The Week of May 23, 2022
Supreme Court Hears Case on Collective Bargaining Rights
The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments on May 24 in a case challenging whether a 2018 law modifying the merit system for hiring and firing state government employees unconstitutionally interferes with unionized workers’ collective bargaining rights.
Just over a year ago, a Cole County circuit judge ruled the governor’s administration violated the constitutional rights of unionized state employees when it stopped adhering to valid labor contracts after the passage of Senate Bill 1007. Under SB 1007, most state workers now are “at-will” employees who “may be discharged for no reason or any reason not prohibited by law.”
After the law took effect, the governor’s administration stopped following the terms of labor contracts in place with three unions representing employees at several state agencies. The unions subsequently sued to enforce their members’ collective bargaining rights under the Missouri Constitution.
The circuit judge ruled that nothing in SB 1007 restricts the collective bargaining rights of state workers or supersedes negotiated labor agreements. However, the judge said the governor’s administration violated the constitution by acting as if it did and ordered the state to resume good-faith negotiations with the state employee unions.
The Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the state’s appeal at a later date. The case is American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, et al., v. State of Missouri.
Attorney General Again Sues Public Schools Over Mask Rules
On May 19, the attorney general filed another round of lawsuits against schools on May 19. He sued about four dozen public school districts earlier this year, claiming they have no legal authority to impose mask requirements to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, despite the fact that state law specifically empowers schools to take steps to protect against communicable diseases. None of the lawsuits made much progress and all but a few have been dismissed in recent weeks as cases sharply declined throughout Missouri.
However, with cases again increasing with the spread of the highly contagious omicron subvariants, some districts have reinstated mask requirements, prompting the attorney general to again go to court. The six districts he is suing are Clayton, Webster Groves, Mehlville, Maplewood, Ladue and the St. Louis County Special School District. He had previously sued, and dismissed, cases against all six districts, which are located in St. Louis County.
During the recent legislative session, senators removed a requested $500,000 spending increase for his office from the FY 2023 state operating budget as retaliation for the earlier lawsuits. The funding bump was not restored to the final budget bills sent to the governor.
Governor Hints at Possible Veto of $500 Million Tax Rebate
On May 18, the governor signaled he might veto a proposal to provide $500 million worth of rebates to certain taxpayers, saying any such tax break should apply to all taxpayers. He made his comments at a news conference in response to questions about the FY 2023 state operating budget.
During the recent legislative session, lawmakers authorized $500 million in general revenue for income tax rebates to individuals earning less than $150,000 a year, or $300,000 annually for a married couple. Although the plan promises rebates of up to $500 for an individual, or $1,000 for a married couple, since the total amount of rebates are capped at $500 million, the actual amount people would receive could be substantially less.
The rebate authorization is in House Bill 2090, which includes various other provisions relating to the administration of state government, including prohibiting most state agencies, except for medical facilities, from requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. The budget appropriation for the rebates is contained in House Bill 3020.
Ethics Panel Obtains Quorum
The Missouri Ethics Commission can function again after the governor appointed two new members to the panel, which handles complaints against elected officials over alleged campaign finance violations or conflicts of interest.
The commission is supposed to have six members, but had been down to just two in recent months. This left the commission without a quorum necessary to conduct business. Since state law requires it to act on complaints no later than 90 days after they are filed, the lack of a quorum forced the commission to dismiss several complaints without acting on them. Those complaints can be refiled.
With the appointment of former state Rep. Kathie Conway and Houston pastor William Villiapiano, the commission now has four members, the minimum needed to do business.
Department of Economic Development Now Hiring for ARPA-Funded Positions
The Department of Economic Development (DED) is now hiring for grant-funded positions to support initiatives through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
New staff members are needed for the operation of several initiatives, including grant programs for businesses, nonprofits, community development, broadband infrastructure and more. DED expects to hire more than a dozen ARPA-funded roles throughout the rest of Fiscal Year 2022 and additional roles in Fiscal Year 2023. These positions will assist in building programs, providing technical assistance and ensuring efficient deployment of funds. Positions will be located in Jefferson City, with potential for other locations across the state for some roles.
All who are interested are encouraged to view available positions and apply online at mocareers.mo.gov. Details on planned investments using ARPA funds are available at ded.mo.gov/arpa. For more information on DED, visit ded.mo.gov.
Find Employment with the State of Missouri
Interested in working for the state? Missouri has numerous career opportunities available for those interested. By visiting mocareers.mo.gov, interested applicants can search by agency or position or location. This week, I would like to highlight opportunities with the Missouri Department of Mental (DMH). Previously, I worked with individuals with disabilities as a DMH employee for six years, and it was rewarding work. If you enjoy working with others, this may be a good fit for you. To learn more about the department, please visit dmh.mo.gov.
Please be on the lookout for our annual End of Session report in the coming weeks.