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    State Legislative Report: 2-8-2016

    Weekly Legislative Report

    February 8, 2016  

    IN THE NEWS…

    • House Speaker Todd Richardson made clear that he does not support legislation which would increase taxes on fuel to provide additional funding for MODOT. Speaker Richardson said that the House will approach the funding needs by realigning current general revenues to provide additional funding for roads and bridges. GOP leaders argue that recent changes to public assistance programs will generate an additional $1 - $2 billion dollars for transportation-related projects over the next decade. Governor Jay Nixon was quick to respond, calling the plan a budgeting gimmick to avoid tax increases dedicated to transportation.

    • U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay gave a tour of the proposed site for the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to the head of the House Intelligence Committee, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will replace its existing western headquarters south of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery sometime next decade. This spring, the agency will choose one of four area sites for the construction: one in the city, two in St. Louis County, and another near Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Meanwhile, Mayor Slay was in Jefferson City testifying on a non-binding resolution asking the NGA to build its new headquarters in St. Louis. Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard told Mayor Slay “Whatever you've got to do, go get it, and we'll back you up on the cost. I don't care what it is, you go get it, OK?" 

    SENATE FLOOR ACTION

    PETROLEUM STORAGE TANK INSURANCE FUND AND MOTOR FUEL LIABILITY:The Senate perfected SS/SCS/SB 657, sponsored by Senator Brian Munzlinger. The bill was Third Read and Finally Passed and the bill now goes to the House for consideration. Under this act, an owner or operator shall not be denied benefits by the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund if their claim arises from a release of motor fuel or a regulated petroleum substance that is incompatible with the motor fuel underground or aboveground storage tank system, except in cases of fraud on the application for coverage.  Under this act, no refiner, supplier, terminal, wholesaler, distributor, retailer, or other vendor of motor fuel that is blended with ethanol or renewable fuel that complies with motor fuel quality and labeling laws shall be liable for property damages related to a customer's purchase of such motor fuel so long as the selection of motor fuel was made by the customer and not the vendor. No motor fuel that is blended with ethanol shall be considered a defective product for purposes of property damage claims.  Under this act, auto dealers and manufacturers shall not be liable for property damages related to a customer's purchase of motor fuel blended with renewable duels if the selection and purchase of the motor fuel was made by the customer and does not comply with specific fuel recommendations found in the vehicle owner manual.

    COMMITTEE ACTIVITY

    EXPERT WITNESSES: The House Committee on Criminal and Civil Proceedings held a hearing on two bills regarding expert witness. SB 591 sponsored by Sen. Parson (R-Polk). This bill modifies provisions relating to expert witnesses.  The sponsor noted that he has a substitute for the bill.  He stated that their objective for the bill is to match it to federal standards.  He stated that the judge will be the gatekeeper of who is an expert witness.  He said the bill is trying to ensure that if you say you are an expert witness then you truly need to be an expert witness based on facts.  He noted that the family court process has been excluded. Testifying in support was Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Missouri, NFIB, Missouri Insurance Coalition, Washington University, Missouri Society of CPAs, Missouri Petroleum Council, Ford Motor Company, Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri State Medical Association, American Insurance Association, State Farm, Doe Run, and BNSF.  Supporters said that the bill’s purpose is to clarify the standard for expert witnesses.  It was noted that the Daubert standard is applied by the majority of states and it is the standard in this bill.  They noted that the bill applies to all forms of civil and criminal litigation except domestic.  He noted that there are no additional costs required to be an expert witness and both the prosecution and defense would utilize this standard.  Testifying in opposition was a representative of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys who stated that they believed that the current standard is adequate and does not need to be changed.  They stated that Daubert can lead to more confusion because it asks a judge to try to determine if science methodology has been properly applied to the case.  It was noted that this process can be very expensive and these standards are more appropriate in federal court.  It was also noted that this would drive up costs for both sides for workers compensation claims.  They also questioned if this bill would help small business.  Also testifying in opposition was Rail and Transportation Workers, Missouri Circuit Judges’ Association and Missouri Probate and Associate Circuit Judges Association.  The committee also heard HB 1676 sponsored by Rep. Corlew (R-Platte). This bill also modifies the provisions relating to expert witness. Testifying in support of this bill was an attorney with Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad. Testifying in opposition was a circuit judge, Missouri Association of Trail Attorneys and Rail and Transportation Workers.  The committee took no further action on either of these bills. DESIGN-BUILD CONTRACTS:  The Senate Committee on Commerce met in Executive Session and voted SB 781 sponsored by Sen. Schatz (R-Franklin) Do Pass Consent. This act authorizes any political subdivision to use a design-build contractor for waste water and water treatment projects. The Department of Economic Development is required to consider design-build waste water or water treatment projects when disbursing grants under the Community Development Block Grant program. The Department of Natural Resources is prohibited from precluding design-build or sole source contracts from being considered for funding from the Water and Wastewater Loan Fund. 

    BUDGET UPDATE:The House Budget Committee, in conjunction with the seven House Appropriations Committees, continued to hear from the various state departments regarding their budget requests for FY 2017. The Senate Appropriations Committee has also been hearing from the various departments.  The House Appropriations Committees will start to draft their budget recommendations for consideration by the full House Budget Committee.  Budget Chair Flannigan has stated all mark-ups and amendments must be completed and submitted by Monday February 15th.  The budget process is again moving swiftly as the House would like to finalize their version of the budget and present it to the Senate by the first week of March.  This accelerated timeline will allow for enough time for the Senate to draft their own version budget, take the differences between to the drafts to conference, and present the finalized budget to Governor Nixon well before the Constitutional deadline of May 6th.  This move forces the Governor to announce line item vetoes during the regular session, which could allow for the General Assembly to override any vetoes.  It is also possible House Leadership will use Amendment 10, which would allow the General Assembly to override any funding placed into a withhold status by Governor Nixon.  All budget books are currently available online at the following link: http://oa.mo.gov/budget-planning/budget-information/2017-budget-information/2017-department-budget-requests-governors

    DESIGN BUILD AND CONSTRUCTION MANAGERS AT RISK:The Senate Commerce, Energy and the Environment Committee conducted a hearing on two separate bills pertaining to design build and construction managers at risk. Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit) presented SB 595 and Senator Jay Wasson (R-Nixa) presented SB 789. These bills provide a statutory framework for political subdivisions to utilize these methods of bidding, procurement and construction of projects. SB 595 provides that civil works projects must exceed $1 million and non-civil projects must exceed $5 million in order to use design build and construction managers at risk methods. There were multiple witnesses in support of these bills, including ACEC/MO, AIA, a number of construction companies, AGC-MO, Burns and McDonnell, Missouri Association of Counties and the Design Build Institute of America.  These witnesses confirmed that compromise language had been reached after several years of negotiations.   There was no opposition and the committee took no action on the bills.  It is certain that the committee will combine the two bills into a committee substitute. 

    PROFESSIONS NOT REGULATED BY THE DIVISION OF PROFESSIONAL REGISTRATION: The House Committee on Professional Registration voted “do pass” HB 1466, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison. This bill establishes guidelines for the General Assembly to follow when considering the establishment of a new board or commission designed to register and regulate additional professions.  Rep. Burlison noted that the bill does not impact any professions currently regulated by the Division of Professional Registration. HIGHWAYS AND TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION:  The House Committee on Transportation conducted a public hearing on HB 1788, sponsored by Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville).  Beginning January 1, 2017, this bill increases the membership of the Highways and Transportation Commission from six to eight commission members. No more than two members shall be from any licensed occupation. No more than four commissioners can be a member of the same political party, with one commissioner appointed from each of the state's seven Department of Transportation geographic districts and one commissioner appointed regardless of where he or she resides. Any member reappointed will be eligible to serve as chair or vice-chair only during the final two years of such member's reappointment. Five members of the commission constitute a quorum.  Similar legislation was filed last year by Rep. Craig Redmon (HB 102) and Missouri Farm Bureau was the only witness to testify. The committee took no further action on the measure.

    NEW BILLS OF INTEREST
     

    HB 2461 - Ross(R) - Removes the requirement that land surveyors submit letters of reference in order to be licensed.

    HB 2490 - Korman(R) - Establishes a voluntary water pollutant trading program and exempts certain wastewater treatment facilities from antidegradation review requirements.

    COMMITTEE HEARINGS OF INTEREST

    House-Professional Registration TUESDAY - 02/09/16 12:00 PM, HR 4 Public Hearing:HB 2034 - McGaugh - Specifies that attorneys and title insurers shall not be prohibited from preparing real estate drawings or legal descriptions.

    House-Transportation TUESDAY - 02/09/16 12:30 PM, HR 7 Public Hearing: HB 1787 - Rone - Requires MoDOT district engineers to submit quarterly to county commissions in counties of the third classification a proposed maintenance work list for road projects located in the county. HB 2345 - Kolkmeyer - Authorizes the highways and transportation commission to promulgate rules to implement a connected vehicle technology testing program. HB 1788 - Rone - Increases the membership of the Highways and Transportation Commission to seven commissioners and requires new appointees to be residents of different Department of Transportation districts.

    BILLS ON CALENDARS

    Senate Calendar:

    SENATE BILLS FOR PERFECTION SB 623 - Libla - Raises the tax on motor fuel by one and one-half cents per gallon and three and one-half cents per gallon for diesel fuel beginning on October 1, 2016.

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    STATE MATHCOUNTS COMPETITION SET

    March 12 - UMC Middlebush Hall

    Volunteers Needed!!

    Contact Josh Lehman - jlehmen@ess-inc.com

    See STEM activites page for more information.

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