Day Thirteen: Separating Govt. and Business

Missouri Legislature is taking advantage of this conservative majority by going after labor unions. Last week, Missouri Senate enacted their own version of a Right-To-Work bill following a House bill that was approved last week. Today, the House Committee for Economic Development met to discuss abolishing Prevailing Wages which would allow companies to set their own costs for labor workers.

Currently, they are to adhere to a set wage established by each county and this is all in an effort to benefit both small and large companies, as conservatives are obviously in support of a smaller presence of government in corporations.

It was an issue that Governor Greitens was originally passionate about, as well as Right-To-Work, and intends to make it a priority. In all likelihood, with a republican majority in the legislative and executive branches, labor workers will see a more competitive pay rate sometime in the near-future.

 

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Day Eleven/Twelve :: Hair Braiding and Uber

In Governor Greiten’s State of the State address last week, he spent a decent portion of that time talking about braiding hair, and I do mean that literally. He suggested that citizens in Missouri who want to become hair braiders have to become licensed cosmetologists which requires 15,000 dollars and 1500 hours in school. Just to braid hair.

Greiten’s assured that he would be reigning down on this issue within the first month.

And he kept to his word.

Missouri House Representatives had their first committee hearing on Wednesday to discuss HB 230, titled the Hair-Braiding Freedom Act (and I’m not kidding). The bill would essentially allow those only interested in a hair-braiding business to go ahead and do so without the added hassle of a cosmetology license.

There were many positive testimonies regarding this bill, mainly owners, workers, and patrons of African American salons, who stress that all they would be doing is braiding hair. Nothing else. Of course, representatives had a few comments to say in regards to being educated to comply with health and sanitary regulation. A part of what comes along with a cosmetology degree is to learn how to safely deal with someone else’s hair and an incident of hair herpes was brought forward.

Anything that had to do with heating or cutting a hair would have to be done by a separate party, essentially.

Positive testimonies claimed that the only people currently allowed to braid hair are not trained whereas there are hair-braiding professionals that are more knowledgeable and many of them do not need 1500 hours in training.

The bill was not voted upon and will see executive session likely sometime next week.

Now, TODAY, being January 26th, I sat in on the House session to place an official vote on HB 130 to regulate Transportation Networking Companies as well as making them statewide in Missouri. Currently, Uber only operates out of Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia (and St. Louis, technically, although not legally as I understand it).

Most cities and states in the U.S. have statewide TNC laws where rideshare drivers can legally operate anywhere; Missouri doesn’t have that. And, of course, there were issues brought up such as a chauffeurs license, which is honestly a valid point. One of the representatives mentioned that a taxi cab driver and even a pizza deliver worker needs to have a chauffeurs license while a uber driver does not.

A simple ‘rating’ of whether or not a driver is creepy, or smells nice, or is a safe driver, etc. is not a reliable depiction of whether or not you should get in that car. While it is more affordable than cab drivers, you will also be presented with a much more organized and safe system in regards to taxis.

One of the representatives mentioned a lady who had a sexual assault claim against an uber driver and it took the St. Louis Police Department three weeks to get the required information from Uber regarding who drove her. It’s a disorganized system.

However, having said that, approving Uber statewide will create hundreds and possibly even thousands of more jobs and increase revenue for the government.

The bill house with an overwhelming majority of nearly 90% and now proceeds to the Senate.

Day Ten: Let’s talk about Real ID

Okay, this is a day late but I had a rather busy day.

Fifteen years ago in 2005, President George Bush passed federal ID regulations to further monitor travel documents and, currently, all U.S. states have adhered to this law with the exception of Minnesota, Washington, Montana, Maine, and, of course, Missouri.

About a month ago, there was something filtering through my entire Facebook feed that in January of 2018, a new law would be passed that Missouri citizens would be forced to obtain a passport in order to continue flying or to be granted access to a military base. Well, surprise, it’s not a new law. That regulation is only just now circulating because Missouri had been granted an extension in 2009 after Nixon refused to comply with the federal act. That extension was, of course, until January of 2018.

So, in a nut shell, these are the Real ID regulations that 90% of the country currently abides by. In order to be able to fly under FEDERAL law, citizens must apply for a national ID that would be different from that of a regular drivers license. Now, currently, Missouri actually abides by around 34 of the 39 current Federal ID registrations. Among the five that we do not comply with are the more controversial requirements such as facial recognition and finger printing. Essentially, your picture would be filed in a federal database for who knows how long and this is all because of the terrorist threat; however, statements have been made extremely limiting who has access to the database. Of course, this brings up concerns of identify theft and basic privacy rights stated in the 4th amendment.

Now, Missouri has until January of 2018 to comply with this law; otherwise, missourians will need to have a passport to obtain access to flight travel and, if I’m not mistaken, they will either be completely denied from visits to military bases or they will need a passport for those, as well.

Essentially, Missourians will have to apply for a new identification regardless to travel; however, passports are notably expensive and have been known to take a long stretch of time to completely be processed. Therefore, Missouri either complies with federal law or passports will essentially be forced to purchase making your time at the airport more extensive due to citizens being unaware of the law and holding up the line (as they are 100% sure to do and I’m sure terminal employees are not looking forward to 2018 should this law be rejected).

Day Nine :: Right-To-Work-For-Less

This afternoon, the notion to claim Missouri as a Right-To-Work act (HB 41) got one step closer to Governor Greiten’s office as it made its way through the House. In the past, the bill has failed to pass through with democratic governor, Jay Nixon; however, with Greitens now in office, Missouri citizens can expect to join nearly all of their adjoining states and become the 28th Right-To-Work state in America.

In 2015, Right-To-Work passed through both houses of legislature with the intention of making Missouri the 26th Right-To-Work state. The bill was vetoed by democratic governor Jay Nixon and republicans failed to override his veto with a two-thirds majority; therefore, the bill did not pass. In those two years, two more states have become Right-To-Work: West Virginia and Kentucky (who just became the 27th state as of January 7th of this year). That makes all of Missouri’s neighboring states, with the exception of Illinois, a right-to-work state.

After a series of public committee hearings the past two weeks, house representatives got to share their testimonies for and against the bill and democrats chose this time to attempt to dissuade republicans from voting in favor. Representative Karla May noted that she proudly pays dues and has been a union member and employee for many years.

“It’s like a child who asks why he has to do chores or take out the garbage,” May stated. “They are living under the umbrella of someone else’s wealth.”

The bill passed 100 to 5. The testimonies, however, managed to sway members from both parties given that fourteen republicans voted against the bill while one democrat, Courtney Curtis of Ferguson County, voted in favor. Curtis has been a known liberal supporter of the right-to-work act for minority issues and, in a 2015 debate, stated “it would give [minorities] better opportunities to participate in the workforce.”

Given that the bill passed the senate in 2015 and the upper house maintains a conservative majority, it is likely the bill will appear on republican Governor Greiten’s desk sometime in early February. House Representative Raider, the sponsor of the bill, was questioned in a press conference earlier this morning following the final vote, regarding the timeline of the bill and how it would affect current union laborer contracts. Raider claimed that the bill would go into play immediately, cutting labor dues following the next paycheck.

When Senator Dan Brown was questioned on whether the audacity of the timeline would provoke protestors even more, Brown suggested it was something that was inevitable but something they are not worried about. Brown has been a long-time supporter of the bill and, on his personal website, released a statement in favor as the bill begins to approach the senate. Brown claims that businesses have been discouraged from coming to Missouri given that it is not, currently, a right-to-work state, and has hurt our economy in response.

“We are the only state in our contiguous states but Illinois that’s not right to work,” says Brown. “We have to become the next right to work state to be competitively and to even on the list. This is a live-or-die situation in my mind.”

HB-41 regarding labor dues will likely be put to a public committee hearing sometime next week.

Day Eight: Greiten’s State of the State address

Yesterday, Governor Eric Greitens held his State of the State address, building off of and emphasizing the importance of the points he originally campaigned with. He started off his speech by alluring to corruption in politics. Early last week, Greitens signed his first executive order barring lobbyists gifts from his administration and, on the day of his address, representatives voted on a lobbyist gift ban (HB-60) regarding members of legislation which passed 149 to 5 (I think it would have been interesting to have had a quote from someone who voted against).

“Too many good, strong public servants have come here only to see the will of the people obstructed and corrupted by insiders and lobbyists,” says Greitens. “I come bearing a simple message from the people of Missouri: They want a government that fights for them, and I come as an outsider ready to lead that fight.”

Before becoming elected, Greitens had not held any senate or representative office position which he utilized as one of his primary campaign strategies. He vowed to put an end to the lobbyist corruption and, later, also touched on topics such as the criminal justice system of Missouri noting that three out of the eleven most violent cities in America were in Missouri: St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield. According to wallstreet, that is accurate. Springfield is #11; Kansas City is #10; and St. Louis is, naturally, #1. St. Louis, Missouri, according to 247wallst.com, had a total of 5,762 violent crimes in 2016. That number increased by 7.7% from the previous year, which is wildly higher than the national increase of 3.9%.

Greitens brought up the idea of the Ferguson Effect, keeping Missouri within those top high-danger cities, and claimed it’s getting harder to be a policeman given that they consistently have to closely evaluate their actions due to the threat of their life and, potentially, their families.

Senators met early this morning to discuss and hear testimonies regarding abortion issues. The first bill proposed regarded protecting the rights of alternatives-to-abortion agencies which was met with scrutiny. Witnesses claimed, given the bill references its first amendment rights, that the bill is irrelevant and already a part of the constitution. Senator Chappelle-Nadal, a democrat, emphasized America does not have a one-size-fit-all world and that furthering abortion laws would only hinder the state.

“We have literally generations of people who have ended up having children prematurely, not making the right decisions, and ultimately end up costing the state more.”

The Senator went on discuss the hypocrisy of pro-life given that proper alterations are not discussed in regards to miscarriages due to contaminated environments. Chappelle-Nadal is an avid environmentalist and regularly hosts meetings regarding radioactive landfills.

Day Seven: lobbyist gift ban

Today is the governor’s State of the State address where he will discuss his mission for the upcoming year. It begins at 7:30 (even though it was originally meant to start at 7:00) and we will be live broadcasting to our main office with a dial up connection. Yes, I said dial up. It still very much exists in the shadows.

House Representatives voted on the ban of lobbyists gifts and it passed with flying colors with 149 yays and only 5 nays with 1 absent (therefore, a no). Essentially what this does is crack down harder on representatives and senators accepting ‘incentive’ gifts to take a particular stance on an issue. Last week, Greitens signed an executive order to prevent lobbyist gifts among his administration and it looks like that will become a rule over both branches, given that the Senate also passes it.

Overview of Past Executive & Legislative Years

Last week, I checked out a big book on Missouri Government and, though I made notes, I wanted to make a few discoveries here.

As I’ve mentioned, this year’s administration is a trifecta of the conservative party with a Republican Executive branch (with the exception of the State Auditor), as well as both houses of the legislative branch having a republican majority. This hasn’t happened in at least 20 years.

Now, the House and the Senate have held a Republican majority since at least 2001 (that’s where I stopped researching); however, from 2009 to 2017, Missouri has had a Democratic Governor, Jay Nixon, to balance the scales. He also had a democratic-leaning Executive branch, as well, given that 3 out of his 5 cabinet members were democratic at any given time, with the State Auditor switching parties every two years (making sometimes 4 out of 5).

Between 2005 and 2009, Missouri had a republican governor, Matt Blunt, as well as a republican lieutenant governor; however, the majority of his state officials were democratic. That was the most republican-leaning statehouse we’ve had which was almost ten years ago.

Between 2001 and 2005, we had a democratic governor as well as a democratic majority in the executive branch, with a republican majority in the house and senate. The last time Democrats held the majority in the house and senate was before 2001 which makes it over 15 years since Democratics had a decent majority in Missouri.

Now what does this mean?

Having a relatively stable party divide makes it a fair system, in my opinion, and opens up the floor to scrutiny and, at the very least, gives the minority party a somewhat say. It would be interesting to see how states in Texas and New York handle minority parties.