Feb 23, 2017 – Weekly Capitol Update

HOUSE APPROVES SLASHING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

The House of Representatives on Feb. 23 voted 100-56 to advance legislation that would cut the maximum length of unemployment benefits in Missouri from 20 weeks to 13 weeks. Missouri already offers some of the least generous unemployment benefits in the country, and is one of just eight states that provides fewer than 26 weeks of benefits.

Under House Bill 288, the maximum duration of benefits would be based on the statewide unemployment rate during the previous year. Maximum benefits would range from just 13 weeks if the statewide rate is below 6 percent to 20 weeks if the statewide rate is 9 percent or higher.

Missouri’s statewide unemployment rate has remained under 6 percent for more than two years. It stood at 4.4 percent in December, the last month for which information is available.

HB 288 now goes to the Senate for further consideration. Republicans attempted to enact similar legislation – House Bill 150 – over a gubernatorial veto in 2015, but the Missouri Supreme Court later ruled its passage invalid because GOP leaders failed properly to follow constitutional procedures.

 

HOUSE TAKES FIRST STEP ON REAL ID, SENATE TAKES PASS

The House of Representatives on Feb. 21 gave preliminary approval to legislation that seeks to bring Missouri drivers’ licenses and non-driver identification cards into compliance with the federal Real ID Act. One day later, however, the Senate set aside a similar bill after three hours of debate and isn’t immediately expected to return to it.

The 2005 federal law sets minimum standards that state identification cards must meet in order to be used to enter a federal building or military base or to board a plane. Many states initially resisted complying with the law, and the federal government repeatedly delayed enforcement. However, Missouri is now just one of five states that remain noncompliant, and the federal government plans to fully enforce the law in 2018.

Even with the looming possibility that Missourians may soon be prohibited from boarding a plane unless they have a compliant alternative form of ID, such as a U.S. passport, many Republican state lawmakers remain steadfastly opposed to Real ID, saying it violates personal privacy and states’ rights.