Senate President Pro Tem Richard creates three committees for interim

From the Missouri Times Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard announced Wednesday three new interim committees for 2015. Various senators will return to Jefferson City this summer and fall to serve on the Senate Interim Committees on Utility Regulation and Infrastructure Investment, MO HealthNet Pharmacy Benefits, and Long-Term Care Facilities. Richard told MissouriNet Wednesday that the three committees are designed to investigate issues with ratemaking and utilities, lower the cost of drugs obtained through Missouri’s Medicaid program, and improve conditions at Missouri’s long-term care facilities, especially veterans’ facilities. Sen. Ed Emery and Sen. Ryan Silvey will be the respective chair and vice chair of the utility regulation committee, Sen. Mike Cunningham and Sen. Jeanie Riddle will fill the same role for the long-term care facilities committee and Sen. David Sater and Sen. Dan Brown will act as chair and vice chair of the MO HealthNet committee. The three topics that will be addressed by the committee attracted attention from the legislature this past session, especially with regards

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AIM receives update on challenge to Obama’s “Clean Power Plan”

As one of the parties to the amicus brief in support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s legal challenge to EPA’s Clean Power Plan, AIM was provided a quick update on the case and the underlying regulation from Sue Forrester Senior Director, Outreach and Advocacy, Institute for 21st Century Energy. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to bypass oral arguments and instead hear the case before the full court (as opposed to a three person panel) on September 27th. The litigation coalition of nearly 160 entities (including 28 states) remains confident in its arguments and looks forward to its day in court. In other CPP-related news, last week the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) released initial data related to its 2016 Annual Energy Outlook. The analysis modeled electricity sector and economic impacts under scenarios with and without the CPP. Not surprisingly, the EIA is projecting the CPP to have significantly greater economic impacts than projected by EPA and others.  For example:

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Nixon pushes back against new tax breaks

According to the Associated Press, Governor Jay Nixon is displeased with what he calls “special interest tax legislation” and says the tax cuts will blow a hole in the state budget. In an A.P. story published statewide Monday, the governor says passage of bills that create tax incentives for people in wheelchairs, patients battling brain tumors and farmers will cost the state more than $80 million in tax revenues. Legislative researchers place the tax revenue loss at $22 million. Another bill the article mentions meeting with Governor Nixon’s objections is an export incentive for freight forwarders; however, Nixon called a special legislative session in 2011 to consider a similar incentive. The incentive did not pass at that time, but legislators overwhelmingly approved legislation that contained the new incentive before the end of the 2016 regular session of the legislature. “We don’t consider purchasers of wheelchair parts, purchasers of items used in the treatment of brain tumors, and farmers to be ‘special interests’,”

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PSC approves adjustments to Laclede, MGE ISRSs

From the Missouri Times More than one million Missouri customers will see an increase on their monthly natural gas bills after the Missouri Public Service Commission approved requests by two companies to adjust their infrastructure system replacement surcharge (ISRS). The ISRS charge for both Laclede Gas Company-Laclede Division and Missouri Gas Energy (MGE), a division of Laclede Gas Company, began in 2004. The ISRS will compensate natural gas pipeline replacements and relocations made by the companies from September 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016. For Laclede residential customers, the ISRS will increase from $2.37 to $3.02. MGE residential customers will see an increase from $0.99 to $1.51. The change will take effect on May 31. Laclede Gas Company-Laclede Division provides natural gas service to approximately 647,100 customers in the City of St. Louis as well as the Missouri counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Butler, Iron, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Crawford, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve. MGE provides natural gas service to approximately 505,800

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Auditor report studies Missouri in comparison to the country

From the Missouri Times State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report this week detailing Missouri’s performance compared to other states in six key areas: economy, education, civic involvement, health, crime and transportation. Data for the report was collected by the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs’ Institute of Public Policy at the University of Missouri-Columbia. “Many policymakers have found that monitoring performance indicators can provide valuable information regarding policy development, as well as government action,” Galloway wrote in a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon and the legislature at the beginning of the report. “Similar reports conducted elsewhere have been helpful in providing a snapshot as to where states are positioned in relation to each other in critical areas dealing with the economy, health, crime, education, transportation, and civic involvement.” Economy To look at Missouri’s economy, the report compared Missouri to the other states on seven measures: household median income, job growth rate, unemployment rate, state and local tax revenue as

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Some states are suffering while most of the U.S. booms

From Marketwatch     A measure of economic activity in each of the 50 states shows that the ones most reliant on the energy industry are suffering, while most of the U.S. is seeing solid growth. The Philadelphia Fed’s state coincident indexes for April, show 42 states with gains, seven with declines, and one — Indiana — unchanged, compared with their levels from January. A coincident index is set to the trend of its gross domestic product, using variables on jobs, hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate and real wages. In the 12 months to April, the U.S. index grew by 3.1%, which is stronger than what GDP data over the same period suggests. (The map shows growth over three months.) What binds the seven states in decline is their exposure to the hard-hit energy sector. North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania all are exposed to the industry through either fracking, conventional drilling, refining, or in

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One Missouri road funding effort dies, another could be on ballot

From the Missourinet The Missouri Marketers and Convenience Store Association has collected enough signatures to ask voters if the state’s cigarette tax should be increased by 23 cents per pack to help pay for transportation. Missouri’s cigarette tax is the lowest in the nation, at 17 cents per pack. Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna says the increase would generate about $95-100 million dollars annually for the state’s roads and bridges. “I think that’s a reflection of many that rely on the transportation network trying to come up with ways to fund the investment we need,” said McKenna. “A lot of times you can’t see what the actual condition is when you’re driving on a smooth surface, but underneath and the under pinning of that roadway might be deteriorating more rapidly than we would like. We may have to do more drainage work. That’s something that isn’t seen all that frequently. We have about 60% of our bridges in

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House approves overhaul of Toxic Substances Control Law

From the NAM blog, Manufacturing Economy Daily.  NOTE: Associated Industries of Missouri is the sole official designated partner of the National Association of Manufacturers in Missouri. The House on Tuesday passed, 403-12, a bipartisan update of the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, which affects thousands of household products, the Wall Street Journal (5/24, Berzon, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports, adding that the Senate is expected this week to approve the legislation and that President Obama supports it. Once enacted, the first major change to the 1976 law will empower the Environmental Protection Agency to review toxic chemicals already on the market, evaluate new ones, and impose restrictions if any are deemed unsafe. Such reviews could take years, the Journal says, and chemical producers will be required to contribute $25 million in annual fees, or 25% of the estimated cost, for the EPA reviews, in addition to having to pay for any reviews they request from the agency. The AP

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State advocacy board fails small business owners, Auditor Galloway says

Audit finds Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board does not meet obligations due to vacancies, inadequate support Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released her audit of the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board. The board was created to serve as an advocate for small businesses across Missouri but has been plagued with issues that have undermined its effectiveness. “The Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board has not received necessary support to fulfill its role as the voice of small business owners, leaving many citizens in the dark about a regulatory process that directly impacts their livelihoods,” Auditor Galloway said. “The board is, by design, led by private citizens who help make the regulatory process less burdensome on business owners, but without resources or state support, the board’s volunteer members are not meeting this critical mission.” Associated Industries of Missouri president/CEO Ray McCarty echoed Auditor Galloway’s comments. “This Board is supposed to help small businesses by reducing red tape and preventing huge costs from

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Missouri employers criticize “false hope” of new overtime levels

While the Obama administration calls its recent announcement on overtime wages its “most prominent initiative to lift middle-class wages”, Missouri-based association executives, both for-profit and non-profit, say the new guidelines offer only false hope. According to the Washington Post, about 35% of full-time salaried workers “will be eligible for time and a half” in hourly pay, which is up “significantly” from the 7% who qualify “under the current threshold.” The rule expands the ranks of overtime-eligible employees to those who earn up to $47,476 annually, when they work more than 40 hours during a week. They must also work for employers that are subject to the overtime regulations as some employers are exempt. Pundits say the new rules were put into place in time to help Democratic politicians ahead of November elections by making stagnant American wages a major campaign issue in the 2016 election. David Overfelt of the Missouri Retail Association, speaking during a conference call Thursday, said the

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