The Missouri Senate returned from the annual legislative spring break this week, refreshed and ready to tackle the second half of session, which will officially conclude Friday, May 12. Along with passing the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, there are a number of priority initiatives that are still making their way through the House and Senate, including measures relating to the state’s prevailing wage law and paycheck protection.
On the Senate floor debate calendar is a piece of legislation (Senate Bill 20) that would save Missouri taxpayers money by changing the state’s prevailing wage law. Prevailing wage is essentially a minimum wage paid to construction workers who work on state projects. Prevailing wage rates are set by the Department of Labor and vary from county to county.
Missouri is a very diverse state, and what it costs to repair or maintain a school building in Kansas City is not the same as what it costs in southwest Missouri. As it stands now, our rural municipalities are subject to the prevailing wage standards for urban areas. Sometimes these wages are even higher than the federal prevailing wage. Unsurprisingly, changing Missouri’s prevailing wage law is one of the main requests we get from rural community leaders. By changing the process by which prevailing wage is determined, Missouri taxpayers can feel confident they are rewarding and attracting good contractors, and employees receive a fair wage. As far as economic development, this is one of the most important labor reforms we can pass for our local communities and Missouri families who want to get back to work.
Prior to adjourning for spring break, the Senate began discussing House Bill 251, also known as the Paycheck Protection bill, this legislation requires public labor organizations to obtain annual consent from an employee before withholding fees from the employee’s paycheck or using any collected fees or dues for political purposes. The act also stipulates that labor organizations must make their financial records available to the employee they represent, in an electronic searchable format. House Bill 251 will help ensure Missouri’s public union employees are in control of their hard-earned money and are made aware of what political activities their dollars are supporting.
The Senate has also started debating House Bill 130, relating to transportation network companies (TNCs). Ride-sharing, or TNCs, encourage innovation, provide economic opportunities, and increase transportation access. Unfortunately, our current transportation regulations are so burdensome that many TNCs cannot operate in the state, leaving Missouri consumers with few options. House Bill 130 creates a framework for the regulatory treatment of TNCs and brings us in line with the other 39 states that have statewide ridesharing laws. This includes all of our neighboring states. By clearing the way for greater technological and logistical innovation within the transportation industry, we can promote choice and competition and help grow a stronger economy.
A Senate committee has also heard testimony on House Bill 339, which modifies provisions relating to tort claims. Here in Missouri, we have seen a number of instances in which an injured party’s attorney will send an insurance company a settlement offer letter that must be accepted within a very narrow timeframe, sometimes as few as 10 days. If the insurance company does not take action within that short amount of time, their inaction can then be used as part of a bad-faith claim.
While the circumstances surrounding each case vary, the bottom line is insurance companies are being given a very limited, often unrealistic, window of opportunity to conduct their investigatory work, such as determining the validity of claims and any associated damages. While this is not yet a widespread problem, there have been enough instances to raise concern. House Bill 339 will help ensure insurance companies have sufficient time to perform their due diligence by defining “time-limited demand” in statute and requiring that any settlement offer shall remain open for acceptance for no less than 90 days from the date the insurance company receives the time-limited demand letter.
These are just a few of the important measures the Senate will be addressing during these final six weeks of session as we continue working to move Missouri forward.