Legislative Actions and Information for the Week of Feb. 24, 2020
|On the Floor
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Senate experienced a long night as lawmakers debated Senate Bill 575, dealing with damages related to asbestos. The bill requires victims to disclose all claims they have filed with asbestos trusts within 45 days of filing a civil action for damages due to asbestos exposure. If the defendant finds that the victim has not pursued all available trust claims, the victim can then be redirected to pursue those claims. Critics of the bill argue it is a stall and delay tactic, and one that denies justice for sick and dying victims. After nearly 20 hours of filibustering, SB 575 was laid over, with amendments pending.
After the filibuster ended, the Senate took up and perfected Senate Bill 591, relating to unlawful merchandising practices and punitive damages. Senate Bill 591 needs one more round of the approval from the Senate before it can head to the House of Representatives.
Bills and Committees
This week, Sen. Nasheed presented two pieces of her sponsored legislation to the Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
Senate Bill 542, also known as the “Missouri Restoration of Voting Rights Act,” would restore voting rights to non-violent felons who are on probation or parole. Senate Joint Resolution 61 is a proposed constitutional amendment which, if approved by voters, would enact similar provisions to SB 542.
Senator Nasheed believes this is one of the most important bills she will present during the legislative session.
“What we have the power to do with SB 542 is restore the voices of more than 60,000 Missourians who have been locked out of our democracy for far too long,” said Sen. Nasheed. “These individuals have paid their debt to society and are ready to move on with their lives. Senate Bill 542 helps these individuals do that, by giving them their voting rights back. In a democracy, there’s nothing more important than ensuring all our people are heard.”
Next week, on March 3, Sen. Nasheed will present Senate Joint Resolution 35 to the Senate’s Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee. If approved by Missouri voters, this proposed constitutional amendment would require incarcerated individuals be counted as residents at their last known address before incarceration, for purposes of the census.
The Senate’s Appropriations Committee continues to hear more testimony from various state departments. This week, the committee heard from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development; the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations; and the Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Missouri House Takes Another Shot at Photo Voter ID
On Feb. 26, the House of Representatives granted preliminary approval to House Bill 1600, which is a third attempt at trying to require voters to show a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. The Missouri Supreme Court struck down the first two laws enacted to impose a photo voter-ID requirement, ruling they unconstitutionally infringed on voting rights. The most recent ruling came in January.
Supporters argue photo voter ID laws stop voter fraud. However, as the Supreme Court noted, voter impersonation at the polls is the only type of fraud a photo ID could prevent, but there has never been a documented case of voter impersonation in Missouri. Critics of the legislation argue it could disenfranchise racial minorities and certain other demographic groups that are most likely to lack a government-issued photo ID. House Bill 1600 requires another round of approval to be sent to the Senate.
House Approves Partial Repeal of Minimum Wage Increase
The House of Representatives voted 94-53 to send legislation to the Senate that would partially repeal a minimum wage increase Missouri voters approved in 2018.
Proposition B passed in 2018 with 62.3 percent of support from voters. The initiative aims to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour over several years. So far, two of five annual incremental increases have taken effect to put the state wage floor at $9.45 an hour. The minimum wage is set to increase to $10.30 an hour on Jan. 1, 2021.
House Bill 1559 would exempt private schools from following Proposition B and allow them to go back to paying the previous statewide minimum wage of $7.85 an hour. Since private schools are required to pay the $9.45-an-hour wage currently in effect, those schools could potentially cut employee wages if HB 1559 becomes law. A similar bill died last year for lack of action in the Senate.
Committee Advances Bill Eliminating Marriage
By a vote of 9-4, the House General Laws Committee on Feb. 26 advanced legislation to eliminate marriage in Missouri and reclassify it as a “contract of domestic union.” House Bill 2173 must now go to the full House of Representatives for consideration.