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Lobbyist Report – 2017


WEEKLY LOBBYIST REPORT
March 20, 2017

 

WEEKLY OVERVIEW

Last week the Senate continued to slog through legislation at a pace slower than a turtle’s race.  The chamber spent an inordinate amount of time debating paycheck protection (annual affirmation by union members to withhold dues and fees) without any conclusion of the issue.  Senators also thoroughly debated a tort reform piece relating to the qualifications of expert witnesses which culminated in passage of the bill. There are now 147 bills on the Senate Calendar – Senate Bills for Perfection and 38 bills on the Senate Calendar – House Bills on Second Reading.

This week is legislative spring break.


IN THE NEWS…

  • Governor Eric Greitens issued an executive order granting state employees paid parental leave for a maximum of six weeks. The move is rumored to have evoked the ire of some of the most conservative members of the Senate who are expressing their feelings by holding up some gubernatorial appointments. The executive order specifies that primary caregivers (birth or adoption) will get six weeks and secondary caregivers will get three week of paid leave, at an annual cost of about $1 million. Identical bills in the House and Senate to grant state employees 10 days of paid leave have not even been granted hearings in committees.
  • The Missouri House gave first round approval to legislation that would prohibit local elected officials from accepting lobbyist gifts. The measure applies to officials in cities, counties, school districts and charter districts.  The bill needs a final vote to proceed to the Senate.

COMMITTEE HEARINGS HELD LAST WEEK

STATE ENERGY PLAN:   The Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy, and Environment conducted a public hearing on HB 661, sponsored by Rep. Jack Bondon (R-Belton).  This bill requires the Missouri Division of Energy to review the comprehensive state energy plan implemented by the division by January 1, 2019. The plan shall be reviewed biennially thereafter to ensure certain enumerated goals and updated as needed. The division shall use a diverse stakeholder input system either directly or by contracting with a Missouri-based nonprofit organization and issue a report along with each review, suggesting policy changes.

Testifying in support was a representative from Association of Missouri Rural Electric Cooperatives. There was no testimony in opposition and the committee took no further action.

PROPANE FUEL TAX:   The Senate Committee on Transportation conducted a public hearing on SB 435, sponsored by Sen. Mike Cunningham (R-Marshfield).  This act establishes a five cent per gallon motor fuel tax on propane fuel used to propel motor vehicles, to be increased to seventeen cents per gallon by January 1, 2025. Owners and operators of propane-fueled vehicles may continue to apply for and use alternative fuel decals in lieu of paying the motor fuel tax. If the owner or operator of a propane-fueled vehicle bearing an alternative fuel decal refuels at an unattended propane refueling station at which the motor fuel tax is collected at the point of sale, such owner or operator shall not be eligible for a refund of such tax paid.

Testifying in support were representatives from Missouri Propane Gas Association and Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association who stated technology advancements have made it possible for consumers to utilize propane on their own without needing a license and will balance the taxes paid for utilization of all types of fuels.  There was no testimony in opposition and the committee took no further action on the measure.

TRANSPORTATION ROAD IMPROVEMENT PLAN:   The Senate Committee on Transportation conducted a public hearing on SB 457, sponsored by Sen. Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles).  This act creates the Interstate 70 Improvement Fund, and allocates eight percent of state revenues from general sales and use taxes into that fund and two percent into the state road fund. This provision expires after 10 years. This act provides that the State Highways and Transportation Commission shall not take over roads that are not eligible for federal financial aid, and directs the State Highways and Transportation Commission to convey, no later than August 28, 2022, such routes to the County Highway Commissions for the jurisdictions in which the routes lie. The provisions of this act shall not be in effect in any fiscal year in which less than 300 million dollars, in addition to the funds allocated by this act, was spent or invested in improving and maintaining Interstate 70.  Committee members expressed their disapproval of having counties take over state roads as most do not have the funds or equipment to fix or pave roads.  There was also concern regarding where the funding would come from at the end of the ten years.  It was also noted any legislation requiring the use of General Revenue funds was sure to politicize the issue.

Testifying in support was a representative from Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association who stated they were in support of any plan which would attempt to fix the transportation funding deficit in Missouri.  Testifying in opposition were representatives from Missouri County Commissioners Association, Missouri Association of Counties, and Montgomery County.  Opponents said that counties are already financially strapped and this would simply add to the problem. They stated that most counties would have to purchase new equipment and commence training to repair state roadways.  The committee took no further action on the measure.

TORT CLAIMS:   The Senate General Laws Committee held a hearing on HCS HB 339 and 714 sponsored by Rep. DeGroot (R).  This bill modifies provisions relating to tort claims and time limited demands.  This bill provides that a time-limited demand to settle any claim for personal injury, bodily injury, or wrongful death must be inwriting and sent by certified mail to the tortfeasor’s liability insurer, and it must include various material terms specified in the bill.  This bill specifies that if a person who has a claim for damages against a tort-feasor enters into a contract with a tort-feasor’s insurer, such person will, in consideration for payment of a specified amount of money and in case of judgment against the tortfeasor, levy execution only up to the applicable monetary limits of the insurance contract. The bill also specifies that execution or garnishment proceedings as to the insurer or insurers depend on whether the insurer or insurers have been notified in writing of the contract and have been given the opportunity to intervene within 30 days in any lawsuit relating to the un-liquidated claim for damages.

Testifying in support were Missouri United School Insurance Counsel (MUSIC), Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, MIRMA, Associated Industries of Missouri, State Farm Insurance, American Insurance Association, Missouri Insurance Coalition, American Family Insurance, Chubb, PCI, Shelter Insurance and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Witnesses said that the bill will provide benefits to the business sector and that the time limited demand will save employers costs in litigation.

Testifying in opposition was a private attorney.  The committee took no action on the bill.

ESTABLISHES THE 21st CENTURY MISSOURI HIGHWAY SYSTEM TASK FORCE:   The House Transportation Committee conducted a hearing on HCR 47, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Corlew (R- Kansas City). This bill establishes the 21st Century Missouri Highway System Task Force which is charged with evaluation of the condition of Missouri’s highways, roads and bridges and evaluation of current funding for transportation. The committee will also evaluate whether current funding is adequate to both maintain the state’s highways and roads and adequate to serve Missouri citizens as we move forward in the 21st century.  The task force is charged with making recommendations regarding the condition of the highway system and regarding funding.  The task force is to be composed of two members of the House and two members of the Senate, the Governor or his designee, the Director of the Department of Transportation (or designee), the Director of the Department of Economic Development (or designee), the Superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol (or designee), and nine private citizens (three each to be appointed by the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tem of the Senate and the Governor).  The task force is charged with preparing a report to be delivered to the General Assembly by January 1, 2018.  Rep. Corlew told the committee that no in-depth study of the state’s transportation system had been completed since 2012.  He said that it was his intention to create a non-partisan task force and suggested that he would amend the bill to provide for three members of the House and Senate to allow for the appointment of a democrat.

Speaking in favor of the bill was Patrick McKenna, Director of the Missouri Department of Highways and Transportation, who said that the task force would permit a bi-partisan plan of action that included input from the new administration. He said that funding for Missouri’s 33,884 miles of roads and highways has not kept pace for the past twenty years.  Mr. McKenna discussed federal funding and the need for multimodal funding.  He said that he welcomes any new evaluation to access and make recommendations to the Missouri General Assembly.  Also speaking in favor was Bruce Wylie, ACEC-MO, who told the committee that Missouri’s engineering community has been active in past efforts to improve funding for the state’s transportation system.  Mr. Wylie told the committee that engineers are responsible for development of state-of-the-art technology relating to road and bridge construction and that his members design for the future.  Others in favor of the bill included representatives from the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Mercury Alliance and HNTB Corporation.  There was no opposition to the bill and the committee took no action on the measure.  It is anticipated that the committee will favorably vote out a House committee substitute when they return from spring break.