First some good news, the latest employment data shows the state continues to see a positive trend in the jobless rate. Missouri is now at 3.9 percent employment as of March, which is down from 4.1 percent in February. The number is also a significant drop from the rate last year when the state saw 4.5 percent unemployment in March.
According to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, Missouri gained approximately 770 jobs from February to March. The increase took Missouri’s adjusted non-farm employment to more than 2.97 million in March, which is an increase of more than 17,500 jobs from the same time last year.
The House voted on several bills spanning several topics. These are listed below.
House Approves Comprehensive Workforce Development Legislation (HCB 4)
This week the House approved legislation that contains several important tools to help better prepare Missouri’s workforce for high-paying jobs. The bill is a combination of two pieces of legislation that have already received House approval, and a third that has received committee approval.
The first component of the bill passed this week is meant to provide a boost to the state’s small businesses, including many in rural areas. The provision would expand the Missouri Works program so that more of the state’s small businesses would be eligible for workforce training benefits.
In many areas of the state there are small businesses that do not qualify to obtain the benefits provided through Missouri Works, which is the state’s number one incentive tool for business expansion and retention. These businesses fall short of the program’s qualification criteria such as number of workers employed, or health insurance benefits provided. The bill would allow these businesses to pool together with businesses that do meet all of the program’s criteria in order to receive benefits. Specifically, the bill would allow a group of businesses to qualify as long as the majority of them meet the program’s criteria.
The second component of the bill is meant to give students a more direct path to the workforce. The bill approved would provide students with the option to obtain ACT National Career Readiness Certification. The certification is meant to demonstrate the individual has essential, verifiable workplace skills. By making the National Career Readiness Certification an option, legislators hope to give Missourians the ability to document their essential job skills, while also giving employers a helping hand in identifying capable workers.
The third and final component of the bill would allow a teacher to count hours spent in a local business externship as classroom hours of professional development. Supporters say this change would encourage teachers to engage in learning experiences with businesses in the community and bring real world skills back into the classroom. The change is meant to improve the link between schools and industry.
Preparing Students for High-Tech Jobs (HCB 5)
The Missouri House passed legislation this week that would ensure high school students across the state have access to computer programming courses. The bill would require all school districts to offer a course on computer programming beginning after the 2017-8 school year. Currently, school districts may elect to offer such courses, but are not required to do so.
Supporters say the bill is meant to help prepare students for the many unfilled programming and coding jobs in the computer technology field. The bill would provide options for school districts to develop or use an established curriculum for the course. It would require that the course be taught by a certified teacher, but it could be offered as an online course or through videoconferencing. The bill would not require students to complete the course in order to graduate, and those who take a computer programming class could count it as an elective or practical arts credit.
House Urges Federal Government to Bring Closure to Families of Missing Veterans (HCR 35)
The Missouri House has voted to urge the federal government to determine what happened to 15 Missourians who fought in the Vietnam War. Of 35 Missourians unaccounted for in that war, 20 are classified as killed in action. Fifteen Missourians are classified as presumptive finding of death.
The House approved HCR 35 to ask the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to prioritize resolution of the cases of these 15 men. The DPAA was created in 2015 with the goal to remain committed to bringing the nation’s missing and fallen heroes home. The DPAA has launched investigations worldwide to locate sites associated with unaccounted servicemen, including Vietnam where 1,617 Americans remain missing.
House Approves Bill to Ensure State Parks Are Properly Maintained (HB 698)
Finally, the Missouri House recently approved legislation meant to ensure the state doesn’t create any new state parks until it catches up on taking care of those already in the state’s possession.
The legislation that is now under consideration in the Senate would require that before any new parks are established and before any parks are expanded by more than 10-percent in acreage, the state’s current parks should be maintained, brought upto-date, and have all maintenance work completed. The bill would allow the Department of Natural Resources to accept the donation or gift of additional land, but no work could be done to it except to address public health, safety, or welfare concerns, until the other requirements of the bill are met. The bill would also require the Department to report annually to the General Assembly on maintenance at state parks and historic sites.
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.
Serving the Constituents of the 51st District,