Missouri State Representative Lauren Arthur represents Missouri House District 18, which includes North Kansas City and the surrounding Kansas City-North areas of Clay County. For more information on our Opinion Section and why we publish these newsletters from elected officials please click here.
The 99th General Assembly convened on Wednesday, January 4th at noon. I was honored to be sworn in for my second term.
It’s been a busy few weeks. Taking advantage of supermajorities in the statehouse, as well as a newly elected Republican governor, House leadership has moved quickly to pass its top priorities. You can learn more about that legislation below.
Thank you for taking time to read about the actions of your state legislature. Now, more than ever, it is vitally important that citizens remain informed and engaged. If you ever have a question or feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
ETHICS, HB 60
With strong bipartisan support, the Missouri House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation that would place new restrictions on gifts from lobbyists to elected officials. Under existing law, state officials can accept unlimited gifts — such as free meals, concert or sports tickets and other items – from lobbyists.
While the Republican sponsor of House Bill 60 touted it as “banning” lobbyist gifts, the legislation still includes exemptions. However, I voted in support of the bill, as it is a significant improvement over existing law. In addition, the bill sponsor accepted a number of my amendments that strengthened the legislation. You can hear me discuss this bill HERE.
HB 60 now heads to the Senate, which in recent years has been resistant to restricting lobbyist gifts.
RIGHT TO WORK, HB 91
On January 19th, the House of Representatives voted 100 in favor and 59 against controversial legislation that would make it a crime punishable by jail time for business owners to negotiate labor contracts that require workers to pay dues for the union representation they receive. The measure now heads to the Senate for further debate.
House Democrats sought to include a provision putting the measure, House Bill 91, on the statewide ballot, but majority Republicans rejected the effort due to concerns that voters might reject the legislation, dubbed “right-to-work” by supporters.
I voted against the legislation. Right-to-work states have lower wages, more dangerous working conditions, and higher poverty. The measure was championed by a megadonor who has given millions of dollars to the majority party and Republican candidates.
STATE OF THE STATE
Governor Eric Greitens delivered the State of the State address last week. He called for a number of proposals, including ethics reform, right-to-work legislation, tort reform, and welfare reform. He also proposed a number of potentially costly measures such as tax vouchers for private school tuition, and a significant increase in law enforcement spending.
Governor Greitens did not present his proposed budget during the speech, as has been the custom for many decades. The state of Missouri currently faces a $450 million budget shortfall due in large part to a series of tax cuts, giveaways, and exemptions passed over the last several years.
One day before his State of the State, Governor Greitens made $146.4 million in unilateral state budget withholdings, the majority targeting K-12 education transportation and colleges and universities. Greitens made the cuts to the state budget for current fiscal year 2017, which ends June 30th.
Of Greitens’ cuts, $90.3 million came from education appropriations, with $79 million of that coming from the Missouri Department of Higher Education. The higher education cuts included $55.9 million from the operating budgets of public four-year institutions and $11.8 million from community colleges.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education took an $11.3 million hit, most of which came from an $8 million cut to state funding for local school districts’ student transportation costs. Those costs will be shifted to local taxpayers.