Government & Politics

Capitol notebook: Up with Uber, right to work; KanCare getting intensive care

jhancock@kcstar.com

The Missouri House overwhelmingly approved legislation this week enacting statewide regulations on vehicle-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft. The bill now moves to the Senate.
The Missouri House overwhelmingly approved legislation this week enacting statewide regulations on vehicle-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft. The bill now moves to the Senate. Bloomberg News

Missouri

Right to work: Very little stands in the way of Missouri becoming the country’s 28th right-to-work state.

On Thursday, the Missouri Senate gave final approval to legislation allowing employees in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying unions for the cost of being represented. The bill has already been scheduled for a hearing in the House on Monday, and it could get to Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk by the end of the week.

Greitens has promised to sign it.

“Right to work is wrong for Missouri, and my heart breaks for the working-class families of this state that will suffer under its impact,” said Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, a St. Louis County Democrat and president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council.

Supporters argue that right-to-work laws strengthen a state’s economy and encourage business to grow. Opponents say they simply weaken labor unions and lower wages.

Uber and Lyft: The Missouri House overwhelmingly approved legislation this week enacting statewide regulations on vehicle-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft.

The bill, which now moves to the Senate, establishes a $5,000 fee the companies must pay to operate in the state, mandates background checks for drivers and requires vehicle inspections.

Last year, Republicans tried to pass similar legislation, but it was killed in the Senate at the behest of Kansas City leaders, who argued the statewide standards didn’t do enough to ensure public safety.

This year’s bill contains a provision allowing city officials in Kansas City to audit vehicle-for-hire companies twice a year to ensure compliance with the state law. The companies cover the costs of the audit, which can’t exceed $5,000 a year. If any violations are discovered, Kansas City can fine companies up to $500 per violation.

Budget cuts: Last week, Greitens cut $146 million of spending from the budget, with most of that money coming from the state’s public colleges and universities.

On Thursday, House Democrats said the governor forgot to issue a proclamation to the legislature coinciding with the cuts, as required by the constitution.

“It has been 10 days since the governor announced these supposed cuts, yet he still hasn’t taken the constitutionally mandated action necessary to actually impose them,” said House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat.

McCann Beatty blamed the oversight on Greitens’ lack of experience. Greitens, a Republican, has never before held public office. His spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Chris Dunn, a longtime Republican budget staffer in the Missouri House, noted on Twitter that former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, also routinely made budget cuts without issuing the proper proclamation.

Kansas

KanCare: Gov. Sam Brownback continued to lash out at the federal government this week over its move to deny an extension for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid system.

The review from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that KanCare was not meeting federal standards.

Brownback called the move “parting shots” from former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Kansas lawmakers have continued to push a Senate bill they say would reform the maligned health care program; a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican who helped with the reform legislation, said amendments are already coming in. The legislation, which had been worked before the KanCare news, was introduced less than a day after the federal report was made public.

“It is important and good for the people who are receiving benefits to know that we’re working on this,” Bollier said.

LLC exemption: Discussions continue in Topeka over whether Brownback’s 2012 move to take roughly 330,000 businesses off the state’s tax rolls should be thrown out.

Members of the House tax committee heard testimony over the last two weeks from businesses about a bill that would end the current income exemption.

Brownback has maintained his support for the tax cut. A repeal of the exemption has support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.

If passed, state officials estimate that the bill would bring the state almost $231 million in revenue during the next fiscal year.

The state is looking at more than $1 billion in projected budget shortfalls between now and the end of the 2019 fiscal year.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

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