YOUR BUSINESS AUTHORITY
Business advocates say Missouri's recently concluded session came with multiple successes.
For the state's largest business association, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the session represented a chance to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with improved business legislation. The Missouri General Assembly ended its 2022 session on Friday, with the chamber pointing to legislation involving vaccination issues, transportation infrastructure, the Fast Track workforce training program and high-tech manufacturing.
"I’m proud to say we moved Missouri forward during a very challenging 2022 legislative session. Right now, we are in a critical moment that will determine how well our state will thrive in the post-pandemic economy," said Daniel Mehan, the Missouri chamber's president and CEO, in a news release. "The policies passed during the 2022 legislative session will allow us to continue to seize this historic opportunity for growth."
Missouri chamber officials say they were successful in blocking attempts to repeal or diminish a 2021 funding bill to shore up funding for the state's transportation infrastructure.
Additional investments for transportation advocated for by the Missouri chamber passed this year, including $30 million in support for river ports, $13 million for Amtrack services and $5 million for the Kansas City International Airport, according to the release.
The Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant, a financial aid program for adults aimed at addressing employment needs, was extended beyond a scheduled sunset this year.
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, extended the program and added $4.7 million in funding, according to the release.
In a separate news release, Hough said the Fast Track legislation would "increase opportunities for certifications and apprenticeships for Missourians."
One topic of interest to the Missouri chamber was what officials have termed "government overreach" in regards to employer COVID-19 vaccination policies.
Missouri chamber officials said they worked to defeat amendments on this year's budget bill to curb legislators' attempts to follow the Biden administration's vaccination guidelines.
"No matter the issue, when government attempts to reach into business affairs, our position is simple – let business decide," Mehan said in the chamber release. "Employers have long had the ability to set their own vaccination policies, and thanks to our effort they will continue to have this right in Missouri."
Court rejections of President Joe Biden's vaccination plan additionally kept large employers from having to force employees to get vaccinated or tested regularly, according to media reports.
During the session, the Missouri chamber advocated for a $15 million appropriation to support state efforts to onshore high-tech manufacturing industries.
With the funding, the state can better attract semiconductor and pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing, according to the release.
As the session came to a close on Friday, Gov. Mike Parson announced in a news release he signed a second supplemental budget bill for fiscal 2022.
The bill has more than $851 million in funding for initiatives such as grant programs, K-12 services, water and wastewater projects, and health care.
"This budget bill allows state government to continue supporting Missourians and creating opportunity in our state," Parson said in the release.
The total budget was roughly $49 billion, according to the Missouri Independent.
Matt Morrow, president of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, recognized legislative business successes in a statement issued to Springfield Business Journal.
"The legislature committed to significant investment in several important areas – workforce development, infrastructure, broadband access, funding for the Missouri Technology Corp., K-12 and higher education, and many projects that will create growth opportunities for communities across our region," he said in the statement. "We’re especially pleased that lawmakers reauthorized the Fast Track program and passed important improvements to the state’s One Start initiative, which will help encourage apprenticeships and training in high-demand fields.
"While there is always more to be done, we’re very pleased with the legislature’s work on these priorities in 2022."
On her official Facebook page, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, highlighted the legislature's decision to vote in favor of fully funding Medicaid expansion.
"Democrats never backed down on the Medicaid expansion fight. The people spoke and voted for it. The Supreme Court said yes. And today it is fully funded," she said in a May 6 post.
Last year, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the state must conduct voter-approved Medicaid expansion. Overturning a lower court ruling, the decision found the ballot measure is constitutional, according to past media reporting.
SBJ interviews the interim dean at the William H. Darr College of Agriculture at Missouri State University.