Ann Kelley's Capital Connection

November 30, 2023
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Ann Kelley’s Capitol Connection

What’s Going on in the Capitol

Bill Pre-Filing for the 2023 Legislative Session Begins

As the Missouri General Assembly gears up for the 2024 legislative session, House members are beginning to unveil their legislative agendas for the coming year. The legislative session officially begins Wednesday, January 3 but December 1st of each year marks the true beginning of the work as lawmakers can begin filing bills for the upcoming session.

The first day of pre-filing typically sees hundreds of bills introduced. In 2023, members of the House submitted 336 bills on the inaugural day, contributing to a cumulative total of 578 bills filed during the entire pre-filing period. For the 2022 session, legislators initiated the pre-filing process by introducing 372 bills on the first day and a total of 770 bills, contrasting with the 688 bills filed for the 2021 legislative session and the record-breaking 776 bills for the 2020 session.

For the 2024 session, legislators will file bills addressing a wide variety of topics, with the objective being to enhance the state's policies, ensuring they better serve the needs of all residents.

To keep informed on the bills that are pre-filed in the House, please visit the official website of the Missouri House of Representatives at www.house.mo.gov and click on the “Pre-filed Bills” link.

Business leaders say finding skilled workers still the greatest issue facing Missouri’s economy

A survey conducted with more than 500 business leaders from across the state has found that the most significant concern in Missouri’s mission to further grow the state economy is the need for employees with professional skills, both technical expertise and essential soft skills.

The survey highlighted that workforce shortage is the primary obstacle to the state's economic growth, showing a need to upskill workers, seeking approximately $6 million in funding for this effort. Additionally, about 80% of business leaders believe that the cost and difficulty of finding childcare prevent many Missourians from entering the workforce. One potential answer to that issue could be a tax credit package to expand childcare access in the upcoming legislative session, with potential benefits for childcare providers, donors, and businesses covering childcare costs for employees.

Public safety and crime are also major concerns, with 90% of business leaders viewing them as top or growing issues. Rising crime rates impact Missouri's economic competitiveness, while the survey also indicated a desire for incentives to recruit more law enforcement officers.

Despite these challenges, Missouri's gross domestic product, per capita income, and job growth have continued to show positive trends.

Missouri pension board rejects State Treasurer’s push for China divestment

The board overseeing the Missouri state employee pension plan rejected a proposal by State Treasurer Vivek Malek to divest from Chinese stocks and securities. Malek's call to withdraw pension investments from China, citing concerns about its economic challenges and geopolitical stance, was not supported by the 11-member Missouri State Employees Retirement System board.

Malek argued that China's economic difficulties and international relations make it an unfavorable investment. The broader issue of doing business with China has become politically sensitive, evidenced by recent legislative actions and debates. This year, the Missouri House passed a bill to limit the sale of farmland to investors from China and a handful of other countries, which died in the state Senate. The U.S. Senate in July also voted to prohibit China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from purchasing U.S. farmland.

MOSERS, responsible for providing pensions to the state government workforce, faces financial challenges, with about $200 million invested in China. The board, comprising Commissioner of Administration Ken Zellers, State Treasurer Malek, and nine members of the Missouri General Assembly, is divided on the issue, with some members suggesting awaiting legislative guidance on investments in China.