Missouri legislature votes to ease regulation of hair braiders, curb future business regulations

Legislation aimed at decreasing regulation of Missouri businesses has been approved by the General Assembly.

Representative Shamed Dogan (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

The state House voted Tuesday for the final passage of House Bill 1500, which started off as a bill to ease regulations of hair braiders, but added to it is language that will make the state think twice about imposing regulations on new professions.

In order to charge for braiding someone’s hair in Missouri a person must undergo 1,500 hours of training to obtain a cosmetology license.  The sponsor of HB 1500, Ballwin Republican Shamed Dogan, said that training does not cover hair braiding.  Dogan said that’s overly burdensome on people who often learn braiding as a practice handed down by family through generations.

“I’m very grateful that we’re going to be able to take hair braiding from a 1,500 hour license requirement to merely four to six hours of watching an instructional video on health and safety,” said Dogan.

Critics of an earlier version of HB 1500 said they were concerned hair braiders whose training was not extensive enough could pose health risks, including that they would not be able to recognize diseases involving the scalp and could spread those conditions.

HB 1500 now requires that a hair braider watch a four-hour video on health and safety.  House Democrat Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) said she would have liked more hours to be required, but is glad that is a requirement and not optional, as it was under an earlier version of the bill.

“I think the definition of a good bill is one that no one is totally happy with,” said McCann Beatty.

The Senate added to House Bill 1500 the language of House Bill 1928, sponsored by Yukon Republican Robert Ross, which aims to discourage unnecessary state regulation of businesses.  The bill also lays out what considerations must be made before a regulation is imposed.

Representative Robert Ross (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

“This bill will require that we look through and actually quantify the risk that is going to exist to the public in the operation of this unlicensed profession and why we, as a state, would need to step in and regulate that,” said Ross.  “It also states that … if we’re going to impose regulation on this that we should start with the least restrictive form of regulation, and then based on that risk to the public, then move that up.”

“That will fulfill the promise that many of us – most of us – have made, to reduce regulations,” said Representative Keith Frederick (R-Rolla) of Ross’ language, “and the best way to reduce them is don’t put them in place in the first place unless they’re really essential.”

Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew encouraged his colleagues to vote for HB 1500 as it returned from the Senate.

“I think this bill enables small business and entrepreneurs to do what they love to do, to do something that they’re good at and to make a living out of it.  This is a bill that enables government to get out of the way, cut unnecessary red tape, and allow entrepreneurs to do their craft,” said Corlew.

With the House’s 137-11 vote on Tuesday the legislation is now ready to be delivered to Missouri’s governor.

Missouri House votes to limit lawsuits against bankruptcy trusts in asbestos illness cases

The Missouri House has voted to limit the ability to file lawsuits against bankruptcy trusts in cases of asbestos-related illness.

Representative Bruce DeGroot (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Bruce DeGroot (R-Chesterfield) said plaintiffs who sue solvent companies for an asbestos-related illness and are awarded money by a jury often then file claims against bankruptcy trusts for the same health issues – what he called “double dipping.”  His legislation, House Bill 1645, would give plaintiffs 30 days from filing suit against a solvent company to disclose any potential claims against a bankruptcy trust.

DeGroot said the bill aims to protect bankruptcy trusts, which compensate those injured by defunct companies, and have finite resources.

“Once that money is depleted it’s gone, and if we are allowing the system as it currently stands to go on, what we’re doing is allowing those trusts to be depleted at a much quicker rate than what they should be,” said DeGroot.  “Who this of course truly affects is that guy standing at the end of the line … by the way, we don’t even who those people are at this point, but by the time they get up and they’re ready to make their claim against the bankruptcy trust, that money won’t be in effect any longer.”

Jefferson City Republican Jay Barnes said current law already allows defendants in these cases to prevent “double dipping” by claimants.  He argued that it could take claimants longer than 30 days to know whether they have a claim against a trust, and under DeGroot’s bill many sick with mesothelioma would die before they could get to a trial.

He also said DeGroot’s bill would do the opposite of protecting bankruptcy trusts.

Representative Jay Barnes (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Under current law a claimant is not required to file a trust claim … they don’t have to take any assets from a trust under current law.  And [Representative DeGroot], who says his bill is to protect trust assets, requires them to make claims from these trusts,” said Barnes.  “Under current law there is a situation where there could be zero claim against the trust and if this bill passes, every person who has a claim against a trust must make a claim against a trust it does the exact opposite of what [Representative DeGroot] says is the purpose of the bill.”

Representative DaRon McGee (D-Kansas City) said the concept that individuals who pursue claims against trusts after suing solvent companies is double dipping is a “myth.”

“If four defendants are responsible for an injury and you sue two solvent defendants and are forced to pursue the other two through trusts, this is not ‘double dipping.’  You’re getting the full dip that you’re entitled to,” said McGee.

Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew said the bill would allow plaintiffs to pursue claims against trusts in a more efficient way while at the same time pursuing cases against solvent companies.

“It’s often not the plaintiff’s fault that this information isn’t brought forth, it’s the plaintiff’s lawyers who are trying to make sure that they get recovery here and then make sure that they get recovery later through the system.  All this is saying is seek recovery at the same time,” said Corlew.

The House voted 96-48 to send the bill to the Senate, which is considering its own version of the proposal.

Transportation Task Force proposes fuel tax increase, readies report to legislature

The 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force is proposing an increase in the state’s fuel tax to support transportation infrastructure.

Representative Kevin Corlew (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The Task Force met on Tuesday to finalize the recommendations that will go into the report it will release before the legislative session begins January 3.  It says an increase of 10 cents in the tax on gasoline and of 12 cents in the tax on diesel would generate about $430-million annually for roads and bridges.  $43-million of that would go to counties and $64.5-million would go to municipalities.

Such an increase would have to be put before Missouri voters.

“We really do need an immediate impact investment in transportation to move forward, and to really meet a lot of needs that have been arising over many years of neglect in terms of funding,” said the Task Force’s chairman, Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew.  “The first thing will be let’s make sure we give our transportation system – the people of Missouri – the shot in the arm in terms of transportation infrastructure that we need.”

The Task Force’s draft report said Missouri’s fuel tax burden is low – 46th in the nation – and the proposed increase would amount to an additional $5 per month for the average Missouri driver.

The report also recommends the implementation of a revenue stream dedicated to multimodal transportation (railways, aviation, mass transportation, ports, waterways, and transportation for the elderly and disabled).  The Task Force suggests restructuring Missouri’s Timely Filing Discount on retail sales or withholding tax and/or the discount given to companies that file employee withholding taxes on time.

“Recognizing that all of us benefit from a transportation system and particularly our retail businesses – and they’ve all come around and testified to us, many business groups, on the importance of it – we feel like that’s an area where there’s no additional taxation but we could restructure that … and not suggesting that we do away completely with that,” said Corlew.

He said a restructuring of the Timely Filing Discount could generate $50- to $70-million, which is the range of amounts the Task Force identified as enough to enhance multimodal transportation.

The Task Force also discussed a need to make transportation revenue sustainable long-term.  Recommendations to that end include increases in usage fees for electric and hybrid vehicles; increases in license, registration, and other non-fuel user fees; exploration of additional taxation of internet sales; and tolling on major bridges.

Other recommendations address safety, exploring and supporting innovation, and considering legislative action to remove barriers to various types of projects, including public-private partnerships.

Corlew said, as he has before, that this Task Force was more than, “just another government study … That’s why we worked extraordinarily hard to find a consensus on some of these solutions, that’s why we reached out to Missouri citizens at our meetings and individual members reached out to their communities at home to get the ideas.”

“We are fully committed to making sure that we really do move our transportation system forward and work as hard as we can to make sure that these recommendations are put into place,” said Corlew.

The Task Force includes 23 members from the state House and Senate, the Governor’s office, members of state agencies including the Departments of Transportation and Economic Development and the Highway Patrol, and representatives of business organizations.  It could continue meeting through the end of 2018.

What Missourians need to know about the latest on Real ID

Missourians can keep using state licenses at federal facilities and airports through October 10, but it could be up to two years before Real ID compliant Missouri IDs are available under a law effective next month.

Representative Kevin Corlew (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The federal Real ID Act was passed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Missouri in 2009 adopted a law barring compliance with that Act based on concerns about citizens’ privacy because the Act required them to produce source documents to be stored electronically.

The federal government granted an extension giving the state through October to comply with the Real ID Act.  Governor Eric Greitens (R) signed into law last month a bill that would give those Missourians who want Real ID compliant licenses the option of getting one.

The bill’s sponsor, Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew, said Missouri will continue seeking federal extensions until everything is in place to make compliant IDs available.  He said in considering further extensions the Department of Homeland Security will look for evidence that Missouri is moving toward compliance, and the beginning of implementation of House Bill 151 will provide that.

“We’ll be able to show DHS what the Department of Revenue is doing and the steps that they’re taking to move towards compliance,” said Corlew.

Missouri will need to seek another waiver by January, or at that time current Missouri licenses would not be accepted to get through federal security.

Eventually Missourians who want or need to be able to get through federal security will have to have Real ID compliant licenses.  HB 151 lets those Missourians get such IDs.  Those who don’t need them won’t have to go through the Act’s more stringent proof-of-identity requirements if they don’t want to.

Corlew said it’s not clear how soon compliant Missouri licenses will be available.

“We don’t have an exact timeline but we’re in the neighborhood of about 12 months, probably, from August 28 when [HB 151] goes into effect,” said Corlew.  “Department of Revenue has said even up to two years but I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to roll that out in about a year, but until then we’ll keep seeking the waivers and extensions to make sure that Missouri drivers licenses, as they currently exist, will be proper identification.”

Corlew said there’s nothing Missourians need to do or be concerned about right now, but said those with further questions should contact their local representative or senator, or the Department of Revenue.

Task Force begins work toward finding a solution for Missouri transportation funding

A legislature-created task force has held its first hearing toward the goal of finding a long-term solution for Missouri’s need for transportation funding.

Representative Kevin Corlew (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force was created by the adoption of HCR 47, offered by Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew.  He chairs the Task Force.

“Our roads are crumbling and our constituents are grumbling.  There seems to be a consensus that we need to do something but as of yet there’s been no consensus about what needs to be done,” said Corlew.  “That’s what this task force is about – determining if we have a need and then finding a solution with broad-based support.”

The task force heard a presentation from the Director of the Department of Transportation Patrick McKenna in which he outlined the funding issue facing the state’s transportation system.

“Nearly $55-billion of taxpayer dollars have gone into developing the really extraordinary system that we benefit from today – 34-thousand miles of road and 10,400 bridges that the state owns.  It’s the seventh largest system in the nation and it’s funded at 47th in the nation in terms of revenue per mile,” said McKenna.

McKenna also reiterated what many lawmakers already know about Missouri’s bridges – many are in need of repair.  He said about 1,300 have restrictions on how much weight can be on them because of their condition.  866 more bridges are considered to be in “poor condition.”

“We also have 207 ‘major bridges’ in this state … we define those as greater than 1,000 feet in length … In the next 10-years, with our asset management plan, we know we have to replace or repair 62 of those by age and condition, and we’re funded at about 1.2 a year,” said McKenna.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Task force members and those who testified, not including McKenna, shared the opinions that have framed the transportation funding debate in recent years.  Some spoke for or against increasing Missouri’s motor fuel taxes.  Others spoke about other possible solutions such as different ways of utilizing the tax money the Transportation Department already receives.  Still others commented on the possibility of public-private partnerships and tolling.

Ron Leone, the executive director for the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, told the committee he didn’t expect it to come up with any new possible solutions beyond those that have been debated before.

“I kinda have a feeling that even though you’re going to be going down this path for the next six, seven months, you’re ultimately going to have just a certain number of tools in your toolbox.  I don’t think you’re going to uncover any silver bullets that no one has thought of to date,” said Leone.

Corlew is more optimistic that the task force could come up with some new possible approaches or combinations of approaches

“I think that every day as technology increases and as people really put their minds together and think creatively that there’s innovation coming out.  We’re seeing it throughout the country, new ways of funding things.  I don’t have a hidden gem right now, but that’s the purpose of this task force – is to get input from the public, to get input from other states, and find out, are there new mechanisms?”  said Corlew.  “I’m not at a place where I’d say we won’t uncover anything new.”

Corlew said one reason he proposed this task force was because the legislature wasn’t making much progress towards a transportation funding solution in recent sessions.

“It’s very important that we take this seriously,” said Corlew.  “The reason why this task force was made up with the people that it is – that is legislators, the governor, the MODOT director, and with private citizens – is that it can be something that not only do we come out with proposals to talk about, but proposals that we as a legislature and the governor’s office can act upon.”

Corlew intends for the task force to have proposals ready for consideration by the legislature in its 2018 regular session.  It will hold more sessions throughout the state in the next few months.

Legislature passes Real ID legislation as session’s end nears

The state House has voted to send to Governor Eric Greitens (R) a bill that would let Missourians choose whether to get an ID that complies with the federal Real ID Act of 2005.  Compliant licenses are needed to do things like board airplanes and enter military bases and federal buildings.

Representative Kevin Corlew (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Kevin Corlew (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Real ID was passed in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  In 2009 Missouri adopted a law barring compliance, citing concerns over citizens’ privacy because the Act required citizens to produce source documents that would then be stored electronically.  After January 2018, however, those who lack compliant IDs will not be able to get through federal security such as at airports and federal courthouses.

The sponsor of House Bill 151, Kevin Corlew (R-Kansas City), said the bill gives Missourians an option.

“We’ve heard from our citizens from our military bases, from our businesses, from people who travel and fly, from people who access military bases to visit their loved ones or to go to the grave sites or those who do business on them, they’ve requested that we provide this as an option so they can use their Missouri driver’s license.  They don’t have to get a national identification in the form of a passport.  Instead they can use their state-issued identification to access these, but also recognizing … there are some who would say I want my regular old Missouri driver’s license.  I don’t need the Real ID compliant, don’t want my source documents stored, whatever it be, then they have the freedom to choose the other one,” said Corlew.

Many lawmakers said the issue was the one they felt the most pressure from the public to solve.

Representative Charlie Davis (R-Webb City) told Corlew, “You would think that this year being such a tough budget year the number one number of emails I would’ve got was from the budget … 12 emails.  Real ID?  327 emails from my constituents, not from people across the state of Missouri.”

Corlew said the bill calls for the storage of documents required by Real ID to be done on a system that is not connected to the internet, making them more difficult to access.

“You know the scene from Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise dropping down [on a wire]?  I would think that’s what you would need to get it,” said Corlew.

Representative Rick Brattin (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Rick Brattin (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Still the measure faced some opposition from lawmakers who remain concerned about the privacy of citizens.  Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) told Corlew that when the Jay Nixon Administration was learned to have shared information on Missouri concealed carry permit holders with the federal government, the internet was not involved.

“They scanned and had a disc made,” said Brattin.  “It’s still capable to have that scanned and sent off, so the problem that we already faced and encountered in the State of Missouri occurred and can still occur with this sort of system.”

Corlew said that is why the Senate put tougher provisions in the bill for punishing those who violate the privacy of those documents.

“The first of which is up to a year in prison under a Class-A misdemeanor and then it goes up from there with substantial jailtime for felonies,” said Corlew.

Still, the legislation passed 112-39 with broad bipartisan support.  It’s now up to Governor Greitens whether it will become law.

House budget proposal: no state dollars to tolling Missouri roads

The state House’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 would bar the use of General Revenue dollars for anything associated with collecting tolls on interstates running through Missouri.

Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew proposed lifting that prohibition.

“We’ve got a funding issue that we need to deal with and I think it’s not wise for us as a body to completely remove one of the options from even consideration and discussion,” said Corlew.

MODOT had asked budget makers for money to conduct a third study of tolling in Missouri.  Republicans including Representative Bart Korman (High Hill) said no more state money should be spent on yet another study.

“That’s a waste of a lot of money that could be used to build a bridge or two,” said Korman, who added, “Tolls are a double tax.”

Some, including Hermann Representative Justin Alferman, said MODOT has only shown interest in tolling I-70 and none of the other interstates in Missouri.

“I don’t want to fund the entire state’s transportation infrastructure on those districts that only hug the I-70 corridor.  I think it is incredibly disingenuous of MODOT to be only pushing forward with I-70,” said Alferman.

Corlew also argued that Congress and the administration of President Donald Trump (R) are preparing an infrastructure package, and Missouri should keep all options open to be able to take advantage of it when it is released.

Korman was also unmoved by that argument.

“[President Trump’s] first deal is going to be repeal and replace Obamacare and we’re waiting for that, yet,” said Korman.  “Congress needs to work through [creating an infrastructure plan.]  By the time Congress gets it all done, our [Fiscal Year ‘18] budget will be expired anyway and we can revisit this next year.”

The transportation budget is laid out in House Bill 4.  The House is expected to vote Thursday on whether to send that and the rest of its proposed state budget to the Senate.

Missouri House proposes giving Missourians choice of whether to get Real ID-compliant licenses

The state House has proposed a bill that would allow Missourians to choose whether to get a state ID that complies with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, so they can use it to do things like enter military bases and board planes.

Representative Kevin Corlew said House Bill 151 will give Missourians a  choice on whether to get a state-issued ID that complies with the federal Real ID Act of 2005.  (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Kevin Corlew said House Bill 151 will give Missourians a choice on whether to get a state-issued ID that complies with the federal Real ID Act of 2005. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Bill 151 is sponsored by Representative Kevin Corlew (R-Kansas City), who called it a compromise, allowing Missourians to keep non-compliant IDs if they wish.  His Republican caucus was divided over the legislation, though, with some saying the Real ID Act threatens individuals’ privacy and personal information.

The Act was passed as part of the federal government’s response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.  In 2009 the Missouri legislature and then-Governor Jay Nixon (D), citing privacy concerns, adopted a law barring the state from issuing compliant IDs.  After January 2018, however, those without non-compliant IDs will not be able to get through airport security, and some federal facilities already enforce such a restriction.

It is that deadline that prompted Corlew’s legislation.

“We need to allow our citizens to choose a Real ID-compliant license so that they’ll be able to get on an airplane to fly across the United States or to fly to another state without having to go to the expense and time and burden of getting a passport, or passport card, or producing additional identification,” said Corlew.  “We need to be able to do that so that our businesses who service our military basis, also our family members who have military families throughout the country, that they can go and visit their loved ones, to see their graduations, to be a part of those ceremonies.”

Representative Steve Lynch’s (R-Waynesville) district includes Fort Leonard Wood, which quit accepting non-compliant IDs last year.  He said he has seen, as much as anyone in the House, how the issue is impacting Missourians.

“Everywhere I go, every weekend, I run across people that stop me and tell me we need to fix this issue.  People are angry.  They are frustrated,” said Lynch.

Opponents of the bill include Representative Robert Ross (R-Yukon), who called the choice proponents say the bill presents a “total joke.”

Representative Robert Ross was one of 35 Republicans that voted against the Real ID bill.  (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Robert Ross was one of 35 Republicans that voted against the Real ID bill. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Ross said the state is being “coerced” to adopt Real ID compliance by being told, “Your citizens are not going to be able to fly, they’re not going to be able to step onto a nuclear facility, we’re not going to let you into a military installation – which is completely false too.  If you’ve got a Missouri ID and a social security card, birth certificate, any other piece of identification, you can go in.”

Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) said he is concerned the personal documents and information used to get a compliant ID will land in a government database.

“Everybody may think that this is a black helicopter mentality, but I do not think that this sort of information on a database, especially when it becomes completely nationwide, in the hands of a government, will ever be used for good,” said Brattin.

Others, like Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington), said voting against HB 151 would be denying constituents the ability to get a state-issued ID they can use to exercise their rights.

“I would suggest this:  If you look up and you see a ceiling, vote ‘Yes.’  If you look up and you see what might be the bottom of an alien spacecraft that’s coming down, and will beam us up to probe us, then vote, ‘No,’” said Engler.

The bill was passed with bipartisan support, 99-40, and now goes to the state Senate.