Missouri School Districts could have new ways to deal with interruptions in students’ education caused by snow days, under a bill being offered in the Missouri House.
The proposal by Lamar Republican Mike Kelley would allow districts to create plans for students to do schoolwork from home on up to 10 days on which school is out of session for inclement weather. These “alternative instruction plans,” could include the use of online work or some other form of activity.
On the days districts utilize those plans, the state would give those districts credit for being in session.
The bill would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop rules regarding these alternative instruction plans. It would allow districts to begin using them in the 2018-19 school year.
The Missouri House has advanced another priority of its Republican supermajority, sending a right-to-work bill to the State Senate.
HB 91 would bar union membership or the paying of union dues from being a condition of employment. It would make violators of that prohibition guilty of a Class “C” misdemeanor and would require county prosecutors and the state Attorney General to investigate complaints of violations. It would also negate existing agreements between unions and companies that require the paying of union dues or fees.
Many Republicans, like Representative Rick Brattin (Harrisonville), say right-to-work is an issue of worker freedom.
The House voted 100-59 to send the bill to the Senate.
Sponsor Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) said she will work next week on more labor reform issues when the Economic Development Committee she chairs holds a hearing on a bill supporters call “paycheck protection,” and opponents call, “paycheck deception.” It would bar the automatic deduction of union fees or dues from a public employee’s pay except with that employee’s annual permission. It would also bar the use of union dues or fees for political campaign donations except with permission from the union members paying them.
The state House has advanced a right-to-work proposal but rejected Democrats’ attempt to have Missourians vote on it.
Right-to-work is a priority for the Republican super majorities in both chambers and of Governor Eric Greitens (R). The plan the House voted on would bar union membership or the paying of union dues from being a condition of employment. It would make violators of that prohibition guilty of a Class “C” misdemeanor and would require county prosecutors and the state Attorney General to investigate complaints of violations.
Most Republican House members say the bill would make Missouri more competitive against neighboring states, would increase wages, and argue that requiring union membership violates employees’ rights.
Democrats say right-to-work will lower wages and would be a government overreach into contracts between unions and employers.
St. Louis Democrat Doug Beck proposed an amendment that would put right-to-work before voters if it is passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Greitens.
Republicans like Paul Curtman (R-Union) say voters spoke on the issue when they elected a Republican governor to go with Republican supermajorities.
He said Democrats are calling for a vote on the bill now that there is a Republican governor who won’t veto it, but years ago they opposed a Republican bill that would have put the issue to voters at a time when Democratic Governor Jay Nixon would have vetoed it.
Under the bill, meals to which all members of the General Assembly and all statewide elected officials are invited to and that are held in Missouri with 72-hours’ notice would be allowed.
The bill was amended from its initial version to remove language regarding legislators accepting meals at events at which they speak. Alferman said a review of other state law and the Ethics Commission’s interpretation, that language was found to be unnecessary.
Other changes in the bill clarify that flowers and plants may be given to legislators as “expressions of condolence or congratulation,” and plaques given by organizations to recognize a lawmaker would be exempted from the ban as well.
The bill goes to the Senate which last year failed to advance a similar proposal. Alferman thinks HB 60 is as likely as it can be to reach Governor Eric Greitens, who he notes has been supportive of a gift ban.
Missouri House members are being asked to reject a pay increase for themselves, the governor, and other statewide officials.
The Missouri Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials recommended in its December 1 report an increase in pay over the next two years of five-percent for Representatives and Senators, and of eight-percent for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Auditor.
House Concurrent Resolution 4, filed by Representative Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City), would reject the Commission’s recommendation and thereby block those pay raises. To pass, it must be approved by two-thirds votes in each chamber and would go then to Governor Eric Greitens (R). If no action is taken before February 1, the Commission’s recommendations would be enacted.
Bernskoetter, who recently spoke with House Communications about the chances the state will be able to increase the pay of its workers in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, said this is not the time for legislators and other elected officials to get a raise.
Bernskoetter’s resolution is scheduled to be considered by the House General Laws Committee Tuesday at 2:30. The Committee will likely vote on it during a hearing on the following day.
The Citizens’ Commission was created so that the power to control how much elected officials are paid lies with citizens. It generally makes salary recommendations for elected officials and judges every two years.
The Missouri House Budget Committee was given a wake-up call in its first hearing. First-year chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) explained to its members the challenges they will face in crafting the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Fitzpatrick has said that budget could need to be trimmed by $500-million. Former Governor Jay Nixon (D) already restricted $201-million from the current budget, and Governor Eric Greitens (R) is expected to make further restrictions in it. Fitzpatrick said the items for which funding in the current budget is blocked likely won’t be appropriated in the Fiscal Year 2018 plan.
Fitzpatrick said some are describing the current budget situation as the worst since 1981.
In explaining how the state got here, Fitzpatrick said it began with a June marked by a drop in state revenue collections coupled with increased tax refunds to Missourians.
Fitzpatrick said that is combined with continuing growth in Medicaid and costs in the Department of Corrections, including a growing likelihood that Missouri will need a new prison. He said those and other factors lead him to believe Missouri’s problem is with growing expenses more than it is with a lack of revenue.
The message, then, to members of the legislature – especially those on the budget committee – has been that there will be very little if any new spending in the Fiscal Year ’18 budget.
Another challenge is that the legislature will be starting the budget process differently than it has in recent years, in large part because Governor Greitens will not deliver his proposed spending plan as part of his State of the State Address next week. Unlike recent history, when governors have delivered their budget proposals with that address, Greitens’ plan will be released closer to February 1.
Fitzpatrick believes the fact that Greitens is building his administration from scratch combined with the gravity and complexity of the budget situation is behind the delay.
House and Senate budget makers base their proposed spending plans on that of the governor. Fitzpatrick said the delay could cause the House to change how it does some things, but he remains confident the legislature will pass a balanced budget by the Constitutional deadline of May 5.
The Missouri legislature could have a difficult time building a pay increase for state employees into the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, but there are other things it could consider to improve those employees’ benefits.
The Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages has heard a follow-up report from St. Louis-based CBIZ Human capital Services. CBIZ studied nearly 38,000 of Missouri’s 50,000 employees. It’s already reported to the legislature that those employees are the least paid in the nation, with compensation more than 10-percent below what is recommended to compete in the job market.
The study said it would cost the state $13.69-million to bring more than 5,000 of those state workers’ pay up to the minimum CBIZ recommended to be competitive in the market. That would be a one-percent increase in the state’s payroll.
Committee Chairman Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City) said building that into the budget that legislators will propose over the next couple of months could be difficult based on what he’s heard from the House’s Budget Committee Chairman, Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob).
Some of CBIZ’s other recommendations could be worked on this year, however. One is that Missouri replace its step-based system for awarding salary increases. A CBIZ representative called it “archaic,” and expensive to administer. Bernskoetter said he is reviewing proposed legislation to make that change.
Another recommendation is that Missouri return to requiring that an employee work five years to be vested rather than ten years. Bernskoetter liked that idea as well.
In addition to the prohibitions on expenditures by lobbyists for elected officials, the bill would remove reporting requirements that would not be necessary with a ban in place. It would exempt from those prohibitions flowers and plants, items such as plaques given to lawmakers recognized by an organization, speaking fees, and items that are returned.
The bill would allow lobbyists to provide meals that are offered to all members of the House and Senate as well as all statewide elected officials. Omitted was a requirement that an invite to those elected officials be made in writing at least 72 hours before the event. Alferman said that will be amended into the bill because it is “vital” that it be included.
St. Louis Democrat Tracy McCreery thinks the bill should include a definition of “speaking engagement,” as it allows lobbyists to continue to provide meals to lawmakers at those. She said a definition would tighten up that exemption.
Alferman expects the legislation to have a greater chance of passage this year than in 2016 when it cleared the House but not the Senate. That is due in part to support from Governor Eric Greitens, who after being sworn in today signed an executive order aiming to ban lobbyist gifts to members of his staff.
The General Laws Committee voted to pass HB 60 and it next goes to a hearing by the House Rules Committee, Tuesday afternoon at 1:30.
House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) has said he wants a gift ban bill to be the first thing the House sends the Missouri Senate this session.
Two state House committees are preparing to dive into the state’s framework of regulations and licensing requirements in an effort to make it easier to own and operate a business in Missouri.
House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) announced in his opening day address that he’s instructed the House Committee on Government Efficiency and the House Committee on Professional Registration & Licensing to review those requirements.
Richardson said Missouri regulations have slowed the success in Missouri of ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft and lodging companies HomeAway and AirBnB, and he said there are other examples.
A freshman state representative has filed another effort to make Missouri less attractive to sex traffickers.
Manchester Republican Jean Evans’ prefiled legislation would increase from 15 to 17 the minimum age at which a person can receive a marriage license. Missouri law allows teens as young as 15 to get a license when extenuating circumstances exist, as long as one of the teen’s parents gives consent.
Evans said traffickers have been taking advantage of Missouri’s law, bringing trafficking victims to the state to marry their abusers. That makes prosecuting the abuser difficult or impossible.
Evans said such marriages are able to take place because parents are sometimes involved in trafficking their own children. She said she learned about the issue from a report by KMOV reporter Lauren Trager.
Evans’ bill is not based on a recommendation from the Task Force on Sex Trafficking, but she has discussed the issue with its chairman, Springfield Representative Elijah Haahr (R). She sees her bill as part of a broader effort to fight trafficking – an effort based largely on the work of that Task Force.
House members will be asked to consider other legislation related to trafficking – much of it based on the work of the Task Force. HB 261 would require employers to display posters with the national trafficking hotline and related information. Other recommendations by the Task Force deal with creating a position in state government to oversee anti-trafficking efforts, and supporting groups that offer victims treatment and assistance to transition out of trafficking.