Missouri’s 100th General Assembly concluded May 17, marking the end of the 2019 legislative session.
Upon assuming office nearly one year ago, Gov. Mike Parson pledged a “fresh start” for Missourians.
“This year’s legislative session was marked by historic progress on significant issues important to all Missourians,” Parson said. “I applaud House and Senate leaders for partnering on the shared priorities of infrastructure and workforce development. Thanks to their leadership we were able to pass a comprehensive economic development strategy for growth across Missouri and take a substantial first step to meeting our state’s infrastructure needs.”
In the 2019 State of the State Address, Parson laid out an agenda he felt would move Missouri forward. Legislators attempted to answer Parson's call in a number of ways.
ADVANCING THE NEEDS OF MISSOURI WORKING FAMILIES
Senate Bill 68, a “comprehensive economic development strategy,” includes several key elements of the governor’s workforce development priorities. Missouri Fast Track is a new grant program designed to allow Missourians to receive advanced training in high-demand fields, opening the doors for thousands of Missouri workers to gain new skills and job training to better support their families.
Missouri One Start will help new and expanding businesses upgrade workers’ skills to meet their workforce demands.
“From day one, you’ve heard me talk about the importance of workforce development and infrastructure. These issues are not Democrat or Republican issues, these two priorities are key to moving Missouri forward,” Parson said. “Missouri’s historic low unemployment, national leading small business wage growth, and low taxes are all working to keep our economy stronger than it has ever been. We added nearly 12,000 jobs just last month, and if we hope to continue these successes, we must put our best foot forward and compete to win, which is exactly what we’ve done this past session.”
“For years, Missouri has watched other states beat us at economic development. That ends today,” Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon said. “Missourians deserve the best, and thanks to Gov. Parson and our legislators, we now have the tools to be the ‘best in the Midwest’ and compete with every other state in the country for jobs and business growth.”
REBUILDING MISSOURI’S INFRASTRUCTURE
Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 will allow Missouri to begin meeting infrastructure needs across the entire state without raising taxes. When fully implemented, the infrastructure plan will allow Missouri to fix 250 bridges identified by local entities as most in need of critical repair or replacement.
“On behalf of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, I applaud the Governor for advocating for more funding for transportation in Missouri,” said MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna. “I also want to thank Missouri legislators for making an important investment in our state’s critical infrastructure needs. We appreciate policymakers coming together to develop an innovative solution to help address our backlog of unfunded transportation needs in Missouri.”
STRENGTHENING MISSOURI’S AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY
Senate Bill 391 establishes in the Joint Committee on Agriculture, which will study the economic impact that agriculture has on Missouri’s overall economy. The committee is charged with improving environmental stewardship and encouraging Missouri farmers to adopt he best practices scientifically to reduce Missouri’s carbon footprint. The committee will issue a report to the Missouri General Assembly in 2021.
“Agriculture is a family business in Missouri with more than 97 percent of our farms and ranches being family-owned,” said Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn. “The latest Census of Agriculture proved that Missouri agriculture offers young people great opportunities in raising livestock like hogs, poultry, dairy, sheep, and goats. We applaud the legislature for their commitment to strengthening our state’s number one industry and sending a strong signal to the next generation that they will have a vibrant rural community to return to.”
FUNDAMENTALLY RESTRUCTURING STATE GOVERNMENT
The governor’s proposal to improve economic and workforce development through a reorganization of state government was overwhelmingly supported by the General Assembly. These changes will reportedly streamline state government and ensure it produces better outcomes for Missourians.
Through these reorganization efforts, the overall size of government will be reduced by more than 475 positions. Along with cutting government jobs, several state agencies were also restructured in effort to increase their effectiveness.
Innovative solutions, such as consolidating two adjacent correctional facilities at a savings of $20 million, allowed investments in prison employees to be made, which will reportedly improve staff retention and citizen safety.
A ‘BUSINESS SMART’ BUDGET
Additionally, the General Assembly passed a budget that for the first time in a decade left more than $100 million on the bottom line and kept the governor's call to not spend every tax dollar.
In addition to new investments in workforce development and infrastructure, Parson said this year’s budget keeps a promise to Missouri’s next generation by fully funding the K-12 Foundation Formula.
An increased investment in rural broadband will help continue the work of bringing high-speed broadband access to every Missouri community.
PRO-LIFE BILL PASSES
The 2019 Legislative Session’s final day was highlighted by the General Assembly passing one of the strongest pro-life pieces of legislation in the country.
House Bill 126 is a bill that supporters are calling one of the strongest pieces of pro-life legislation in the country. Referred to as the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, the bill would prohibit physicians from performing an abortion at eight weeks gestational age or later. Because similar provisions have been struck down in other states, the bill contains additional clauses to protect the lives of the unborn. Should the eight-week ban not stand, the bill has a tiered approach that would then enact bans at 14 weeks, 18 weeks, or 20 weeks.
“I’m honored to lead a state with so many people committed to standing up for those without a voice and commend the Legislature for getting this bill to my desk,” Parson said. “I pledge to sign this vital legislation as a strong message to the nation that here in Missouri we will always stand for life, protect women’s health, and advocate for the unborn.”
Additionally, the bill contains provisions that would expand the existing tax credit for pro-life pregnancy resource centers and require referrals for out-of-state abortions to include the same informed consent materials that are required for an abortion performed in Missouri.