Dec 29, 2016––Weekly Capitol Update

GOP TO PUSH ANTI-WORKER, PRO-SPECIAL INTEREST BILLS

The 99th General Assembly will convene at noon on Jan. 4 with the Republicans who firmly control both legislative chambers planning to pursue an agenda focused on limiting worker rights, making it more difficult to sue businesses for wrongdoing and granting additional tax breaks for special interests and the wealthy.

The call for more tax breaks comes even though Missouri’s incoming governor likely will be required to cut an estimated $150 million from the current state budget largely due to revenue shortfalls caused the numerous tax breaks and exemptions the legislature has provided in recent years. Those cuts would be on top of the $207.7 million in budget restrictions departing Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has already imposed to keep the budget in balance.

Republicans will continue to hold veto-proof supermajorities of 25-9 in the Senate and 117-46 in the House of Representatives. However, the need to override vetoes could be lessened with Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, a Republican, set to take office Jan. 9.

Greitens will be just the third Republican governor in Missouri since Reconstruction to serve with a legislature controlled by his own party. Gov. Matt Blunt was the last, with Republicans holding both chambers during his entire tenure from 2005-2009. Prior to Blunt, Gov. Arthur Mastick Hyde enjoyed a GOP-controlled legislature for two years, 1921-23, before Democrats took over both chambers for the second half of his term.

A top Republican priority this year is enacting so-called right-to-work legislation that seeks to make it crime punishable by jail time for companies to negotiate labor contracts that require workers, as a condition of employment, to pay dues for the union representation they receive. Nixon had vetoed such legislation, along with other anti-worker bills, in the past, but supporters were unable overcome the opposition of Democrats and pro-labor Republicans to override him.

With Greitens saying he supports right-to-work, that shouldn’t be a problem. While overriding a veto takes 23 votes in the Senate and 109 votes in the House, passing legislation requires just simple majorities of 18 voters and 82 votes, respectively.

Democrats, however, anticipate working with Greitens to advance legislation to combat corruption in the Republican-controlled legislature, an issue on which Greitens campaigned extensively during the election. House Democrats have already filed a package of bills that mirrors proposals Greitens made during the campaign, including banning all lobbyist gifts, imposing a stricter prohibition on former lawmakers becoming lobbyists and further restricting the use of campaign funds for personal benefit.

 

APPEALS COURT DENIES STAY IN CAPTIVE DEER CASE

The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District has denied a motion to stay a trial judge’s ruling that the Missouri Conservation Commission has no constitutional authority to regulate captive deer breeding and hunting facilities. The commission had asked that a stay be granted while the commission’s appeal is pending, but the appeals court rejected the request on Dec. 12.

Osage County Associate Circuit Judge Robert Schollmeyer issued a temporary injunction in August 2015 blocking enforcement of regulations the Conservation Commission had sought to impose on captive deer operations, including a ban on the importation of captive deer from other states. Schollmeyer issued a final ruling making the injunction permanent in September 2016, prompting the commission to appeal.

Conservation officials say a ban on the importation of captive deer is necessary to contain the spread of chronic wasting disease, a fatal affliction that affects the central nervous system in deer. In his ruling, however, Schollmeyer said under state law captive deer are privately owned livestock, not wildlife subject to management by the state Department of Conservation.

The appellate court hasn’t yet scheduled the commission’s appeal for argument. The case is Donald Hill, et al., v. Missouri Conservation Commission, et al.