'Right to work' among bills pre-filed on the first day Missouri legislators could act
The start of December is the start of Missouri lawmakers pre-filing legislation for the 2017 legislative session.
One that has been controversial for some time is the effort to limit the power of labor unions by turning Missouri into a so-called right-to-work state. The effort in the House is being led by Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston.
“I’ve been told that it is one of the governor-elect’s top priorities,” she said. “I truly look forward to it being one of the first, second, or third bills that gets through (this year).”
Rehder is confident that the proposal will become law in Missouri, and will withstand any court battles that follow.
“Twenty-six states have passed it,” she said. “It hasn’t been rejected; it hasn’t been pulled back. It’s legal; it’s going to be law (in Missouri).”
A bill identical to Rehder's has been pre-filed in the Senate by Dan Brown, R-Rolla, and a similar right-to-work bill is being sponsored by Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin.
Somewhat related to the right-to-work push are efforts to repeal Missouri’s prevailing wage law, or at least to allow exemptions for public works and school construction. Two bills that would do just that have been pre-filed by Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton.
“I would hope that governor-elect Greitens would have an open mind to these type of proposals and (that) we can we can work with our colleagues, not only on the other side of the aisle, but in the Senate, to try to get some of these things passed, in addition to right-to-work,” he said.
McGaugh has also pre-filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee “the right of Missourians to hunt and fish.”
Prescription drug monitoring
Rehder has also been the leading advocate in the Missouri General Assembly for creating a prescription drug monitoring program. She has pre-filed that bill as well.
“Counties have started passing (their own monitoring programs),” she said. “I’ve trimmed (the bill) down a little bit to match theirs. That way, when we do pass it statewide, these counties that have been passing it locally can simply roll into it without much trouble at all.”
Past bills have died in the state Senate, due largely to Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph. He says he has blocked previous prescription drug monitoring legislation because of patient privacy concerns.
First responders and protests
Another proposed would increase penalties for attacking police officers and first responders. It’s sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff.
“I am amazed and dismayed at the level of disrespect being shown to the brave men and women who have chosen to serve and protect us,” Libla said in a written statement. “For simply wearing the uniform our heroes are being targeted and attacked. This has to stop.”
In the House, Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, has pre-filed legislation that would expand the definition of a hate crime to include attacks on police officers, firefighters and other first responders.
Another proposal could be viewed as a means to discourage public protests. A bill pre-filed by Rep. Galen Higdon, R-St. Joseph, would allow law enforcement to “establish police lines or barricades when certain emergency situations may cause the congregation of persons in public areas.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are continuing to push the “Ferguson agenda.” Gail McCann Beatty of Kansas City has pre-filed legislation to require a special prosecutor be appointed to handle criminal charges in officer-involved shootings.
“One of the biggest criticisms was that the prosecutor that was involved is also the prosecutor that works with (the Ferguson) police department on a day-to-day basis,” McCann Beatty said.
She added that the bill is not intended to be anti-police.
“The idea behind the bill is … if there is an officer-involved shooting, let’s pull this investigation and, if there is prosecution, out of the hands of that local jurisdiction and put in the hands of a more neutral (one).”
At least one proposal tries to “fix” the state’s school transfer law. Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, has pre-filed a bill that would revamp the accreditation process to focus on school buildings instead of districts, and allow students in “failing school buildings” to transfer to an accredited school building inside their current district or to another nearby district.
“It is imperative that we pass education reform now,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “It would be reprehensible for the General Assembly to continue to abdicate our responsibility and condemn yet another generation of young minds to a lifetime of deficient instruction.”
Her bill would also allow students to transfer to non-religious private schools “within their community” if there is not enough room at an accredited public school.
Ethics reform will still get a lot of attention from some Missouri lawmakers next year.
One proposal for 2017 addresses the new law that requires former elected officials to wait six months before they can become lobbyists. Senator Schaaf wants to expand that waiting period to two years.
"Six months isn't really long enough; two years is much better," he said. "A person who is in the legislature could probably wait for six months before getting the lucrative position that was the payoff for some legislative action, but it would be much more difficult to go for two years."
Schaaf has also pre-filed legislation to ban gifts from lobbyists, which passed the House earlier this year but died in the Senate.
"It would ban tickets to the ballgame or going out to a restaurant, or any kind of other gift," he said. "It also would stop lobbyists from bundling together checks from their clients and then giving them to legislators."
He feels the gift ban has a better chance of passing this time around because it has support from incoming governor Eric Greitens. A similar gift ban has been pre-filed in the House by Justin Alferman, R-Hermann.
Schaaf has also pre-filed legislation that would allow citizens to claim a credit of up to $100 off state income taxes for contributions to political candidates or committees, and a proposed constitutional amendment that would make adjustments to Amendment 2 passed last month by Missouri voters.
The adjustments would include removing language that bars corporations and labor unions from giving money to campaign committees, but adding the prohibition to "limited liability companies, partnerships, proprietorships, and joint ventures."
Also, a Bootheel-area lawmaker has promised to sponsor legislation to increase penalties for improper use of pesticides and herbicides on fields and orchards. As of press time the bill has not been pre-filed.
The full, and still growing, list of bills pre-filed in the Missouri House can be found here, and the list of Senate bills can be found here.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport