On Tuesday this week, members of the House and Senate took time to honor Missouri's military service members. Many of the state's top military officials made their way to the State Capitol to be recognized for their service during Military Appreciation and Awareness Day.
The annual event, hosted by the Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission and Missouri's Military Advocate Joe Driskill, illustrates the significant contributions and sacrifices of military service members and the importance of the economic impact that military installations have on our state. Visitors included Major General Steve Danner (Missouri Adjutant General); Major General Kent Savre (Fort Leonard Wood); our own Brigadier General Paul Tibbets IV (Whiteman Air Force Base); and Mr. Ed Donaldson, Deputy Chief of Staff for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
With more than 95,000 Missourians who work in defense-related jobs, several military installations, and dozens upon dozens of military vendors and suppliers, the military industry has a significant impact on the state's economy. In fact, for every $1 invested into the state's military, $2.50 is generated in Missouri goods and services. Overall, the $14 billion per year in military spending over the past three fiscal years has resulted in an average of $32 billion per year in goods and services being purchased from Missouri companies and 183,000 jobs per year created in the state.
Also this week, Gov. Greitens launched a new program to help returning veterans find quality jobs. The governor and Major General Kent Savre signed a Memorandum of Agreement outlining a workforce initiative for service members and their spouses. Under the new agreement, the Missouri Division of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Army will cooperate to better connect military men and women entering the civilian workforce with Missouri businesses offering apprenticeships that could lead to full-time employment.
The House also worked on approving several bills including protection for Missouri peace officers, creation of a Blue Alert system, and ensuring fairness in public construction, among other matters. Following is a brief discussion on each of these topics.
Protecting Missouri's Peace Officers (HB 57) and Blue Alert System (HBs 302 & 228)
The Missouri House took action this week to deter crimes against law enforcement officials. House members approved legislation that would create enhanced penalties for individuals who assault officers of the law.
The legislation would increase the penalty for voluntary or involuntary manslaughter; first- or second-degree property damage; unlawful use of a weapon; rioting; or first-degree trespassing; when those crimes are committed against a law enforcement officer. As an example, voluntary manslaughter is a class B felony under current statute, but if HB 57 becomes law, voluntary manslaughter committed against a law enforcement officer would see the penalty increased to a class A felony.
In a similar vein, an effort to ensure law enforcement officials quickly receive the information they need to apprehend individuals who injure or kill peace officers, the Missouri House approved legislation this week to create a Blue Alert System. The system is one of the priorities of Governor Eric Greitens, who included $250,000 in funding in his budget proposal to establish the system.
Akin to the Amber and Silver Alert systems, the Blue Alert system would send out identifying information such as a physical description of the suspect and the suspect's vehicle. Twenty-seven states already have a similar system in place. Specifically, the bill would establish the Blue Alert System to aid in the identification, location, and apprehension of any individual or individuals suspected of killing or seriously injuring a local, state, or federal law enforcement officer. The bill would require the Department of Public Safety to coordinate with local law enforcement agencies and public commercial television and radio broadcasters to effectively implement the system.
Removing Burdensome Regulations for Hair Braiders (HB 230)
The Missouri House took action this week to reduce the burdensome regulations placed on hair braiders. Both Governor Greitens and House leadership have made it a priority to reduce the number of regulations that too often stifle economic development in the state. The legislation passed this week simply specifies that hair braiders do not have to obtain a cosmetology license in order to earn a living.
Currently in Missouri, hair braiders have to obtain a cosmetology license that requires thousands of hours of training that is not relevant to the practice of braiding. Supporters have noted that hair braiders are required to complete 1,500 hours of training while a real estate agent needs only 72 hours, and an emergency medical technician needs only 100. As Representative Dogan, the sponsor of the bill, noted, "This destroys economic opportunity and rigs the system against predominantly lower and middle-class minority women."
The bill approved by the House specifies that the practice of cosmetology cannot include hair braiding. It does require all individuals engaging in braiding to first register with the State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners. However, the purpose of the registration is only to maintain a listing of individuals who engage in hair braiding for compensation. It does not authorize the board to license or regulate the practice of hair braiding in any way.
The bill also requires the board to prepare a brochure containing information regarding infection control techniques for hair braiding that must contain a self-test with questions. An individual engaged in the practice of hair braiding is required to complete the self-test and make it available upon request.
House Approves Legislation to Ensure Fairness in Public Construction (HB 126)
The members of the Missouri House approved legislation this week meant to put an end to project labor agreements (PLAs) and ensure a fair and competitive bidding process for public works projects in Missouri. In effect, the bill would ban PLAs, which ensure public works contracts are almost exclusively awarded to union contractors or contractors who agree to labor union demands.
The sponsor, who noted that 86 percent of the workforce is non-union, said, "With the current system we see contracts awarded to union labor with a price tag that is significantly higher than what would be paid for non-union labor. When you exclude the majority of your construction work force from the bidding process, which is what PLAs do, it's impossible to say it's a fair and competitive system that makes good use of our tax dollars."
If approved by both chambers and signed into law, Missouri would join 23 other states that have already enacted laws to limit or prohibit PLAs.
New License Plate Unveiled to Celebrate Missouri's 200th Anniversary
Drivers in the state will soon be able to obtain a new license plate celebrating Missouri's bicentennial in 2021. The new plate is the result of legislation that was approved by the legislature and signed into law in 2016.
The new plate was decided on by a vote of the public that followed public hearings held by the Bicentennial License Plate Advisory Committee to take input on the design. The new design, which will be available January 1, 2019, will replace the current Missouri bluebird license plate. The new plate is meant to give all Missourians an opportunity to join in the 200-year anniversary celebration for the Show-Me State in 2021.
The new license plate's color palette honors the Missouri state flag with the use of red, white, and blue. Waves in the bands of color represent Missouri's rivers and are meant to acknowledge their importance as a symbol for Missouri, as waterways figured prominently in the state's historic role as a gateway for American exploration and transportation. An image of the new plate is below and also available online at: https://missouri2021.org/bicentennial-license-plate/
The legislation approved by the General Assembly during the 2016 legislative session established an advisory committee for the Department of Revenue to develop and approve a new motor vehicle license plate commemorating the bicentennial of Missouri. The State Historical Society of Missouri's Bicentennial Committee also played a vital role in developing the new license plate.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.