Legislative Column for Aug. 24, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY - September veto session is getting closer, so I wanted to touch base on several of the pieces of  economic-based legislation that may be brought up for debate in the coming weeks.

Senate Bill 142 requires the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to prepare an impact report 45 days prior to DNR submitting Missouri’s State Plan to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan – the federal regulation which requires Missouri to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 21 percent by 2030. 

The prepared report will contain certain criteria, and be delivered to the governor, Joint Committee on Government Accountability, President Pro Tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, along with the proposed plan, 45 calendar days prior to submission to the EPA. The report and proposed plan will also be posted on the department's website home page. These kinds of reports are important so the legislature can keep a close eye on federal and state regulations.

House Bill 150  - This bill seeks to reform unemployment insurance by tying the number of weeks that unemployment insurance pays out to the actual unemployment rate of the state. The idea is that when the economy is in trouble, the state will provide more weeks of unemployment but when the economy is providing many jobs, the state will provide fewer weeks of unemployment. This change will ultimately shore up the state’s unemployment insurance fund, which went into a deficit during the recession.

For example, if the average unemployment rate in Missouri was 9 percent or higher, benefits could be paid for 20 weeks a year. But if the unemployment rate was below 6 percent, benefits could be received for 13 weeks a year.

I support the bill, because it makes sense to base the amount of time that unemployment benefits are available to the jobless rate at the time. When the unemployment rate is low, jobs are available if people are truly looking for work.

The governor vetoed House Bill 722, legislation that would have denied Missouri cities the ability to raise the minimum wage above state and federal levels. House Bill 722 would have prevented cities from offering employment benefits that exceed state and federal standards, as well as preventing cities from imposing a ban, fee or tax on the use of paper and plastic grocery bags.

This bill specifies that all organizations doing business in this state must have the option to provide customers with a paper or plastic bag for any item or good purchased. A political subdivision cannot impose any ban, fee, or tax upon the use of paper or plastic bags for packaging any item or good purchased, or prohibit a consumer from using a reusable bag. The most important part of the legislation prohibits a city from establishing, mandating, or otherwise requiring an employer to provide to an employee a minimum or living wage rate or employment benefits that exceed the requirements of federal or state laws, rules, or regulations.

House Bill 722 is aimed at ensuring that Missouri does not consist of a patchwork of minimum wage regulations, with varying minimum wages changing from town to town. For business owners, particularly owners of franchises, this patchwork of regulations could be extremely costly.

I always appreciate hearing from you. If you have any questions about the topics discussed above, or any other issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.