2020 Missouri Legislative Overview
The 2020 Missouri legislative session began with high hopes. Insiders predicted a calm, yet successful year. GOP majorities in the House and Senate and a Republican governor that was good to work with normally would be a good recipe for passing legislation.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything changed. The Senate adjourned a week early at spring break because of COVID-19 concerns and during the same time the House quickly passed the supplemental budget and adjourned. After a five-week hiatus, no one really knew what the legislature would do once back in session or how long they would stay in Jefferson City.
Once the General Assembly reconvened, though, legislators passed the budget by the constitutionally mandated date (May 8th this year) and then continued working bills mostly as usual. In the end, a few bills did pass that were important to leadership, like tort reform. The “Wayfair” bill, which would allow Missouri to collect sales tax on Internet purchases, did not pass again. Only 50 bills were truly agreed to and passed by the General Assembly and sent to the Governor for his signature (and a good portion of those 50 were budget bills). Ultimately 98% of the bills filed failed to pass. No specific construction industry legislation passed to the Governor’s desk.
Due to the pandemic-induced economic fallout, the state budget is predicted to have around a $1 billion shortfall. The legislature reworked the budget bills when they returned to Jefferson City and cut $700 million. It will be left to the Governor to withhold money to executive departments to capture more savings. The Governor already has announced cuts of $209 million last week that will primarily come from public schools and universities. Extending the income tax deadline to July 15 also has reduced cash flow to the state at this time. Unprecedented uncertainty exists now. Officials in the state (and your Builders’ Association staff) will start planning for next year and hope for the best.
Governor Parson will now be making decisions on the bills passed by the legislature. He has until June 30th to make any line item vetoes on the appropriation bills. On the other bills he has until July 14th. If he signs a bill into law, the provisions of each bill will become effective on August 28th, unless the legislation contained an emergency clause (whereas it becomes effective on his signature) or included a specific effective date.
It is expected that the legislature will return for a special session at some point in 2020. Officials believe it will occur along with the normal veto session scheduled for September. There is a possibility it could happen sooner if new federal COVID-19 money is appropriated by Congress for the states. The legislature would have to appropriate the funds in Missouri for the Governor to use the money. Other than federal COVID-19 funds, the legislature would like to look into passing business liability protections related to COVID-19 and returning to work.
Below I have listed and briefly described the top GOP priority bills that did pass this session and also important bills that came up short again. Following that overview are the significant construction bills that were filed this session and a synopsis of each one.
TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES OF LEADERSHIP THAT PASSED
Tort Reform: SB 591 PASSED
Tort reform has been a priority of leadership (and the Missouri Chamber) for several years. This act modified provisions relating to civil actions, including unlawful merchandising practices and punitive damages. It changes the legal standard that must be met for punitive damages. It also requires that plaintiffs must demonstrate they acted as a reasonable consumer, and members of class actions must demonstrate individual harm. This legislation passed and has been sent to the Governor. Click on the bill link above to see a more detailed summary and the full text.
“Cleaner Missouri:” SJR 38 PASSED
The constitutional amendment called Clean Missouri was passed by voters in 2018. It contained many provisions and has now caused some confusion and unintended consequences. Legislators wanted to repeal or change parts of the new law and so they gave this legislation, dubbed “Cleaner MO,” their priority in 2020. SJR 38 was filed as the vehicle to make those changes. Among the changes, the resolution includes measures to limit the power of lobbyists, reduce campaign finance contributions and create a new redistricting process. Specifically, the resolution would eliminate the independent state demographer and replace them with a House and Senate independent bipartisan commission. It also reduces state senate campaign contribution limits from $2,500 to $2,400. The bill survived a 3-hour filibuster in the senate before getting a final vote there. It was subsequently passed by the house and signed by the Governor. It now will be on the statewide ballot in August for voters to decide.
License Reciprocity: HB 2046 PASSED
This house bill allowed for a streamlined process for licensed professionals to begin working in Missouri when they move from another state. This bill makes changes to the existing professional licensure reciprocity statute, through which a person can become licensed in Missouri if they are licensed in another state. The following individuals are currently excluded in statute: those with a certificate of license to teach in public schools; and those licensed by the Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, the Board of Nursing, the Board of Pharmacy, the State Committee of Psychologists, the Dental Board, the Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Professional Land Surveyors, and Professional Architects, the Board of Optometry, and the Veterinary Medical Board. This bill removes these exclusions and requires that licensure by reciprocity for these professions be the same as any other licensed profession in this state. This bill passed and has been delivered to the Governor.
MAJOR LEGISLATION THAT DID NOT PASS
Internet Sales Tax (also known as the Wayfair legislation): SB 648 and HB 1957 DID NOT PASS
This legislation also has been on the agenda for a while. It would allow for the collection of sales taxes on internet purchases from out-of-state sellers. Missouri is one of the last states in the nation to not tax internet sales. Legislators debated how the additional revenue would be handled by the state. Some senators wanted to see a corresponding offset to other state taxes. This bill died again, but should be on the agenda next year.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program: HB 1693 DID NOT PASS
Missouri is the only state in the nation that does not have a prescription drug monitoring program to help combat the opioid epidemic. This legislation created a task force to identify and oversee a vendor who will collect patient prescription information statewide. The bill passed in the house and then the senate passed it with an amendment. Time ran out and the bill died again.
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY BILLS OF INTEREST
A+ Program: NO EXTRA FUNDING
Last year, Senator Lauren Arthur from Clay County filed and passed a bill that expanded the A+ Program in Missouri. This year staff worked with legislators to apply some funding for these changes. Staff organized and hosted a meeting with legislators, school superintendents and other education officials in the fall to gain support for the funding. The governor placed $4.8 million of funding in his budget for the expansion and more was anticipated from the legislature. With the economic fallout, the state budget will be cut by around $1 billion. All new funding requests were thrown out and this was included. At one point, $800,000 was taken from this program and Senator Arthur and her staff were able to get the full amount reinstated. Therefore, the program funding ended the year as it began. Staff will work to add funding to this great program next year.
Apprenticeships: SB 877 and HB1688 DID NOT PASS
As with The Builders’ Association, workforce development has been a top priority of the Missouri Chamber and the Governor. This legislation would have allowed for an alternative path to licensure through on-the-job training. An applicant with an 8th grade education or higher who has completed a federally approved apprenticeship program and passed an examination (if appropriate) would obtain an industry license. This legislation did not apply to the apprenticeship training already found in the construction industry. Both bills died.
Low-income Housing Tax Credits: SB 549, HB 2437 and HB 2499 DID NOT PASS
The low-income housing tax credit program has been closed since Governor Greitens shut it down two years ago. This legislation would have reactivated the program at the Missouri Housing Development Commission, but would have also put a cap on future credits that could be issued. The cap would be the lesser of 72.5% of the amount of federal low-income housing tax credits allocated to the state or $123 million, adjusted annually for inflation. The bill has other provisions, as well. SB 549 received the most discussion time, but none of the bills were given much attention. This issue will be back next year.
Career & Technical Education: HB 1868 and SB 536 DID NOT PASS
Under this act, the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Career and Technical Advisory Council, would develop a statewide plan establishing the minimum requirements for a career and technical education (CTE) certificate. Each local school district would determine the curriculum, programs of study, and course offerings based on the requirements of the statewide plan. Representative Swan’s HB 1868 went the farthest, passing in the house and introduced in the senate, but it died there.
Roofing Contractor Registration: SB 756, HB 2327 and HB 2576 DID NOT PASS
This legislation was jumpstarted by member firms. The legislation adds provisions relating to registration certificates for roofing contractors. The bill required roofing contractors to obtain a registration certificate in order to engage in the business of a roofing contractor, subject to civil penalty. A roofing contractor could not bring any claim, action, suit, or proceeding related to his or her roofing contractor business if he or she did not have a registration certificate. A person working under the direct supervision of a roofing contractor as an employee, day laborer, or contract laborer would not have been required to be certified. This legislation just started in the process and did not advance this session. It is anticipated that it will be refiled next year.
Tax Credits: HB 1518 DID NOT PASS
This bill would have placed a six-year sunset on all existing tax credits that did not sunset within the next six years. This bill has been filed each year for the past several years and again died at the end of the session.
Historic Preservation Tax Credits: HB 2359 and SB 819 DID NOT PASS
This legislation modified provisions relating to the Historic Preservation tax credit and renames such tax credit the “Missouri Historic, Heritage, Tourism, and Rural Revitalization Act.” The Builders’ Association has worked with a statewide coalition to save this tax credit program, which has played a significant role in sustained economic development across the state (urban and rural). These bills were filed on behalf of the coalition to strengthen the program and extend its reach to all areas of the state. Neither bill passed this year, but it will be back for next session.
Right-To-Work: SB 760 DID NOT PASS
Senator Eric Burlison filed this bill. Its passage would have made Missouri a Right-To-Work state. It died with no discussion.
As always, if you have questions about any of the pieces of legislation above, or would like us to look into a bill or issue not listed, please contact Allen Dillingham, Government Relations Director for The Builders’ Association, at 816-595-4121 or [email protected]. We also encourage you to contact your elected representatives on these pieces of legislation and other issues important to you and your business.