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Missouri State Representative – Capitol Connection – January 20, 2017

Missouri State Representative Kevin Corlew represents Missouri House district 14. Most of Representative Corlew’s district is in Platte County, but a small portion of it extends into Clay County. For more information on our Opinion Section and why we publish these newsletters from elected officials please click here.

House Sends Gift Ban Legislation to the Senate (HB 60)

House members acted swiftly Tuesday to make a lobbyist gift ban the first bill out of the House for the 2017 legislative session. The legislation received strong bipartisan support and is now on its way to the Senate.  This ban is an important part of our continuing efforts to increase a citizen’s influence in government and limit the influence of special interests.  I wrote more about HB 60 in last week’s Capitol Connection.

Hearing on Bill to Improve Expert Witness Standard (HB 153)

This week in the Special Committee on Litigation Reform, I presented my bill to improve the reliability of expert evidence presented to juries in Missouri state courts. HB 153 would implement a well-established standard (the Daubert standard) for determining when expert-witness testimony is admissible as evidence at trial. Before an “expert” is permitted to testify before a jury, the judge would examine the proposed testimony and determine (1) whether the proffered expert is qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education and (2) whether the expert’s opinion is based on sufficient facts and data and is the product of reliable principles and methods.

The House established the Special Committee on Litigation Reform this year to examine bills that have to do with lawsuit and tort reform.  The aim is to ensure that our court system is fair to all litigants. This is part of a promise made last election to work on getting the government out of the way so that our economy can grow. Reining in our court system through lawsuit reform will help make Missouri a place where fear of needless litigation is not a disincentive to job creation.

“Right-to-Work” Legislation Gains House Approval (HBs 91, 42, 131, 265, & 314)
The House acted this week to advance legislation that would prohibit labor contracts that require the collection of fees from employees who choose not to join a union. Under federal law, no employee can be compelled to join a labor union. However, unions are required to provide representation to all members of a collective bargaining union, including those who have chosen not to join the union. Thus, some employers, as part of the contract they negotiated with the employee union, require all employees in the bargaining union (including non-union members) as a condition of employment to pay fees for the union representation they receive.  The “right-to-work” legislation passed by the House would prohibit such requirements in labor contracts.

Consistent with how I’ve voted in the past on similar legislation, I voted against HB 91.  Over the past year and during the last election cycle, many conversations with constituents confirmed that the majority of my constituents opposed the proposed legislation. They expressed a fear that the law would result in lower wages and lower safety conditions for workers.  They also expressed that in America, every person is supposed to be free and every employee should be free to negotiate the best terms they can from their employer without interference from state government. Employers should be able to decide for themselves how to run their businesses and reach agreements with their employees, but the proposed “right to work” law opens the door for government intervention in private-sector businesses. Moreover, HB 91 would expose Missouri businesses to criminal charges and uncapped civil liability, and would impose an unfunded mandate upon county prosecution office to investigate and prosecute labor disputes.

The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration, where it is expected to receive approval.

Missouri House Hosts Governor Greitens for Annual State of the State Address

Members of the General Assembly gathered in the House Chamber Tuesdayevening to listen to new Governor Eric Greitens share his vision for the direction Missouri should take under his leadership. Greitens delivered the annual State of the State Address with an emphasis on priorities that are largely shared by the members of the Missouri House.

Governor Greitens’ speech focused on his desire to make Missouri a “right-to-work” state in order to promote job creation and economic growth. Greitens also echoed legislative priorities as he called for a ban on lobbyist gifts to legislators; tort reform to make Missouri’s court system fair for all litigants; a reduction in the regulatory burden that too often stifles job creation and economic growth; and education reform that includes education savings accounts for children with special needs.

Some of the other areas Greitens highlighted in his speech include a review of the state’s tax-credit system. The governor promised a comprehensive audit of the tax-credit system with a goal of creating a tax code that is fair to all. Greitens also called for the state to do more to support and protect law enforcement officers. The governor said it’s time to update standards and training for peace officers, and to ensure that officers have the training, resources, and support they need both to protect themselves and to build strong relationships in their communities. Additionally, the governor talked about reforming Missouri’s welfare system so that it lifts people out poverty and into the middle class, and so that it is based on hard work and personal responsibility.

The governor did not include any budget recommendations in his address. He is expected to unveil his budget plan during the first week of February.

Capitol Implements New Security Measures

As a note to Missourians who wish to visit the State Capitol, new security measures are in place to enhance the level of safety and protection for visitors, school children, and those who work in the building. The outgoing and incoming governors worked with legislative leaders to put these new security measures in place that include additional officers and security personnel and x-ray machines and walk-through magnetometers at some entrances.

It’s important to understand the security measures have been put in place to protect those who work in and visit the Capitol. Each day hundreds of school children enter the building on class field trips, and visitors from all over the state and the country travel to Jefferson City to experience the beauty of the State Capitol and to interact with their government officials. By putting the new measures in place the Missouri State Capitol joins more than 40 other state capitol buildings that already have similar security protocols. If you need more information about the new security measures, please contact my office.

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