The 2015 legislative session officially concluded this evening. While every year has a few speed bumps, I’m proud to say most of this session progressed in a respectful manner and demonstrated a productive working relationship from members on both sides of the aisle. In total, your Missouri lawmakers sent close to 150 bills to the governor. Among those are a number of high-profile measures addressing some of the most serious issues facing our state.

Earlier this session, the General Assembly passed legislation supporting the Show-Me State’s number one industry: agriculture.
House Bill 259 offers an insurance program for dairy farmers and also establishes the Missouri Dairy Scholars Program — an effort to incentivize students in agriculture-related degree programs to
continue working in the agriculture industry after graduation. The measure has already been signed by the governor.

I was able to put in the budget $100,000 in general revenue funds and the Legislature passed an increase in fees on court cases for the juvenile detention center in Joplin, which serves Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties. This money will help fund the purchase or lease of a new building.

Another top priority for the Legislature this session was getting people back to work and modernizing our welfare policies, which is why the Legislature successfully voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 24. Missouri’s current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it actually discourages work. By restructuring our Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and reinvesting any resulting savings back into child care, job training and transportation services, SB 24 will provide our state’s welfare recipients with the motivation and resources they need to gain employment and become financially independent.

After hours of debate and compromise between both chambers and members on both sides of the aisle, the General Assembly sent House Bill 42 to the governor’s desk. The measure contains policy changes to our state’s education system that will help ensure every child in Missouri has access to a quality education. In addition to adding important accountability measures for charter schools, HB 42 addresses transfer options for students living in unaccredited school districts. The primary goal of the bill is to reduce the number of students transferring out of their home districts, so they can receive an equal opportunity to a quality education, close to home.

Several tax measures were also sent to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 149 and House Bill 111 create state and local sales and use tax exemptions for data storage centers and used manufactured homes, respectively. Senate Bill 19 creates a new method of allocating corporate income between states for tax purposes. Senate Bill 336 modifies provisions relating to income tax withholdings on employee’s tips; and House Bill 517 specifies that mandatory gratuities imposed at restaurants are not subject to sales tax.

Missouri legislators truly agreed and finally passed municipal court reform legislation this session. Senate Bill 5 modifies what’s commonly known as the Mack’s Creek Law, reducing cities’ threshold for general operating revenue coming from traffic fines. The bill also creates minimum standards for municipal governance and a remedy process for citizens who believe the minimum standards are not being met.

Lawmakers also passed a measure to improve Missouri’s business climate by placing caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Senate Bill 239, signed by the governor earlier this month, will reduce the incentive to pursue frivolous lawsuits and curb skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates that are forcing doctors to raise costs or move out of Missouri. Passing tort reform legislation has been a top concern of the Senate for years now, and it will create a friendlier regulatory environment to attract more doctors to our state.

On Tuesday (5-12), House Bills 116 & 569 was taken up on the Senate floor. Known as right-to-work, the measure bars workplace contracts requiring employees to become union members as a condition of employment. Since the very first day I took office, my primary goal has been job creation. Right-to-work creates a competitive business climate with a faster rate of job growth. This legislation will bring more businesses to the Show-Me State, increase our job numbers and foster a better environment for workers. A vote on right-to-work has been an effort 50 years in the making, and I’m proud we were finally able to pass this history-making legislation.

These are just a few of the numerous bills passed by the Legislature this session. The governor has the option of signing them into law or vetoing them. We will have the opportunity to override any of the governor’s vetoes in September during the annual veto session.

As always, it’s been an honor serving the citizens of the 32nd District in the Capitol this year. I’ll continue working on important issues during the interim. If you have any questions or concerns regarding our state government, please contact my office. Thank you.

RR-signature