By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Missouri state Rep. Bill Lant has his work cut out for him this session.
Lant, R-Anderson, is the newly appointed chairman of the Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee that will hear bills on issues including right-to-work, paycheck protection and prevailing wage.
The committee last week advanced a bill that would allow school districts to opt out of using prevailing wage requirements when they contract for construction or maintenance projects. Lant said the measure is being sponsored by Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany.
“He has 19 school districts in his district, and he said it had gotten to the point there that volunteers got together and reroofed school buildings because the districts couldn’t afford to do it otherwise,” Lant said.
Lant said such a measure would have allowed the Joplin School District “to save between $15 and $20 million” on rebuilding projects after the May 2011 tornado. He said the hearing lasted more than two hours, with testimony for and against the proposal. The committee recommended passage of the measure 8-4 along party lines, with all Republican members voting in favor.
Lant said he expects a packed house next week when the committee considers a bill on “paycheck protection — or “paycheck deception,” as described by supporters of organized labor.
A right-to-work bill also will be heard by the committee, along with measures that would repeal prevailing wage requirements statewide, or repeal the mandates on Missouri Housing Development Commission-financed projects in areas that have been declared disaster areas. Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin., is sponsor of two of the measures before the committee.
Interested parties will get to weigh in on language used on initiative petitions that are to go before voters under a plan announced last week by Jason Kander, who took office earlier this month as secretary of state.
Kander said he will use his office’s website to post initiative petitions that are submitted to his office. There will be a five-day comment period for the public and elected officials to provide observations the office can consider when drafting the summary language for ballot questions. That’s the short version used on the ballot, so the language often can be a determining factor in whether the measure passes or fails.
Before, Missouri residents could not see the petitions that were submitted until after the ballot language was drafted, Kander said. Now, the office will post submitted petitions after the form of the petition is approved. The comment period then will open, and observations may be offered via phone, email or mail. The office has 10 days after the form of the petition is approved to draft the ballot summary language.
The new procedure will begin with the next petition that is submitted, Kander said.
On the federal front, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and U.S. Rep. Billy Long both weighed in last week on measures concerning pay for members of Congress.
McCaskill announced that she had reintroduced legislation that would end automatic pay raises for members of Congress. Under current law, members of Congress automatically receive yearly cost-of-living pay increases unless members vote to stop the increase.
“If Congress wants a pay increase, it ought to vote on it in the light of day and not hide behind automatic raises,” she said.
Long’s office announced his support for legislation that would withhold members’ pay until those members’ chamber had passed a budget resolution. The Senate has not passed a budget resolution for nearly four years, he said.
Susan Redden is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at email@example.com or 417-623-3480, ext. 7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.