JOPLIN, Mo. —
Growing jobs in Missouri will be the top priority among the Republican majority in the Missouri House of Representatives, House Speaker Tim Jones said during one of a series of stops in Joplin on Friday.
That tops his agenda for the session that starts Wednesday, Jones said, along with funding education, generating abundant energy and protecting “Missouri values,” including state’s rights, private property rights, right-to-life issues and the Second Amendment.
Jones said making Missouri a right-to-work state will open the door for more businesses to grow in Missouri and relocate here. That, along with lower taxes and medical malpractice reforms, he said, “are the three pillars that will produce jobs.”
Those steps have been taken in states that are growing, especially in the south and the southwest, while Missouri ranks 47th in the nation in growth, the speaker said before a small crowd at Employer Advantage in Joplin’s Gryphon Building.
Jones said Missouri’s economy is improving but is “not out of the woods” and noted that the state also is surrounded by border states that are competing with Missouri for jobs.
Though he said businesses “are strapped by over regulation,” Lee Allphin, who heads Employer Advantage, also cited an improving local economy. Employer Advantage is a Joplin-based firm that helps nearly 500 area companies comply with state and federal laws and rules.
The speaker said Missouri is poised to grow because of its balanced budget, general fund surplus and AAA bond rating.
“And right-to-work is no longer an experiment, it’s in place in 24 states,” he said.
That legislation will start in the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Lant, of Pineville, who was present Friday along with other representatives from the region.
Lant said the change is outlined in nine pre-filed bills, including three he is sponsoring.
Opponents say right-to-work translates to lower wages for all workers, but Jones said right-to-work states are now seeing higher wages.
Rep. Bill White, of Joplin, will sponsor another bill favored by the speaker that would cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits. Both Jones and White said the absence of caps, which are in place in Kansas and Oklahoma, are causing the state to lose doctors.
Jones said GOP lawmakers also are committed to increasing funding for education while holding school districts accountable. He said he is not a fan of the education standards posed in Common Core because they were put into place without legislative oversight and are “one size fits all. I really believe local control has to be the key,” he said.
Other stops on Jones’ tour of Joplin included Empire District Electric Co. State Line Plant and Ducommon Industries. He said he also favored reducing the regulatory burden on utilities to help them move forward on replacing aging infrastructure.
Also on hand at Friday’s session were State Reps. Tom Flanigan, of Carthage, vice chairman of the House Budget Committee; Charlie Davis, of Webb City, chairman of the House Veterans Committee; and Bill Reiboldt, of Neosho, chairman of the House Agriculture Policy Committee.