Dozens of proposals have become law that the GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature passed during its regular session. Of the nearly 2,000 measures filed, lawmakers passed 59 policy bills and 16 budget bills this year. Most of the bills are controversial and votes were cast largely along party lines. Here’s a recap of the key measures that have taken effect:
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, schools and court houses. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, and Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, will 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 this year that will 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, will also let residents choose whether they want a so-called REAL ID for access to military bases and federal facilities. The state’s system is projected to be up and running in about one year. Missourians will get a REAL ID hall pass from the feds until the state structure is in place.
Blue Alert System
The measure requires a public notification system, similar to Amber Alerts when law enforcement officers are killed or injured in the line of duty. Alerts could also be launched if an officer is missing in connection with official duties, if there is an imminent and credible threat to kill or seriously injure an officer or if there’s actionable information known about a suspect that would be helpful to law enforcement. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff and Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, was attached to large bill involving many crime-related issues.
Missouri is the first state in the nation to require newborn screenings for two more life threatening genetic diseases. The law will screen for spinal muscular atrophy and a disease known as Hunter syndrome. Spinal muscular atrophy causes loss in physical strength and can make eating, breathing and walking more difficult. Hunter syndrome can affect one’s appearance, mental and physical health and organs. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus, was attached to a large health care bill sponsored by Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors and Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla.
With minutes to spare before the legislature’s constitutional requirement to end its session, lawmakers passed a proposal that prevents 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’s $10 minimum wage ordinance, which took effect in May. About 100 St. Louis businesses have signed on to a campaign to continue paying the $10 per hour wage when the bill becomes law.
Modifications to employment discrimination laws
A controversial bill that makes it tougher for employees to win workplace discrimination lawsuits passed during the final week of the session. It requires employees to prove that race, religion, sex or other protected status was the motivating factor for discrimination or being fired. Under the legislation sponsored by Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington and Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton, it will 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 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 year by the General Assembly limits the evidence a jury can receive in special damages claims cases. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar and Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton, takes into account what the insurance company would pay out, instead of any additional damages beyond what the settlement is.
The measure establishes the crime of “illegal reentry” for anyone who returns to Missouri after being deported, and subsequently commits an assault or felony. The crime carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison. The bill, which turned into comprehensive crime-related legislation, was sponsored by Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, and Rep. Shawn Rhoads, R-West Plains.
The legislature’s annual veto session begins on September 13. State lawmakers could consider about a handful of regular session bills vetoed by the governor.