Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, April 29, 2013
Prevailing Wage Reform

Legislative Update

On Monday, the Senate approved House Bill 34, legislation that makes important changes to Missouri’s prevailing wage. Our current system has some serious flaws in the way it figures prevailing wage salaries.  

Under the current law, counties are forced to pay metro area wage rates that are often much, much higher than what the average contractor in the county makes. This causes labor costs to rise. There are countless projects across the state that can only complete half of the projects for that year, and then finish the project the next year because the cost of labor would simply be too high.  Joplin is facing this problem right now rebuilding after the tornado.

Under HB 34, the wage in Newton County, as well as third and fourth class counties, would be based on surveys from both union and non-union workers. The wage would be set based on whichever group reported more hours of work. In the instance there is no data available for a particular year, the wage would be figured using an average of reports from the last six years. If there are no reports, then the wage would be figured using the most recent wage reported by an adjacent county.

This change is a solid step towards making the prevailing wage more representative of what contractors are actually paid. It will also help reduce the labor costs for reconstruction projects in Joplin and the surrounding area. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

We also approved this week House Bill 542, an omnibus agricultural bill. One of the most important provisions of the bill would create the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council, which would promote vocational education in Missouri and recommend legislative measures to improve the system.

House Bill 542 would also:

  • Prohibit county building ordinances from conflicting with liquefied petroleum gas installations;
  • Expand the definition of eggs to include the eggs of other animals intended for consumption;
  • Allow the development of Urban Agricultural Zones on blighted areas of land;
  • Enact additional civil penalties for violating the Missouri Livestock Disease Control and Eradication Law; and
  • Raise the loan amount issued by the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority for livestock feed and crop input from $40,000 to $100,000, among other provisions.

The legislation now goes back to the House for possible debate.

Update on Department of Revenue

Last Friday, the Missouri Senate subpoenaed Special Agent Keith Schilb of the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration as part of the ongoing investigation of the Department of Revenue. The department gave a list of more than 160,000 concealed carry permit holders to the Highway Patrol, which then forwarded that list to the SSA. We were told the list was part of an investigation being conducted by the SSA, specifically Agent Schilb.

On Wednesday, Agent Schilb testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the details surrounding the list request and the purpose of the investigation. Committee members were told the lists were never accessed and subsequently destroyed. Unfortunately, we’ve been told this before, only to discover it wasn’t the case. The committee also learned very little thought was given to the privacy rights of Missouri citizens during the SSA’s investigation.  

On the same day, DOR appeared before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to officially begin promulgating its new policy for driver’s licenses, something it should have done before it even implemented the new requirements. If it had, a lot of the current situation could have been avoided.

Now that the department has stepped forward to follow the rule of law, the General Assembly will examine the department’s new policy and decide if it adheres to state statutes and has the public’s best interests in mind.

I will continue to update you on any new developments.

District News

The governor recently nominated Keith G. Hankins, of Stockton, and Glenn M. McCumber, of Noel, to the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors. This group appoints the university’s president, implements long-range plans, oversees education programs and ensures the financial solvency for the school, among many other duties.

Hankins is the vice president and general manager of Pennington Seed Inc. in Greenfield. He also owns the Hankins Grain Co. in Clinton.  McCumber is the chief executive officer for New-Mac Electric Cooperative in Neosho. Prior to that, he worked at a number of CPA firms in the Joplin and Neosho areas.

Both of these nominations will need approval from the Senate before these gentlemen are officially placed on the boards.