Successful Session Will Lead to a Stronger Business Sector in the Show-Me State
Legislation Approved Includes Tort Reform and Voter ID Ballot Measure
JEFFERSON CITY— The Second Regular Session of the 98th General Assembly came to a close today as the gavel fell at 6 p.m. After many hours in the Chamber, senators will return home to their respective districts with many of their area’s top priorities on the governor’s desk.
Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said some of the biggest achievements this session came from working through tough issues to find solutions that are best for Missourians.
“Thanks to the hard work of my colleagues, we had a very successful session,” said Richard. “From tort reform, to making Missouri a more military-friendly environment, together, we passed legislation that will help improve the communities across the state.”
One of the year’s top successes is getting a voter ID measure on the governor’s desk. Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, handled the legislation that protects the integrity of the election process. The measure, House Bill 1631, requires voters to provide a valid photo ID at the polls.
“This bill is a good balance of protecting the fairness of Missouri elections while making sure no voter is disenfranchised,” said Kraus. “I believe voting is one of our most important rights, and this common-sense requirement will ensure our state’s election process is protected.”
Another part of the voter ID process is House Joint Resolution 53, approved by the General Assembly. The measure, if passed by Missouri voters, would add a provision to the constitution that would allow the Legislature to require voters to provide a photo ID at the polls. Voters will see that measure on the ballot most likely this November.
Another accomplishment this session was restoring fairness to the state’s toxic legal climate. Missouri’s current unfair and outdated civil judicial system is forcing some businesses out of the state to other parts of the country. Two common-sense reforms, Senate Bill 591 and Senate Bill 847 aim to improve the legal environment.
Senate Bill 847 establishes that the appropriate recovery amount for medical expenses is the amount that was actually paid for those medical expenses. Senate Bill 591 aligns Missouri’s outdated expert witness standard with a similar standard found in the federal court system and most other states.
“The current number of lawsuits in Missouri is alarming, and people in this state are the ones paying for the cost. Missourians want legal reform. These measures are just one step forward to improving a poorly functioning legal system,” said Senate Bill 847 sponsor, Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar.
Senate Bill 591 sponsor, Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, said, “We needed language that added clarity and certainty to our current laws. These common-sense measures add certainty, consistency, and fairness to our legal process.”
The General Assembly also put a measure on the governor’s desk that will help reduce fraud and abuse in Missouri’s ever growing welfare system. Senate Bill 607 requires the Department of Social Services to contract with a third party to verify eligibility for public assistance programs. The Legislature also overrode the governor’s veto and saved the foundation formula for K-12 education. Senate Bill 586 reinstates the five percent cap on current operating expenses and slows the growth of the formula. This puts the General Assembly in the position to possibly fully fund the formula in just a couple of years.
“We also took the fiscal responsibility we have to our taxpaying citizens very diligently,” said Senate Bill 586 sponsor, Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa. “By saving the formula, we can give schools the assurance and planning predictability they need so they know how much money they can spend.”
The Legislature also continued the effort to address the systemic failures of some of Missouri’s municipal courts. In an effort to bring an end to this social injustice, the legislature passed and sent to the Governor Senate Bill 572, which adds non-moving violations to the calculation for annual general revenue limits that can come from fines and court costs.
“The General Assembly has made it clear that we will not accept this practice of municipalities of shaking down their residents just to increase revenue. These unfair systems must end,” said Senate Bill 572 sponsor Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale.
The Missouri General Assembly also worked to hold departments accountable in the budget process and slow the rising costs in the state’s ever-growing Medicaid system. The $27.25 billion budget includes about a $71 million dollar increase for K-12 education while higher education institutions will see a four percent increase across the board. The department seeing the largest increase is social services.
“Year after year, social services continue to see astronomical increases,” said Appropriations Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. “The increase this year for Medicaid alone is a little more than 30%. Its spending is consuming every single dollar of GR growth for the year, and the federal government gives us few choices in where we can spend it. We cannot as a state sustain this kind of growth. We worked carefully to find ways to reduce costs and make sure we are diligent of Missouri’s taxpayers’ money.”
Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said to have a successful session, everyone in the Legislature must work together.
“This year, the Senate experienced a great working partnership with members of the House. I appreciate everyone’s effort to work together to find the best solutions to some of our state’s biggest issues. Our state works best when everyone is committed to moving legislation that will help improve our great state,” said Kehoe.
Other bills to advance out of the General Assembly this session include:
- Senate Bill 607 will help reduce fraud and abuse in Missouri’s welfare system.
- Senate Bill 665 offers incentives to the state’s number one industry to keep product in the state of Missouri.
- Senate Bill 814 allows an individual to deduct income earned through active military duty from their Missouri adjusted gross income.
- Show-Me ECHO is a cost-effective, knowledge-sharing network that helps lead to better health outcomes for patients and can fundamentally change people’s lives.
The Senate is scheduled to next convene for the annual veto session held in mid-September.
To see a complete list of the bills passed by the General Assembly during the 2016 legislative session and delivered to the governor, visit www.senate.mo.gov and click on the “Truly Agreed Bills” link under the “Legislation” tab.
Lauren Hieger, Senate Majority Caucus Communications Director
(573) 751-7266 – firstname.lastname@example.org