receive a public hearing.
State Reps. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis, and Donna Lichtenegger, R-Cape Girardeau, offered proposals aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of those found guilty of domestic violence. The loophole in state law was created by the legislature’s 2015 passage of comprehensive gun legislation, Senate Bill 656. Last year, the General Assembly passed the sweeping changes to Missouri’s gun laws with an agreement that lawmakers would return this year and close that gap in the law.
Boat dock safety changes
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, would have enacted policies meant to prevent electrical shock drownings at Missouri lakes. The bill, once sponsored by former state Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, was filed in response to the 2012 drownings of Brayden and Alexandra Anderson of Ashland on the Lake of the Ozarks. Since 2012, four people have died at the lake from electric shock drowning.
The proposal would have made new docks and those changing ownership have safety inspections and meet new standards like requiring a switch to cut off power to the docks. It would have also mandated that Highway Patrol boats have defibrillators.
Lobbyist gift restrictions to lawmakers
The first bill out of the House this session was one that would have limited what lobbyist gifts can be given to legislators. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann and Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, would have continued to allow flowers, plants, speaking fees and gifts to all 197 lawmakers, like free food at the Capitol. It passed in the House 149-5. It was brought up on the Senate floor last week but a vote was not taken. Amendments were offered by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, which tried to reign in on campaign donations that are funneled through political action organizations and other groups in order to hide donor information.
Most of the bills passed that are mentioned in this story await Governor Greitens’ consideration. Meanwhile, he has hinted at calling a special session to achieve some of his legislative goals. During his State of the State address earlier this year, Greitens urged lawmakers to pass changes to laws involving labor, law enforcement, education, ethics and Missouri’s legal system.