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ASA Midwest Council is a construction trade association of specialty contractors and suppliers serving the construction industry and the community. Our purpose is to improve the construction process through education, advocacy, and collaboration.

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March 2020 Lobbyist Report

The threat of winter storms shortened the legislative session several days in February; however, despite those unplanned days off, the 2020 legislative session is in full swing and about to reach its halfway point. Later this month, the legislature will break for its annual spring break upon adjournment March 19 and will resume on Monday, March 30.

ASA’s legislative priority has been filed by Senator Gina Walsh. SB991 allows for contractors, subcontractors and suppliers, upon seven days’ notice, the right to suspend work on a project if agreed upon payment terms are not met.  It also allows for work to be stopped without the danger of being held liable for breach of contract. Additionally, if work is stopped for non-payment, the bill provides for contracts affected by the stoppage to be extended equitably, and the contracted amount increased for the costs of demobilization, delay, and remobilization. Also, if payment is not received within 60 days of notice to suspend work on a project, a company shall have the right to terminate its contract after providing 3 business days’ notice to the party failing to make payment. As of the newsletter deadline, Representative Aaron Griesheimer was drafting a companion bill in the House of Representatives.  We expect that his bill should be filed by the time this newsletter reaches you.  While getting any bill to the Governor’s desk is challenging, we are hopeful to make good progress with our legislation this session and educate House and Senate members to the challenges our members face.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources recently announced they intend to raise fees on hazardous waste generators by a significant amount. In their recommendation, the Hazardous Waste Management Commission signaled their intent to raise registration fees for large quantity generators to $1,150.00. The current fee is $500.00. Fees for small quantity generators will go from $150.00 to $360.00, and the fee for “conditionally exempt small quantity generators” will jump from $150.00 to $175.00. DNR says the increases are needed in years 2021 and 2022 in order to offset a shortfall that is anticipated because of a decrease in federal grant money. The increases will go into effect on January 1, 2021 unless the General Assembly takes action to block the proposal. That is what Senator Cindy O’Laughlin intends to do with Senate Concurrent Resolution 38. The resolution recently received a passing vote in the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee. O’Laughlin’s resolution calls the fee increase “beyond the level which the General Assembly considers to be fair and reasonable.” The measure will likely see floor time before the full Senate in the coming weeks.

The Senate passed SJR38 last month after the first lengthy filibuster of the year. This resolution could change portions of the so-called “Clean Missouri” constitutional amendment passed by voters in November of 2018. The effect of the amendment was to limit lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, reduce campaign contributions, and create a new process when it comes to redistricting. The redistricting portion has been the subject of much discussion, as it requires a non-partisan state demographer. According to the original amendment passed in 2018, the demographer is selected by the State Auditor to redraw district lines, determining how the state is divided into legislative districts.  Many have argued that although the demographer is supposed to be non-partisan, appointing them via nomination by the state auditor is not.

Hegeman’s proposal makes several changes to Clean Missouri, including a complete ban on all lobbyist gifts (current law allows gifts no greater than $5.00), reducing the amount House and Senate candidates may receive in campaign contributions, and eliminating the state demographer position in lieu of independent bipartisan citizens commissions. Opposition to Hegeman’s proposal came from Senate democrats who argued the measure changes the will of the voters who overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Clean Missouri ballot initiative. Hegeman countered that even if the legislature passed his resolution, it still must be approved by the voters, therefore their will would be upheld. The bill passed the Senate along party lines, except for Republican Senator Lincoln Hough who voted no.

As the question of how the state is going to pay for its infrastructure needs continues to loom, the Senate brought up SB539 for debate last month. The bill, sponsored by Senator Doug Libla, would increase the tax on gasoline from 17 cents to 19 cents per gallon, and the tax on diesel from 17 cents to 23 cents per gallon. The measure also calls for the tax rate to be adjusted annually for inflation. It was clear that the bill does not have a path forward unless concessions are made to meet the demands of the conservative caucus. As in years past, we don’t see this bill getting past the conservative caucus unless there is a tax offset included.  We expect it will be brought up again for debate.

The Missouri House recently passed bills dealing with professional licensing reciprocity. House Bills 1511 and 1452 will allow for relocating military spouses to apply for an occupational license in Missouri, provided they hold a valid license in another state. The legislation is a priority for Governor Mike Parson who recently praised the action of the House. Recognizing the fact that military families face tremendous burdens, Parson said, “Military spouses face considerable challenges when they relocate with their active duty partner, and finding a job in their licensed profession should not be one of them.” Professions affected in the bill include architects, landscape architects, land surveyors, professional engineers and numerous health related professions. The measures passed through the House on a vote of 151-2 will now head to the Senate for additional consideration.

As a member of ASA, you should be receiving weekly legislative updates that include updates on ASA’s legislative agenda along with other legislative news from the week. If you are not receiving these important updates, please reach out to Susan Winkelman to let her know. Thank you, Nikki Strong.

February 2020 Lobbyist Report

The Capitol is busy again as lawmakers returned to Jefferson City on January 8 for the start of the 2020 legislative session. Senators and Representatives hit the ground running, filing over 1500 bills and resolutions thus far.

Funding for transportation infrastructure remains a high priority again this session. There have been many bills filed taking many different approaches and filed by many different legislators in the House and Senate.  One of the bills filed which started out moving quickly was SB539, which increases the gas tax from 17 cents to 19 cents per gallon, and the tax on diesel from 17 cents to 23 cents per. After implementation, the tax rate will be adjusted annually for inflation. The bill made quick progress initially, being heard by the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee and voted out the same day. We expect the bill to slow to a snail’s pace now because of opposition by a handful of senators. It remains to be seen how which bill will advance on this topic.

Governor Mike Parson appeared before a joint session of the Missouri House and Senate on Wednesday, January 15 to deliver the annual State of the State address to lawmakers. Parson took the opportunity to talk about accomplishments since taking office, along with laying out his legislative agenda and budget for the next year. In his speech, the governor spoke at length about transportation and workforce development – which continue to be items he has focused on since taking office. The governor also spent time talking about the ongoing rise in violent crime in the major cities across the state. His proposal focused on increased protection for witness and victims of violent crime, tougher penalties for those crimes and an increase in available mental health services.

Parson’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021 includes $50 million to continue the transportation cost-share program, a $5 million increase for rural broadband development, and $10.1 million to continue the port capital improvement program. There was also $4.4 million allocated to continue the Fast Track program, which is designed to encourage adults to pursue certificates, degrees, or industry-recognized credentials in high-demand occupations. K-12 education also saw a $12 million increase for the Foundation Formula in the governor’s proposal, as well as a $10 million increase in student transportation funding.

Democrats in the legislature were not totally enamored with Parson’s proposals. In their response to the State of the State address, Senate Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh said, “This was a disappointing and, frankly, troubling speech. More than 100,000 kids have had their health care taken away by Governor Parson’s administration, and today, he continued to ignore this crisis. Meanwhile, his party continues to stand in the way of common-sense changes to prevent gun violence, address the opioid epidemic, and make college more affordable. The biggest issues facing Missouri were essentially ignored by Governor Parson today, and that is incredibly unfortunate for middle-class families.”

As the legislative session continues, House and Senate priorities, along with Governor Parson’s initiatives, will begin to sort their way through the process. Of the many bills that are filed, very few will make it across the finish line as was evidenced last year when only 102 bills and resolutions were passed. The session runs through May 15.

We will continue to keep you updated on issues and happenings in Jefferson City and around the state that impact ASA and the construction industry. We appreciate the opportunity to represent you. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group LLC

January 2020 Lobbyist Report

Capitol staffers have been busy this month as legislative pre-filing has begun in preparation of the next legislative session which begins on January 8 at noon. Legislators began the bill prefiling process on December 1 with nearly 850 bills and resolutions having been filed as of the writing of this newsletter. Senate and House members will continue filing bills until midway through the session where nearly 2,000 bills are expected to be filed once the deadline for filing closes.

Several bills have already been filed that would raise the state fuel tax in order to fund road and bridge construction. In addition, there is a proposed constitutional amendment filed which would allow MoDOT to establish toll roads in the state. Another proposal would put a portion of increased motor vehicle registration fees into the state road fund. These initiatives have a tough road ahead of them and only time will tell whether they land on the governor’s desk. Similar legislation has been met with stiff opposition from many conservative legislators in recent years and they have signaled their intent to block any proposed tax increases once again this session.

The Senate Interim Committee on Tax Credit Efficiency and Reform has held four hearings since late summer to examine the many tax credit programs in the state. Many view the tax credits as a necessary trigger for economic development, construction, and job creation, while others say the process is inefficient and lacks accountability. The committee was slated to wrap-up their review of the many programs in early December, but it was recently announced they will continue to hold hearings throughout the legislative session. Senator Cindy O’Laughlin, chairwoman of the committee, said she wants the committee to continue their work looking into how tax credits are processed and how their value is determined.

In other political news, a recent report by State Auditor Nicole Galloway has found that the Black Mountain Community Improvement District (CID) violated state law with their expenditure of $296,937 of taxpayer money. The CID funds were intended to be spent on infrastructure, storm water controls and related construction. The audit showed several violations of state law, but the most glaring was an expense of more than $100,000 for equipment purchases, repairs and operational expenses to a convenience store owned by three members of the CID board. Restrooms were remodeled, new fuel pumps were purchased, and a new walk-in beer cave was installed at the store. Six months after the work was completed, the convenience store was sold to new owners. The taxpayer dollars used for the work were not reimbursed. Current board members are working with law enforcement on the findings of the audit. The Black Mountain CID is near Van Buren, in Carter County, Missouri.

Repairs and renovations on the exterior of the state Capitol continue to progress with an anticipated completion date near the end of 2020. However, the refurbished statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, whose likeness sat atop the Capitol for 94 years is causing some controversy. The statue was removed last year and sent to Chicago for repairs and is now back in Jefferson City where it is slated to be placed on top of the dome once again. Representative Mike Moon didn’t want to see Ceres returned to the dome due to religious reasons and has asked Governor Mike Parson to intervene. Moon sent a letter to the governor calling the statue a “pagan god” and wanted Parson to direct the Capitol Commission to not return the statue to the dome. Despite Rep. Moon’s request Ceres was returned to the dome of the Capitol on December 17.

As mentioned earlier, the legislative session is slated to begin on Wednesday, January 8 and will run through May 15. Once the legislative session starts and legislation begins to move, weekly legislative updates will be sent to the ASA members updating you weekly on ASA’s legislative priorities.

Nikki R. Strong
STRONG CONSULTING GROUP, L.L.C.

 

December 2019 Lobbyist Report

Election night on November 5th turned into an upset victory for Democrat Trish Gunby in House District 99 which covers portions of St. Louis County. Gunby garnered 3,357 votes to defeat Republican Lee Ann Pitman who came in with 2,855 votes. The seat had been held by Republicans in recent years, and the final tally left Democrats across the state hopeful for more victories in the 2020 election cycle. The closely watched race was held to fill a vacancy created with the resignation last year of Republican Jean Evans.

Governor Mike Parson recently announced that nearly $8 million has been awarded to companies around the state under Missouri’s new One Start Program. The incentive was passed during the 2019 legislative session and was put in place to make sure that businesses have workers with the necessary skills for their jobs. “Helping employers train new and existing workers helps them stay competitive, and that means growth for the business and for our state’s economy,” said Parson. Around 80 companies in the greater St. Louis region were recipients of the funding, which will allow them to provide training for new and existing employees, according to their specific workforce needs.

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop released a nearly 200-page report this month, leaving supporters of the futuristic high-speed transportation system very hopeful for its development in Missouri. Proponents of Hyperloop envision the system running parallel to Interstate 70, connecting St. Louis and Kansas City, with a stop in Columbia. The total travel time across the state would be 30 minutes. Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe chaired the Panel and stressed that Hyperloop will not take away from the fact that the road and bridge system in the state is still in desperate need of additional funding.

Former state representative Bruce Franks of St. Louis was recently fined $89,105 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for a litany of campaign violations. Numerous transactions from his campaign account went unreported and “appeared to be for personal use”, according to the consent order posted online by the Ethics commission. Franks failed to report tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and expenditures over the course of several years. Multiple checks were written to Franks himself and other expenditures included payments to a pet hospital, a photography studio and the Hollywood Casino Hotel. In an agreement Franks signed with the Commission, he will be allowed to pay only a percentage of the original fine, provided no other violations are found. The agreement requires Franks to pay monthly installments of $250 to the Attorney General’s Office until the amount of $14,169 is paid off. If other violations are found, or if he does not make the required payments, he will be forced to pay the entire $89,105. Franks resigned from the House in May saying he needed to focus on his mental health and his family.

Pre-filing of bills for the 2020 legislative session will begin on December 1. We will continue to monitor all pre-filed bills, legislative action, and other political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.

November 2019 Lobbyist Report

The halls of the Capitol have been quiet since the close of veto session last month, but legislators and staff members are busy behind the scenes drafting legislation and gearing up for the next legislative session. There have also been several committee hearings in Jefferson City and other areas of the state, most notably the House Special Committee on Oversight of Local Taxation.

The committee was formed to study the marked increases recently in property value assessments, particularly in St. Louis County and Jackson County. The committee was also tasked with looking at local sales tax rates as well as the potential implementation of internet sales taxes. Many residents and businesses have seen their property assessments skyrocket, leading to thousands of appeals on both sides of the state. Testimony was heard during the hearings from property owners, as well as the St. Louis and Jackson County Assessors. While no clear-cut solutions were discussed during the hearings, we expect several bills to be filed next session dealing with the above issues.

General Assembly members and Executive branch office holders are also busy in campaign mode, holding fundraisers in hopes of showing strong financial numbers to ward off potential challengers when filing for office begins early next year. According to the latest Missouri Ethics Commission filings, Governor Mike Parson continues to hold a commanding lead in cash on hand over Auditor Nicole Galloway, his Democrat challenger. Galloway reported $540,315 cash on hand, compared to $1,256,703 for Parson. Galloway however, outraised Parson in the last quarter as she attempts to close the gap.

Two other candidates have announced their intention to replace Parson as well. Fellow Republican Jim Neely, who is a current state representative from Clinton county, has thrown his hat in the ring setting up a primary showdown between the two. It doesn’t appear as though Neely is a serious threat to Parson as he only raised $96 last quarter. Libertarian Rik Combs has also started his campaign for the top spot on the ticket. Combs is from Jefferson City and had previously run unsuccessfully for the District 59 state representative seat, running then as a Republican.

In a closely watched race in House District 99, Republican Lee Ann Pitman is squaring off against Democrat Trish Gunby. The outcome will be decided in a special election to be held on November 5. Jean Evans held the seat previously but resigned after being named Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. Most observers think the race is a toss-up at this point, as neither candidate has emerged as the clear frontrunner. The district is in the Manchester area of St. Louis County.

In other news, the unemployment rate in Missouri continues to drop as reflected in the most recent numbers from the Department of Economic Development. Key industries in the state showed a 1.1 percent growth in overall job gains in the last year. The September unemployment report shows the rate at 3.1 percent, which continues to be slightly lower than the national average. The low rate, however, brings the added challenge of employers struggling to find qualified workers. A recent survey showed that 47 percent of employers say there is a shortage of skilled workers. This has led to nearly 90 percent of employers hiring less experienced applicants and then having to bear the added cost to train them once hired. Even with the challenges, one-third of employers say they are planning on adding more jobs in the near future.

We will continue to monitor and keep you updated on political news and happenings in Jefferson City and around the state. We appreciate the opportunity to represent you. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.

October 2019 Lobbyist Report

It was a hectic pace in the Capitol building during the month of September as lawmakers returned to Jefferson City for the annual veto session held on September 11. The constitutionally mandated veto session is an opportunity for members of the General Assembly to override any vetoes issued by the Governor on bills from the previous legislative session. Making the veto session even more interesting was the call for a special session to run concurrent with the veto session.

Of the six bills vetoed by Governor Mike Parson, only one was brought up for a possible override motion. Representative Deb Lavender put forth a motion to override HB399, a health care related bill, which she believes would help provide needed services in rural areas of the state where eight hospitals have closed recently as they struggled financially. Representative Chuck Basye, the original sponsor of the bill, spoke in opposition of an override attempt, and Lavender’s motion eventually failed on a vote of 105-37.

There were no override attempts made in the Missouri Senate, but two lawmakers took the opportunity to engage in a lengthy discussion on the Senate floor regarding gun violence. During their exchange, Senator Kiki Curls of Kansas City and Senator Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis called on Senate leadership to establish an interim committee to find reasons for and solutions to the increasing gun violence and murder rate in the Missouri’s two largest cities.

In addition to the veto session, the General Assembly convened in a special session called by Governor Parson to address a recent Supreme Court ruling on sales taxes for vehicle purchases. The court had said that if a person trades in more than one vehicle when purchasing a different vehicle, the sales tax offset is only available on one of the trade-ins. House and Senate members crafted legislation to allow multiple vehicle trade-ins to be calculated when determining a purchasers sales tax liability. The measure easily passed both chambers and the special session ended as planned on Friday, September 13.

House Republicans held caucus meetings during their return to Jefferson City the week of September 9. During the caucus meeting, they selected Rob Vescovo as Speaker-elect for the 2021 legislative session. Vescovo is from Arnold and represents the 112th district comprised of parts of Jefferson County. He currently serves as majority floor leader and will continue that role through the end of 2020. Vescovo was first elected in 2014, and successfully ran for reelection in 2016 and 2018.

Earlier in September, MoDOT issued a press release regarding Governor Mike Parson’s Focus on Bridges program. The release stated that construction contracts have been awarded to replace or rehabilitate 14 of the state’s bridges that are in need of repair. Most projects on the list include bridges in the Northeast and Northwest MODOT districts. Parson’s program provides $50 million in state general revenue for repair or replacement of 45 bridges in the state. MoDOT says all 45 bridges will be under contract by the end of 2019 and completed in 2020. This is in addition to the $301 million bonding program approved by the General Assembly during the last session which is slated for the repair or replacement of an additional 215 bridges across the state.

We will continue to keep you updated on issues and events in Jefferson City that impact ASA and the construction industry. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.

August 2019 Lobbyist Report

The month of July was relatively quiet on the legislative front; however, the Executive branch was busy completing bill reviews so that the Governor could make his final decision whether or not to sign or veto the bills passed by the General Assembly during the 2019 legislative session. In addition, Jefferson City is beginning to return to some degree of normalcy as the recovery from the tornado and prolonged flooding continues.

Pursuant to the Constitution, all non-budget related legislation had to be signed or vetoed by the Governor by July 14. If the Governor neither signed or vetoed a bill, the bill simply becomes law. The Governor’s bill focus in June was mainly on the budget, small non-controversial pieces of legislation (i.e. highway naming) and his legislative priorities such as the bill
authorizing the $300 million bonding package for the construction and repair of roads and bridges across Missouri. The majority of the bills passed by the legislature were signed the week of July 8th. Only six bills were vetoed by Governor Parson. All other bills passed by the General Assembly were signed into law, including all of the appropriations bills which required action by June 30.

The biggest news for ASA members was the signing of SB167 on July 11. SB167 was ASA’s priority legislation which provides payment recourse for subcontractors and suppliers working on public works projects designed to be used for non-government purposes. Governor Mike Parson held a public signing ceremony for SB167 in his office July 11. Walt Bazan and Tim Thomas attended the bill signing ceremony on behalf of ASA, as well as the bill sponsors, Senator Sandy Crawford and Rep. Aaron Griesheimer. We are truly thankful to Sen. Crawford and Rep. Griesheimer for their dedication and assistance in getting this
important bill across the finish line.

Of the six bills rejected by Parson, two were House bills and four were Senate bills. These bills are outlined below. The bills not vetoed by the Governor will not become law until August 28, unless the bill contained an emergency clause indicating a specific start date.

HB399, which was a healthcare related bill, was vetoed by the Governor due to a provision which specified that the Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services must hold a Ph.D. in a health-related field, or be a M.D. or D.O., or hold an
equivalent degree. Parson disagreed with limiting the Governor’s ability to appoint other qualified individuals to the position, such as an attorney who has spent a career practicing health care law.

HB447, a bill dealing with the regulation of coroners, and SB282, dealing with human remains and organ donation, were both vetoed by Governor Parson due to a provision in each bill which allowed for the outdoor cremation of a deceased person.
Parson noted he was uncomfortable with the idea without more discussion of the health and safety concerns of the cremation as well as respect of the deceased.

SB147, a wide-ranging motor vehicle bill which also included an increase in some license fees, and repealed the motorcycle helmet law, was vetoed because of two separate provisions opposed by Parson. First was a section that singled out St. Louis City and St. Louis County as areas where minor traffic violations would be exempt from a driver possibly having their license
suspended. The Governor’s veto letter stated this was likely unconstitutional to make a special law just for a certain geographic area. The second provision unfavorable to Parson was the creation of a statewide towing task force relating to consumer
complaints on nonconsensual tow charges. Parson stated the Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint Division already handles these issues.

Also vetoed by the Governor was SB202, dealing with the distribution to counties of mining royalties on federally owned land in Missouri. While Parson stated he agreed with the premise of the bill, he noted that such decisions are based in federal law and cannot be changed in state statute.

The final veto issued by Parson was on SB414. The bill sought the creation of a Health Insurance Innovation Task Force that would deal with certain waivers under the Affordable Care Act. Governor Parson’s veto letter was in agreement with the substance of the legislation, but he stated there were several unrealistic timelines set forth in the bill and felt the task force would not have adequate time to develop and consider recommendations. That task force was created by the Governor shortly after the veto by executive order.

Capitol observers will now look ahead to the annual veto session to be held on September 11, where lawmakers may consider overriding of any bills vetoed by the Governor. In the meantime, Senators and Representatives continue to work in their home districts, holding fundraisers and other events in preparation for the 2020 election cycle.

We will continue to keep you updated on issues in Jefferson City and around the state that impact ASA and the construction
industry. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.

 

MAY 2019 Lobbyist Report

The end of April means that the final weeks of the legislative session are just around the corner. The 2019 legislative session ends on May 17. To date there has been very few pieces of legislation that has made it across the finish line, including many of the Governor’s priorities. We expect to see a flurry of
legislative activity these final couple weeks of the legislative session.

As far as ASA priorities, legislation to fix the Brentwood Glass Supreme Court decision is making its way through the General Assembly. Senate Bill 167, sponsored by Senator Sandy Crawford, seeks to remedy a situation created by the court decision, where a subcontractor or supplier had no recourse for
non-payment on public works contracts for non-governmental purposes.

After months of negotiations between ASA, bond writers, the Surety Association and general
contractors, the legislation is in a good position and stands a good chance of getting across the finish line. The bill has been approved by the Senate and appears poised for approval in the House of Representatives. There were some minor changes made to the bill in the House which means the bill will have to go back to the Senate for a final vote. Since all parties to the bill have agreed with the changes, we don’t anticipate any issues getting the Senate to agree with the changes made.

Highway funding is another item of interest that continues to be discussion point in the General
Assembly. Early in the year, Governor Mike Parson had outlined his vision for a $351 million bonding proposal for bridge repair and replacement throughout the state. Since that time, Legislative leaders have put forth their own ideas. House budget writers have committed to placing $100 million of general revenue
dollars into bridge repair for the 2020 fiscal year, with promises of continuing that funding level for the next four years. Meanwhile, the Senate spent long hours debating their own plan, Senate Joint Resolution 14. The measure was brought before the Senate on the afternoon of April 9, with debate lasting until 2:30 the following morning. In the end, Senators agreed to a plan calling for $301 million in general obligation bonds, to be paid back over seven years. The final Senate vote was cast several days later, with the measure passing by a 26-7 margin. Governor Parson paid close attention to the Senate agreement stating, “We are thrilled to see the Senate take significant action today on our shared priority of infrastructure. Today’s strong bipartisan vote is a result of focused efforts by the legislature as we work together on an infrastructure plan to move Missouri forward”. Differences between the House and Senate plans must still be reconciled, with House Budget Chair Cody Smith stating the Senate action is a “step in the right direction”.

Several other proposals to address highway funding are in various stages of debate, including increases in fuel taxes, but none are poised to cross the finish line at this point.

In other legislative news, the General Assembly continues debate on the merits of a state sales tax on certain internet sales. Several versions of the legislation are in various stages of debate in the Capitol, but they all have met some form of resistance. Sponsors point to the fact that businesses having a physical presence in the state face unfair competition from out-of-state vendors who sell their goods on-line and are not required to remit sales taxes. Also mentioned is the fact that state revenues are lagging this year and the dollars provided by internet sales taxes could help fill that void should the trend continue in coming years. More than half the states have passed legislation to collect internet sales taxes with several more considering doing so.

We will continue to keep you updated on issues and happenings in Jefferson City that impact ASA and the construction industry. Nikki Strong, Strong Consultants.

 

JANUARY 2019 LOBBYIST REPORT

With the Holiday Season over, Capitol observers know that the next legislative session is just around the corner. With that, the political activity in Jefferson City has increased dramatically.

December 1st marked the day that members of the General Assembly could begin to pre-file bills for the 2019 Legislative Session which begins on January 9, 2019. Many legislators took advantage of the opportunity with over one hundred bills being filed that day in the Senate alone. As of the writing of this report, more than four hundred bills have been filed and we expect the total amount to reach approximately three thousand once session gets into full swing.

As expected, Right-to-Work legislation was pre-filed by Senator-elect Eric Burlison, (R-Greene County). It is unclear how much traction the bill may get especially given the huge margin by which the issue was defeated at the ballot box recently. Governor Mike Parson has stated publicly that Right-to-Work is not on his radar.

One issue that lost at the ballot on November 6 is Prop D – the funding for roads and bridges. No bill has been filed yet that would deal with that issue. Legislative leaders are still exploring various options after the defeat of Prop D in the November election.

The beginning of session will also mean more than sixty newly elected legislators will descend on the Capitol building. House and Senate staff members spent the early part of December hosting freshman orientation where the new lawmakers were taught everything from hiring office staff to staying compliant with ethics requirements and Sunshine Law basics. Also covered was the process of how to draft new legislation, how the state budget is drafted, and the function of each department in state government.

Following the in-house orientation, the newly elected lawmakers hit the road for a week-long bus tour of the state. The tour provided the opportunity for legislators to learn about the way of life and economic factors in areas of the state other than their home districts. The stops along the way included manufacturing plants, senior citizen housing centers, energy production facilities, sports venues, military installations, and agricultural facilities, among others.

Also during December, members and staff of the General Assembly have been learning the steps they must take to comply with the recent passage of Amendment 1 or more commonly known as “Clean Missouri. The measure places many new restrictions on lawmakers and staff. Of particular concern is the portion of the amendment that potentially opens all lines of communication going in and out of the Capitol to Sunshine requests. This could include email or text messages between an elected official and a constituent which might contain personal information such as a health care concern. It is not clear yet how or if legislators will attempt a fix on this part of the new amendment. Also included in Amendment 1 is a ban on gifts to legislators which exceed $5.00 in value, a two-year waiting period before a legislator or staff member may become a lobbyist, campaign contribution limits, and a new method to draw legislative district boundaries after each census.

As always, we will monitor all legislation filed that may impact ASA and the construction industry. In addition, we will be preparing weekly legislative updates about the general happenings in the Capitol and to update you on ASA’s priority legislation. These reports will begin the end of the first full week of the 2019 Legislative Session. Please feel free to contact us any time with questions or concerns about the 2019 Legislative Session. Nikki Strong, Strong Consultants.

 

ASA MIDWEST COUNCIL NOVEMBER 2018 LOBBYIST REPORT

After the dust settled from the annual veto session and subsequent special legislative session, things in Jefferson City have been relatively quiet. Candidates and legislators have spent their time since mid-September campaigning for various races and ballot initiatives across the state.

There are several hot issues that will be on the ballot in November. Leading these issues is Proposition D.  Prop D, if passed, would raise fuel taxes in the state by ten cents per gallon phased in over a four-year period. Money raised will help to fund desperately needed road and bridge projects. Governor Mike Parson and Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe have been leading an aggressive campaign across the state to boost support for the initiative. Six state senators and over forty state representatives have also publicly signaled their endorsement.

During October, SaferMO, which is the organization advocating passage of Prop D, has held multiple events in Kansas City, Springfield, Joplin, Hannibal, Columbia, Kirksville, Sedalia, Chillicothe, and Odessa, as well as stops at numerous other locations across the state. These meetings have been held in conjunction with MoDOT.  Local community leaders, local Chambers of Commerce, as well as members of the public have shown up in large number to support Prop D at these events.

SaferMO also has an aggressive fundraising effort in place to secure the dollars needed to raise public awareness for Prop D through television, radio, newspaper and other media. Over $2.5 million has been raised thus far.

Several other items of interest are on the November ballot as well. Proposition B would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.85 per hour to $12 per hour once fully implemented. If passed, there would be an immediate increase of nearly ten percent followed by an automatic escalation raising it approximately ten percent per year for the next four years. Several statewide organizations have signaled their opposition to Prop B including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Amendment 1, or the so-called “Clean Missouri” ballot initiative, will also be before voters in November. The measure covers many topics. Such topics include:  new restrictions on lobbyist gifts to legislators mandating that any employee of the General Assembly, not just legislators, must wait two years after leaving employment before becoming a lobbyist; establishes new limits on campaign donations; and expands the realm of legislative records covered under the Sunshine Law.

Additionally, the way district boundaries are drawn for congressional seats, state Senate and state House seats would drastically change under Amendment 1. District boundaries are redrawn after each census to reflect shifts in population. Currently maps are drawn by a bi-partisan panel appointed by the Governor. If passed, the new proposal would put the responsibility on a new state demographer selected by the State Auditor.

The final item of interest deals with medical marijuana. Three separate proposals, Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C will all appear on the ballot and all three seek to legalize the use of medical marijuana in Missouri. Each is slightly different in how marijuana would be regulated.

One of the most closely watched political races across the country is located here in Missouri us the US Senate race between Attorney General Josh Hawley and incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill. Polling throughout the race shows neither candidate has ever held more than a four-point lead. The pair continue to slug it out with hard hitting commercials and contentious debates. All political observers are putting this race in the “too close to call” category.

Finally, making news this month is a ruling by Cole County Judge Richard Callahan on Missouri’s Voter ID law. Priorities USA, a group which advocates for voting rights, had sued the state claiming the law passed in 2016 placed an undue burden on voters. Callahan found that the law is constitutional, with one exception. That exception hinged on voters being required to present a photo identification card, as opposed to other forms of identification. In his ruling, Callahan wrote, “No compelling state interest is severed by misleading local election authorities and voters into believing a photo ID card is a requirement for voting. As desirable as a Missouri-issued photo ID might be, unlike an American Express Card, you may leave home without it, at least on Election Day.” Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has signaled he will appeal the ruling by Callahan.

As the November 6 election is quickly approaching, senators and representatives, along with hopeful first-timers, are back at home actively campaigning to earn the right to represent their respective districts. Half of the 34 Senate seats are up for election, as are all of the 163 seats in the House of Representatives. Term limits will impact many of these seats, meaning a number of newcomers will be seated in the House and Senate chambers when session begins again in January.

We will continue to keep you updated on political happenings in Jefferson City and across the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consultants

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