In the last days of the 2020 legislative session, members of the Missouri House and Senate were able to reach a final agreement on vital workforce development legislation. With passage of HB 2046, Missouri establishes itself as a national leader in occupational license reform, criminal justice reform, and access to apprenticeships.
The bill is meant to increase employment opportunities for individuals during and after the COVID-19 pandemic throughout Missouri.
The bill’s sponsor said, “Make no mistake, this is a workforce development bill that in the particular time we’re in right now, in the crisis that we are in, this bill will put people back to work. This bill will help the 400,000 Missourians that we have that are unemployed right now find meaningful work.”
The bill includes three important components:
1. Universal License Recognition – This provision will allow professionals moving to Missouri to continue working in their professions without delay. Currently, individuals licensed in other states must get relicensed in order to work in Missouri, which requires additional tests, training, and a long wait for approval. This provision will allow professionals already licensed in other states to come to Missouri and enter the workforce. The bill also includes the most expansive license reciprocity in the country for military families.
2. Fresh Start Act – The act will allow prior offenders who have served their time to integrate more effectively back into society by providing a path to meaningful work without arbitrary discrimination. Individuals will not be disqualified for a professional license because of a prior conviction unless the crime is directly related to the duties and responsibilities for the licensed occupation. This important criminal justice reform will allow those who have paid their debt to society to make a positive impact in their communities.
3. Expanded Workforce Act – The act will expand Missouri’s recognition of apprenticeships as a path to licensure and work. It will allow apprentices to obtain industry licenses as part of an apprenticeship. According to recent reports, Missouri reached 10,000 new registered apprenticeships in 2019, becoming second in the nation for new apprenticeships. The state also ranked second in number of apprenticeships competed in 2019.
The bill now waits on the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Declining Revenues Necessitate Additional Expenditure Restrictions
While the legislature and the executive branch have worked diligently to protect funding for Missouri’s most vital programs, the continued economic decline that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has forced additional spending restrictions in the state budget. Gov. Parson announced $227 million in spending restrictions in April, and recently announced another $220 million in reductions in order to bring the current operating budget into balance.
The governor noted that the state is dealing with dramatic declines in jobs and revenues. The state saw a loss of more than 300,000 jobs between March and April. Where the state had previously been at near-historic lows for unemployment at under 4 percent, the state saw the unemployment rate jump to 9.7 percent in April. The state has also seen revenues decline by more than $575 million compared to last year.
A full list of the expenditure restrictions can be viewed at this link: https://oa.mo.gov/budget-planning/budget-information/2020-budget-information. Parson also announced that the state will utilize $187 million in federal CARES Act funds to help a majority of school districts.
Our new summer office hours at the Capitol are 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. My legislative assistant, Jeff, and I are available to assist citizens regarding questions and expediting services. Contact us at 573-751-5388 or e-mail at Patricia.Pike@house.mo.gov.