Saturday, May 13, 2017
Nixa Republican: Right to work not about weakening unions, but making unions work for employees
The 2017 legislative session will officially come to a close later today. Despite some tense moments and a few slower days, as I look back on these last months, I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish for Missouri and its citizens. I am pleased to say two of the bills on their way to the governor contain similar or identical language to three of my sponsored measures. The first of these is House Bill 451, which provides that changes in population shall not remove a city, county or political subdivision from operation of a law.
It has long been the practice of Missouri legislators to draft bills pertaining to specific political subdivisions based on their population size. Today, there are hundreds of these statutes, and they dictate all manner of government functions. In 2016, a Missouri court essentially found that laws based on population size are not valid if the municipality in question’s population has changed enough to where it no longer fits within a statute’s legal description. House Bill 451 simply clarifies that if a municipality’s population was correctly stated at the time the statute was originally drafted, any subsequent change in population shall not remove the entity from the operation of that law. This will allow Missouri’s cities and towns to experience natural fluctuations in population without losing the protections and guidance of their existing laws. My sponsored legislation was Senate Bill 124.
In addition to HB 451, I also handled House Bill 93 in the Senate. This measure contains two of my sponsored provisions: jobs training and adult high schools.
My jobs training legislation (Senate Bill 10) will make it easier for businesses to work with our network of community colleges to get their employees trained or retrained in whatever capacity they need to continue operating successfully. My goal was not to reinvent the wheel, but to apply some of the same best practices other states are using, right here in Missouri — tweaking them when necessary to fit our needs. One of those best practices is funding job training programs through appropriations, not through withholding tax. If HB 93 is signed into law, we will gradually move to a system where the state is able to provide up-front funding from appropriations from the general revenue fund. This will allow us to more easily invest in the individual Missouri worker and generally grow a larger, more highly trained workforce that will attract new jobs and economic development.
House Bill 93 also seeks to establish four adult high schools in the Show-Me State, finally giving adults who never graduated a viable path to receive a true diploma. This provision will further help address Missouri’s shortage of skilled, trained workers by requiring each adult high school to offer an industry certification program in collaboration with public higher education institutions, based on regional workforce needs. My bill was Senate Bill 406.
On Feb. 2, the Legislature sent its first bill of the session to the governor. Four days later, the governor signed Senate Bill 19, officially making Missouri the 28th Right to Work state. For years, state legislators have been trying to pass Right to Work laws in Missouri, but to no avail. And with every year that has gone by, more and more of our businesses have moved across the state line to neighboring Right to Work states like Kansas and Iowa. The way I see the issue — the way many supporters see the issue — Right to Work is not about weakening labor unions; rather, it is about giving employees a choice, as well as the opportunity to make sure their unions are working for them. I have always supported Right to Work, and I am looking forward to the day Missourians are able to start reaping the benefits it brings.
We also passed a measure that will help reform Missouri’s workers’ compensation system to be more fair and structured for both the employer and the employee. Ever since a 2015 Missouri Supreme Court ruling, workers’ compensation claims for temporary disability benefits have been able to continue for what seems to be an indefinite period of time, without the employee ever transitioning to permanent disability. This is not only costly for the employer, but it also creates a prolonged period of uncertainty for both parties.
Among other provisions, Senate Bill 66 stipulates that an injured employee can only receive temporary disability benefits until they reach “maximum medical improvement,” defined as the point at which an employee’s medical condition has stabilized and can no longer reasonably improve as determined by the employer’s physician. This measure will provide both the employer and employee with greater certainty and create a more business-friendly environment for the state.
Finally, just this week we approved language implementing REAL ID in Missouri. Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government set minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. The Act requires states to scan and retain source documentation of Missouri citizens. Citing privacy concerns, many states, including Missouri, chose not to comply with the law. In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill to ban the Department of Revenue from complying with the Act.
On Jan. 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security will implement the next phase of the Act, which requires passengers to present a REAL ID-compliant license before they are allowed to board domestic flights. With the next major deadline less than a year away, my colleagues and I have worked hard this session to find a balanced solution. If signed into law, House Bill 151 will allow the DOR to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and IDs; however, rather than forcing Missourians to get a compliant ID, this legislation will give citizens the option of choosing if they want a compliant ID.
The governor has the option of signing these measures into law, allowing them to become law through no action or vetoing them. We will have the chance to override any vetoed measures later this year.