Former Republican Governor Eric Greitens signed more than half the bills passed by the legislature this year, 77 out of 143, into law on his last day in office.
The outgoing head of state who adopted a self-proclaimed conservative agenda from the time he campaigned for the office he won in 2016 delivered on numerous far-reaching measures before resigning amid numerous legal and ethical challenges.
There are also a few key Republican priorities he sidestepped.
Here are some highlights of the legislation he added his signature to, and several he bypassed.
Greitens signed a proposal to drop the corporate tax rate from 6.25% to 4% beginning in 2020. In addition, the bill changes the way out of state corporations will pay taxes to be based on sales rather the current three-factor apportionment option that lets companies opt for the lower of two rates
However, he did not sign a bill on his desk that would’ve slashed the individual rate from 5.9% to 5.5.% beginning next year. It would’ve also gradually reduced the rate to 5.1% if the state had met targets for income tax growth.
Greitens did pen a sweeping utilities bill into law. The contentious and years in the making measure allows corporate utilities to more quickly recover the cost of infrastructure upgrades while it caps rate hikes.
Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest power company, has claimed the plan would open up the power grid to $1 billion in long-needed infrastructure upgrades while limiting rate hikes.
The bill caps rate hikes at 2.85 or 3% per year, depending on the service area. An analysis from state regulators says the legislation could lead to an almost 10% increase in customer rates over the next 10 years.
The measure also calls on the utilities to reduce rates by roughly 5% to compensate for a large federal corporate tax cut the companies are realizing. Ameren says its customers will see the rate reduction within 90 days after the bill is signed into law. Consumer groups claimed the adjustment was held up through the legislation itself, which they say was used as a bargaining chip to pass a utility-friendly bill.
In addition, Greitens authorized what’s referred to as a “revenge porn” bill to become law. The measure creates a felony crime for distributing intimate images of another individual when a reasonable person would understand that the image was private. It would also hold internet service providers liable if they don’t remove the images within five days of being notified of them.
Another piece in the measure will create a felony offense for threatening to distribute non-consensual private sexual images. The legislation was signed by Greitens after a felony charge that alleged he’d taken a graphic photo of his ex-mistress in 2015 without her permission was dropped.
Greitens handed the legislature’s Republican majority a long sought after victory on the labor front by signing a bill requiring public sector unions to conduct recertification elections every three years. The mandate was a late addition to a measure lawmakers passed in the closing days of the session that already included annual written consent of employees for unions to deduct employee pay for union dues or fees.
The outgoing governor did not sign another labor bill that would’ve partially repealed the state’s prevailing wage law. The GOP majority had worked on the measure for years before it finally passed the legislature in 2018. Critics of prevailing wage, which sets pay standards on public works projects based on location, say wages in rural areas are inflated. Democrats say the change in the law will harm workers.
Another priority for Republican lawmakers has been curbing the number of liability lawsuits in the state. Greitens signed a proposal they passed that strengthens the position of insurance companies when multiple parties claim damages. It will allow them to use the “interpleader” procedure to avoid paying sums greater than their policy limits. Critics, notably trial attorneys, say the measure lets insurance companies skirt their promise to defend their customers and pay damages.
The outgoing governor autographed a measure that will legalize industrial hemp. Lawmakers opposed to the change have linked it to the marijuana industry. As passed it will let Missourians grow, cultivate, harvest and process industrial hemp.
The measure would create a pilot program and require Missourians to get a permit from the state Department of Agriculture to grow hemp. The plant, which comes from the same plant as marijuana, contains very low levels of the psychoactive chemical known as THC. The product can be used in an about 25,000 products, including personal care products, fabrics and furniture.
Greitens also penned into law a bill passed by the legislature in the last days of the session to largely discard the state’s merit system of employment for state workers and change their status to “at will”.
The move will allow state departments to fire employees at any time. About half of state workers are employed under the Missouri Merit System in six agencies including the departments of Corrections, Health and Senior Services, Mental Health, Natural Resources and Social Services as well as the Office of Administration.
A proposal described as legislation that would allow the state to regulate one of the largest types of industrial waste in the country was signed by Greitens. The measure will give the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the authority to establish rules and approve target levels for the management of “coal ash”.
Coal ash is produced from the burning of coal in coal-fired power plants. It can be recycled for use in materials such as concrete, but large quantities of coal ash from power plants are disposed of in disposal units known as landfills and ash ponds. Critics of the measure said utility companies wanted the coal ash bill passed quickly in order to skirt federal EPA requirements set to go take effect in October.
Also on Friday, Greitens signed a bill to reduce hair braiding regulations. The legislation has long been championed by Republican State Representative Shamed Dogan of Ballwin. The measure will free those who braid hair for profit from having to obtain a cosmetology license. Dogan argued on the House floor that it takes more training in Missouri to braid hair than it does to become a police officer.
With Greitens departure from the governor’s office, newly sworn in Republican head of state Mike Parson can now look over the remaining 66 bills approved by the Missouri legislature this year that have not been signed.
The bills sent to the governor we’re all signed on May 30th. The governor has 45 days from that point to either sign or veto them. If the governor fails to take action on any bill, it becomes law on its own after being sent to the Secretary of State for authentication.