State Representative Justin Hill: 108th District
It has been another productive year in Jefferson City. I am honored to serve you as your voice in State government. I am pleased to announce that my Blue Alert bill passed and has been sent to Governor Greitens. Blue Alert will further protect our police officers and the entire community from violent criminals.
Now that session is over I am moving my office and staff to the district to help serve the needs of the community directly. We are located at:
404 Meadows Circle Drive, Lake St. Louis, 63367.
Our contact information remains the same. Feel free to stop by the new office between 10-2 Tuesday-Friday.
Again, it has been a pleasure to represent you all in Jefferson City.
Below are a few notes from session:
Legislators Wrap Up Productive 2017 Session
The Missouri House of Representatives wrapped up an extremely efficient and productive legislative session. While lawmakers sent a lower number of bills than normal to the governor, those that did make it include many of the policy priorities that were laid out by the House Speaker during his Opening Day Address. Last legislative session saw the House and Senate truly agree to roughly 140 bills. This session, while approximately 75 bills made it across the legislative finish line, the lower number includes important issues such as substantive labor reform, tort reform, and economic development measures that will make Missouri a more attractive location for job creators.
One of the biggest highlights of the 2017 session is a fiscally responsible state spending plan that makes a record level of investment in K-12 education by fully funding the Foundation Formula for the first time. The legislature was also able to get a Right-to-Work bill to the governor that will protect the rights of workers and encourage job creators to set up shop in the state. The tort reform bills that made it through the legislative process will help put an end to frivolous lawsuits by putting new expert witness standards in place, and strengthening Missouri’s workplace discrimination standards. Another major accomplishment for the legislature this year is the passage of legislation that will establish a regulatory framework for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft so they can expand and create jobs throughout Missouri.
Some of the legislative priorities that received approval in the final week of session include:
House Gives Final Approval to Bill to Limit Frivolous Lawsuits in Worker Discrimination Cases (SB 43)
House members gave final approval this week to legislation that is meant to reform Missouri’s employment discrimination standards. Supporters say the bill will limit frivolous lawsuits against employers in an attempt to create a more business-friendly environment that will help retain existing employers and attract new job creators to Missouri.
The legislation would raise the standard to determine if an employer is liable for a discrimination charge under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). Specifically, it would move Missouri from a “contributing factor” standard to a “motivating factor” standard for proving discrimination in workplace cases. In effect, it would require workers who file a wrongful termination lawsuit to prove age, race, gender, disability, or ethnicity was the motivating factor rather than simply a contributing factor in the employer’s action. The plaintiff would also have to prove that the action was the direct immediate cause of the claimed damages.
In addition, the bill would limit the damage amounts that can be awarded for employment cases under the MHRA. It would also exempt supervisors and managers who are not employers from liability. Additionally, it would create whistleblower protections so that employers would not be able to fire someone for reporting an unlawful act of the employer or refusing to carry out an illegal act for that employer.
Supporters say the provisions of the bill will help ensure balance between employers and employees in discrimination cases by allowing plaintiffs the right to a jury trial but also protecting business owners from frivolous lawsuits. The provisions modifying the burden of proof mirror the federal standard in discrimination cases. They say passage of the bill will end Missouri’s reputation for being one of the easiest states in the nation in which to file frivolous discrimination lawsuits.
House Approves Collateral Source Reform Legislation (SB 31)
Legislation is now on its way to the governor’s desk that is part of the legislature’s efforts to improve the state’s legal climate. As part of its tort reform package, the House and Senate gave final approval to legislation commonly referred to as collateral source reform.
The bill is meant to clarify that an injured person involved in a lawsuit can recover only the actual cost incurred for medical treatment. Specifically, the legislation would modify Missouri’s collateral source rule that currently prevents evidence from being admitted to show when a plaintiff’s losses have been compensated from other sources such as insurance or workers’ compensation.
Those who believe the collateral source rule needs to be reformed say the current system allows plaintiffs to make money by filing lawsuits for injuries that have already been covered by other sources. They say it allows individuals to recover damages or costs that were never incurred, while the intent of the law should be to make the plaintiff whole. Supporters also say the change would help Missouri shed its reputation as “judicial hellhole” and create a more business-friendly environment.
The change approved by the legislature clarifies that an injured person can recover the actual cost incurred for medical treatment rather than the inflated value of the treatment billed by a health care provider. Specifically, it allows evidence to be admitted in court showing the actual cost, rather than the value, of the medical care or treatment to the plaintiff.
The legislature approved similar legislation last year only to see the bill vetoed by the previous governor. The current governor has indicated he will sign the bill into law.
House and Senate Agree to Create Blue Alert System to Protect Peace Officers (SB 34)
In an effort to ensure law enforcement officials quickly receive the information they need to apprehend individuals who injure or kill peace officers, the Missouri House and Senate have approved legislation to create a Blue Alert System. The bill is one of the priorities of Governor Eric Greitens, who called for the creation of the Blue Alert System when the legislative session began.
Similar to the Amber and Silver Alert systems, the Blue Alert system would send out identifying information such as a physical description of the suspect and the suspect’s vehicle. Twenty-seven states already have a similar system in place. Specifically, the bill would establish the Blue Alert System to aid in the identification, location, and apprehension of any individual or individuals suspected of killing or seriously injuring a local, state, or federal law enforcement officer. The bill would require the Department of Public Safety to coordinate with local law enforcement agencies and public commercial television and radio broadcasters to effectively implement the system.
Supporters say Missouri will benefit from its own system so that it can better protect the brave men and women who protect communities across the state.
Expanding Missouri’s Job Training Efforts (HB 93)
The House and Senate have given final approval to legislation meant to provide a boost to the state’s small businesses, including many in rural areas. The bill would expand the Missouri Works program so that more of the state’s small businesses would be eligible for workforce training benefits.
In many areas of the state there are small businesses that do not qualify to obtain the benefits provided through Missouri Works, which is the state’s number one incentive tool for business expansion and retention. These businesses fall short of the program’s qualification criteria such as number of workers employed, or health insurance benefits provided. The bill would allow these businesses to pool together with businesses that do meet all of the program’s criteria in order to receive benefits. Specifically, the bill would allow a group of businesses to qualify as long as the majority of them meet the program’s criteria.
Legislation Approved to Establish Adult High Schools (HB 93)
The members of the Missouri House hope to give the approximately 500,000 Missourians without a high school diploma a second chance to obtain an education that will allow them to secure good-paying, family-supporting jobs. To accomplish this goal, legislation approved during the final week of session will establish four adult high schools in Missouri.
The legislation is modeled after a program in Indiana that was put in place to address the needs of adults without high school diplomas, and employers seeking a qualified workforce. The program has seen tremendous success as it has grown from four schools to 11. After the 2014 school year, 88 percent of students were employed or in college six months after graduation. Supporters hope to see a similar level of success in Missouri.
Supporters note that a high school diploma is a key component to giving Missourians an opportunity to obtain gainful employment. They point to Census Bureau statistics that indicate a high school diploma can increase a person’s lifetime earnings by as much as $400,000. Proponents say a high school diploma is critical to empower people to move off of government assistance and toward self-sufficiency.
The bill would establish four adult high schools located in Southeast Missouri, St. Louis City, Mid-Missouri, and Southwest Missouri for individuals age 21 and up who do not have a high school diploma. It would give priority to Missourians who are currently on government assistance. The schools would help these individuals complete their high school education and obtain a diploma. They would also offer skills certifications based on regional demand through partnerships with community colleges and other programs. Additionally, they would offer a child care center to remove a significant barrier for many adults who would like to participate.