Below is this week’s MGA Lobby Team Report. Not listed below is SB1112, a bill just filed by Senate Pro Tem Richard. This legislation makes changes to the Historic Tax Credit program to establish the Capitol Complex Fund. The goal of this fund is to provide revenue for maintenance and improvements to the State Capitol. The MGA has several concerns about this legislation and working very closely with Senator Richard to address them. While a bill that hasn’t been heard in Committee prior to spring break would typically be facing an uphill battle for passage, the Pro Tem certainly has the power to move legislation quickly if he feels it’s a priority. You can see the filed bill here.
The General Assembly is on spring break until Tuesday, March 29th.
DENTONS MGA Lobby Team Report
Mood in the Senate Still Tense
Last week’s tense attitude in the Senate over SJR 39, regarding religious liberty and gay marriage, spilled over and caused another stagnant week. The Senate took no votes on any bills this week and only took up one bill for debate. This was not surprising after Senate democrats had promised to block any proceedings. There has been a lot of speculation about how the Senate will move forward-or if they will at all. They convened Thursday for less than five minutes. The general opinion is that tempers will cool next week during spring break and they will return and get back to work, though at an admittedly slower pace. There is also growing frustration in the House about the Senate’s failure to pass legislation after a large amount of House bills died in the last week of session last year due to a breakdown in the Senate. However, the truce could be short lived with ore big fights in the pipeline, such as a likely veto override of the previously passed paycheck protection bill. The week they return from spring break will be a strong indicator of what can be expected for the remainder of session.
Hearing Held on Municipal Court Reform II
The sequel to last year’s municipal court reform bill, sponsored by Senator Schmitt, was heard in the House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee. The municipal court reform legislation passed last year was to prevent municipalities from taxing their citizens through traffic citations. Since then, citizens have complained that municipalities have resorted to enforcing more and frivolous ordinance violations to make up for the lost revenue. In response, Senator Schmitt filed SB 572 to add the definition for municipal ordinance violations to the calculation limiting the percentage of annual general operating revenue that can come from fines and court costs for minor violations. The hearing lasted for several hours over the course of two days. The legislation has received considerable support but the committee did not take a vote.
Missouri Task Force on Workforce Competitiveness
A bill to create the “Missouri Task Force on Workforce Competitiveness” was heard in the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee this week. SB 1116 would establish a task force to examine Missouri’s economic development system, as well as other states, and recommend strategies on how Missouri can be more competitive. The bill would also find ways that the state can more effectively utilize processes already in place. A committee report would be due to the General Assembly by December 31, 2017 and then be resolved. The committee did not take a vote on the measure during their hearing. With a zero fiscal note and strong support in both chambers for economic development measures, this bill has a very positive outlook.
TNC Statewide Regulations added to Existing Bill
Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft have been fighting for more regulatory freedom in Missouri for several years. This week, HB 1563 was heard in the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee. This bill establishes insurance regulations for TNC’s and drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport passengers. The bill sponsor, Rep Haahr, offered a committee substitute which would establish statewide regulations for TNC’s. These statewide rules would preempt more restrictive local regulations limiting TNC companies in specific areas. The committee did not take action to either adopt the committee substitute or vote the bill out of committee. Two other TNC regulation bills, HB 2330 and SB 991, received endorsements from Uber this week.
Hearing Held in Senate on Utility Rate Making
Utilities have made a big push this year for a new system of ratemaking to replace the current outdated method. The Senate Commerce Committee has ben extensively talking about how best to craft this policy. In an unusual move, Senator Silvey filed SB 1028 as a “place holder” with no language about the issue and held public discussions with fellow committee members to work together and craft language for the bill. They finally began taking public testimony on the potential legislation this week. The hearing lasted several hours with verbose testimony from both proponents and opponents. The language is still a work in progress, but seems to be moving forward. The Senate did not take a vote on the legislation, but likely will when they return from spring break.
Rate Extension Heard in House Committee
The House Utility Infrastructure Committee met Wednesday evening to discuss HB 1471 which would modify the Gas ISRS system. The bill would extend the time period between rate cases, required when a company utilizes an infrastructure replacement surcharge, from three years to five years. The hearings usually last for several hours, but this hearing was relatively short. Proponents say that the savings from less frequent rate cases will be passed to consumers and will allow the gas company to more quickly replace aging infrastructure rather than spending copious amounts of time and millions of dollars preparing for rate cases. Opponents say that this measure would reduce consumer protections. The committee did not take action on the measure and will vote when the legislature returns from spring break.