Apr 27, 2017 – Weekly Capitol Update

LAWMAKERS HIT LOWER K-12 EDUCATION FUNDING MARK

Missouri’s public education funding distribution law will be fully funded for the upcoming fiscal year – at least on paper – but doing so will trigger another state law that will significantly increase the cost of full funding the following year.

Last year, the Republican-controlled General Assembly overrode a gubernatorial veto to cut more than $400 million off of the amount of additional money needed to claim full funding of K-12 schools under state law. As a result of the change, the price tag for full funding dropped to $48 million for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year.

While the House of Representatives approved a $48 million increase it its version of the FY 2018 state budget, Senate Republican leaders had wanted to follow Gov. Eric Greitens recommendation for a mere $3 million increase. However, during Senate debate on the elementary and secondary education appropriations bill, HB 2, on April 25, all nine Senate Democrats joined with 10 Republicans to buck GOP leadership and follow the higher House position on a 19-14 vote.

Because the House and Senate are in agreement on this point, it isn’t subject to change when negotiators from both chambers meeting in the coming days to hammer out final versions of the various appropriations bills that make up the roughly $27.8 billion state operating budget for FY 2018.

But with full funding achieved under the rewritten education funding distribution law, it will trigger a separate 2014 state law that, starting in FY 2019, will entitle school districts that offer early childhood educations programs to additional state funding. However, if the General Assembly fails to provide that funding – estimated at another $67 million a year – it will once again result in the education funding formula being under funded.

The constitutional deadline for granting the budget bills final passage is May 5 at 6 p.m. If the legislature misses the deadline, lawmakers will have to start the budget process over in a special session sometime before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

 

REVENUE DEPT COMPLIES WITH STATE AUDITOR’S SUBPOENA

One day after State Auditor Nicole Galloway issued a subpoena to the Missouri Department of Revenue for records it had refused to provide, the department on April 20 capitulated and turned over the documents. Galloway said it was the first time since taking office that she had to resort to a subpoena to compel a government agency to produce requested records.

Galloway, a Democrat, is investigating whether Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ administration is requiring with a state law requiring tax refunds to be issued within 45 days after a tax return is filed. In 2015, the Republican-controlled General Assembly cut the time period allowed under state law in half from 90 days to force the Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration to more quickly process tax refunds.

 

BILL BANNING LABOR AGREEMENTS SENT TO GOVERNOR

The House of Representatives on April 27 voted 104-52 to send legislation to the governor that would prohibit local governments from entering into project labor agreements on public works projects. The Senate previously approved the measure, Senate Bill 182, on a 23-9 vote in February.

Under project labor agreements, a government entity agrees to use union labor on public construction projects. Under existing law, local officials have the discretion on whether or not to use such agreements, unless the state is paying for more than 50 percent of the project, in which case they are already prohibited.

 

GREITENS MAKES FIRST PICK FOR STATE SUPREME COURT

Gov. Eric Greitens on April 25 appointed Jackson County Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell to the Missouri Supreme Court. Powell replaces Judge Richard Teitelman, who died in November following years of chronic health problems.

Powell, 46, worked as a Platte County assistant prosecutor and later as an assistant federal attorney before Republican Gov. Matt Blunt appointed him to the Jackson County circuit bench in February 2008. He graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1996.

Powell is part of a family of judges. He is married to U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips, a 2011 appointee of President Barack Obama, and has served on the Jackson County Circuit Court with his sister-in-law, Judge Jennifer Phillips, since her appointment by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, in 2014.

With Powell’s replacement of Teitelman, a Democratic appointee, the Supreme Court’s roster will consist of four Democratic appointees and three Republican appointees. Powell will be the first new judge to join the state high court in more than four years, following Nixon’s appointment of Judge Paul Wilson in December 2012.

Under the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, Greitens, a Republican, couldn’t choose anyone he wanted to fill the Teitelman vacancy. Instead he had to pick from among three finalists selected by the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission. During his campaign for office, Greitens called for scrapping the 77-year-old nonpartisan plan and allowing governors to directly appoint judges. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a Republican plan to do so in 2012.

The other finalists Greitens had to choose from were Missouri Court of Appeals Western District Judge Lisa White Hardwick, a 2001 appointee of Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, and St. Louis attorney Benjamin Lipman.