Top GOP and Democratic leaders in the Missouri House have different perspectives on the first half of the 2018 legislative session.
Missouri lawmakers have left Jefferson City for their spring break, and don’t return to the Statehouse until March 26.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, tells the Capitol Press Corps the mission of House Republicans is to make Missouri one of the most competitive economic environments in the nation.
“Since last March we’ve outpaced the nation in job growth,” Richardson says. “Missouri’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 17 years and we have manufacturing jobs across the state that we didn’t have a year ago.”
Richardson says that in the last two weeks, Missouri companies have announced 2,800 new jobs.
Two of those announcements were covered extensively by Missourinet.
Seattle-based Amazon announced last week that they’ll open their first Missouri fulfillment center in fast-growing St. Peters, creating more than 1,500 new jobs with benefits.
Governor Eric Greitens (R) announced last Friday in Marston that about 450 new jobs paying an average salary of $64,000 will be coming to a new aluminum smelter in southeast Missouri’s impoverished New Madrid County.
Republicans control the Missouri House 115-47.
Richardson says he’s proud of the work his chamber has done during the first half of the session.
“While the House has passed 158 pieces of legislation this year at the midway point which is, I believe, a record,” says Richardson. “And I think we’ve passed substantive, meaningful legislation in nearly every major policy area that we set out to at the beginning of session.”
Richardson says the House will debate Pro Tem Elijah Haahr’s tax reform legislation when they return to Jefferson City.
Haahr’s bill would reduce Missouri’s highest personal income tax rate from 5.9 to five percent. It also reduces Missouri’s corporate income tax from 6.25 to five percent.
Haahr’s 429-page bill would also put Missouri in line with some other states by indexing vehicle user fees to the cost of inflation.
The Springfield Republican notes the state’s current vehicle license and registration fees were put in statute in 1984, and haven’t changed in more than 30 years.
Richardson also praises both GOP and Democratic members of the House Budget Committee for passing a budget he says is balanced, funds the foundation formula and restores what he describes as “deep cuts” to higher education.
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, and other top Democrats also addressed Capitol reporters on Thursday afternoon, at a separate press conference.
State Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, is calling on the GOP-controlled House to restore cuts to in-home nursing services for those with disabilities and low-income seniors.
“I am hoping that the majority party is not trying to forget that that was such a serious conversation and that we still have folks suffering every single day,” Quade says.
Quade wants to see provider rate cuts restored as well.
State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, tells reporters Republicans promised in September that in three weeks there would be a solution for seniors and people who live with disabilities to help them stay in their homes.
She says the GOP has defeated Democratic attempts to address the issue.
Leader Beatty says House Democrats will also focus on passing prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) legislation in the session’s second half.
Beatty also says the governor’s indictment has been a “distraction” to lawmakers this session.
“You can’t hardly go a day without some kind of (news) article, I met with the Consulate General of Canada this week and that was a topic of conversation, you know, what’s going on with our governor,” says Beatty.
A St. Louis City grand jury has indicted Governor Greitens on one felony count of invasion of privacy.
Greitens’ lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Ed Dowd, has filed a motion to dismiss.
A Missouri House committee is investigating the governor’s indictment.