AIM Legislative Update February 27, 2023
By Ray McCarty, firstname.lastname@example.org
We want to update you, our business members, on our legislative activity for the last week, representing the business position on some important legislation. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about any of these issues, please contact me at the email address above. Of course, we are doing much more than is reflected in this article, but this article is a good high-level review. By the way, if your business is not yet a member of Associated Industries of Missouri, please consider joining and supporting our efforts.
Associated Industries of Missouri is working with the Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources (MDNR) on language that will prevent the MDNR from taking punitive action against a Missouri business based on guidance documents. For example, the MDNR has been moving forward with regulation changes that would lower allowable levels of 700 chemicals based solely on a guidance document issued by the EPA. Guidance documents are advisory in nature, but are not to be treated the same as properly promulgated regulations or statutes. Once we settle on language, we will respectfully ask it be included in all bills that extend the fee-setting process which is currently set to expire in 2024. Many of the current fees will also expire in the next several years. HB 779, the House version of the fee extension bill, is set for a hearing in a House committee today.
While not as prevalent as last session, several bills have been filed that would prevent employers from requiring COVID vaccinations, make employers liable for any perceived harm resulting from the vaccination, or allow exceptions to virtually any employee that does not want to comply. We have consistently testified against all such bills. One such bill, HB 700, was heard last week and a vote has been scheduled tomorrow. Another bill heard in the same hearing is HB 336, the Required Immunization Employer Liability Act. The language in both bills passed the House last session and we are working hard against both bills.
A hearing was also held last week on several bills dealing with hair styles, particularly those worn by African Americans. While the primary focus is to prevent schools from requiring only students with such hairstyles to cut their hair or wear it in a certain way, two of the three bills heard last week would also have expanded the definition of "race" in the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) to include such hairstyles. Associated Industries of Missouri was the only business group testifying against those two bills that expanded the Missouri Human Rights Act. As the sponsor of the third bill explained, expanding the expanded definition of "race" in an employment setting could allow some Caucasian employees that adopt certain hairstyles to claim racial discrimination in employment decisions. The third bill, sponsored by Rep. Raychel Proudie, HB 361, does not contain this MHRA language and AIM did not oppose that bill. The bills are scheduled to be voted on today.
A proposal to eliminate ratepayer protections that currently prohibit a utility from assigning costs of an electricity generation project to ratepayers until a project is placed in service, commonly referred to as "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP), was heard last week. AIM opposed the bill, but noted support for the bill if it were changed to require three key components: 1. Refunds to ratepayers with interest if a project is never placed in service but costs have already been paid by ratepayers; 2. Elimination of renewable energy sources from the bill (currently solar and wind are included); and, 3. Limitation of the proposal to only small modular reactor projects (the focus of all testimony in favor of the bill). AIM would support the bill if these key issues are addressed.
AIM testified in support of SB 233 that would require local governments that mandate construction of electric vehicle charging stations to pay for the installation of such stations. The bill is aimed at local governments that are requiring charging stations to be built in new construction and expansion projects affecting parking lots and many businesses.
Of course, this is just a sampling of the issues we are working in the Capitol on your behalf. Watch future newsletters for updates on these and other issues.