The second session of the 98th General Assembly is about at its half-way mark. The legislature has taken their traditional spring break week and is set to begin the last half of their work on Tuesday afternoon. This is the time of year that citizens need to be ever watchful as the closing of session sometimes yields unexpected and undesired results!
The Missouri Constitution dictates that the session begin the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January (January 6, 2016) and end no later than 6 P.M. on the first Friday after the second Monday in May (May 13, 2016). As we suggested in our blog posts when session began (2016 Legislative Session Set to Begin, 2016 Legislative Session – Obamacaid and Education and 2016 Legislative Session – Transportation, Ethics, Employee Choice and Licensure the session could certainly be shorter and cause less damage!
Normally we would expect the second session of a General Assembly, as it’s always in an election year, to be a little more docile. We expect lots of bills that look good back home to be introduced but not so many that actually pass. In fact, we are told this is a record for number of bills sponsored during an election cycle session.
The second regular session pace is generally faster than the first regular session as the rules have been established as well as committees. This year, the General Assembly has moved quickly on some major items and not so quickly on others. In addition, there are some areas we didn’t anticipate moving as they have such as the proposed 400% tax increase on certain tobacco companies and “beer wars”!
When the session began, we expected that the General Assembly would take up bills in these key areas:
- Obamacaid expansion (Medicaid expansion) via the budget process.
- Education reform.
- Ethics Reform.
- Employee Choice.
Every one of these areas has seen some action either in the form of bills heard in committee, amendments, bill passed by one chamber or the other or even bills placed on the Governor’s desk (and vetoed).
Activity surrounding Obamacaid is pure politics. It’s well known and proven that expansion doesn’t work and Obamacaid itself is a dismal failure. Didn’t stop those who seek to grow government even more spending money we don’t have trying to burden Missouri taxpayers with expansion. Forunately that attempt failed!
Education reform is making it slowly, very slowly through the House. At this time its prospects aren’t that good.
After a big push and bills being filed in the House and Senate to raise the fuel tax it hit a big wall. The Senate bill moved quickly and quickly became bogged down. Expect to see more activity in the last half of the session but the odds of it passing are not good. There’s no vision associated with it and there should be no money without a clear vision for transportation in Missouri.
Ethics reform has passed the House in several measures. The House has taken bite sized reforms and managed to pass them without much difficulty. The Senate has taken up several of the House measures but not with the same gusto or exact same direction. So far they have passed one House ethics bill with changes and those changes will need to be negotiated with the House. The remaining bills remain in discussion in the Senate and with the House. Expect some ethics reform to happen but exactly how far they are able to get remains to be seen.
Employee Choice has primarily and likely will only be represented by House Bill (HB) 1891 – Paycheck Protection. The bill passed both the Senate and House with veto proof votes. However, labor is working people hard with one representative changing her vote TWICE when voting on the measure! As expected the Governor has vetoed the bill. It will make for an interesting election season based on the votes on the override.
This year has seen a spate of licensure bills in both chambers. In some cases the unions want to have the state endorse their way and in other cases there are bills to attempt to block those attempts. The state should re-examine its licensing approach and eliminate most of them. Is the public interest really best served by having someone who does African Hairbraiding required to be licensed? Why should government at any level be our keeper and perform what is our duty to do our due diligence in finding the right person to do whatever job we need to have done? Short answer – they shouldn’t but they do! Time to get out that business!
A couple bills of interest that are seeing some movement in the House and/or Senate is a 400% tobacco tax increase and what is known as the “beer wars” bill.
Senate Bill (SB) 1096 represents a “deal” the Attorney General Chris Koster has negotiated with BIG TOBACCO to raise taxes on tobacco products. Ok, you might say, what’s wrong with that if they have agreed? What’s wrong with it that BIG TOBACCO doesn’t pay the taxes consumers do BUT even WORSE is that they have “agreed” to raise taxes on THEIR COMPETITORS without the consent of those competitors! It’s an atrocious attempt to use government to get something done to inflict damage on BIG TOBACCO’s competitors! We will be doing more info on this issue but understand that SB1096 is one of the most outrageous examples of CRONY CAPATILISM you will ever see!
The other bill that has caught our interest is Senate Bill 919. Missouri’s liquor laws are mostly post prohibition related. They are often unclear in today’s world. One example is a prohibition against retailers from choosing where to lease their beer coolers from and how much space they can allow according to their choice. It’s clearly a matter of prohibiting these businesses from exercising their free market choices according to their business needs and customer desires.
Stay tuned. We will be alerting you to these and other areas that may need your immediate attention!