January 19th, 2017
Missouri Senator Ron Richard’s “Capitol Report” 1/19/17
State lawmakers gathered in the House chamber Tuesday evening for the governor’s first State of the State address. The governor spoke for about 40 minutes, during which time he laid out his legislative priorities for 2017. At the top — enacting meaningful tort and labor reform and creating stable, well-paying jobs for our citizens. I am pleased to say bOTH CHAMBERS ARE ALREADY HARD AT WORK ADVANCING LEGISLATION THAT COMPLEMENTS THE GOVERNOR’S AGENDA.
THE Senate Committee on General Laws VOTED TO SEND TWO LABOR REFORM BILLS TO THE FLOOR FOR DEBATE: Senate Bill 19 will make Missouri the next Right to Work state, while Senate Bill 21 will enact Paycheck Protection. The House has moved even faster on Right to Work; earlier today, it overwhelming passed House Bill 91, which is identical to the Senate version. While Missouri’s future status as a Right to Work state is not yet a done deal, it certainly looks more promising than it has in a long time, and I hope to see a bill on the governor’s desk very soon.
IN ADDITION TO RIGHT TO WORK, THE GOVERNOR ALSO CALLED FOR AN END TO THE DISCRIMINATORY AND UNFAIR PRACTICES OF PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENTS (PLAS). MISSOURI Taxpayers deserve the best product for the best cost, but PLAs drive up the cost of construction by effectively excluding nonunion contractors and their skilled employees from building projects paid for by their own community’s tax dollars. Oftentimes, PLAs place unreasonable terms and conditions to limit fair competition. They are not equitable to all contractors, and they are a detriment to the free market. If signed into law, Senate Bill 182 would prohibit PLAs.
Of course, labor reform is just one part of the equation when it comes to promoting job growth and economic development. We also need to address our legal climate. During his speech, the governor talked about the need for serious tort reform, stating that “our judicial system is broken, and the trial lawyers have broken it…” On Tuesday, I presented Senate Bill 5 to the Committee on Government Reform. This legislation modifies several provisions relating to tort actions, such as unlawful merchandising practices, class actions, venue and products liability.
At its core, SB 5 is about making it more difficult for trial attorneys to bring forth frivolous lawsuits, which force Missouri businesses to waste valuable time and money defending meritless claims. Those costs eventually get passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. By passing substantive tort reform, we can finally shed Missouri’s ranking as the “No. 1 judicial hellhole” in the country and become a state that is truly open for business.
As I have previously stated, our new governor’s determination to transform the way Missouri does business is a refreshing change after eight years of failed economic policies and stagnant job growth. This truly is a new era in Missouri. I support the governor’s proposals, and I look forward to working with his administration as we build a better, stronger Missouri.