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Missouri Chamber criticizes, City of St. Louis praises inaction of General Assembly

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(The Center Square) – The state’s largest business advocate criticized the Missouri legislature for failing to advance its priorities during the 2024 session while the state’s second-largest city praised inaction.

“Legislation to address Missouri’s childcare crisis and improve our state’s legal climate failed to progress this legislative session, stymied by lawmakers who chose to prioritize political spectacle over practical governance,” according to a post on the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s website. “The Missouri General Assembly achieved the bare minimum this year by fulfilling its constitutional obligation to pass a budget.”

The session ended Friday with a record-low number of items – 28 non-appropriations bills – sent to Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

In response to the end of the session and a failure to pass legislation ending the City of St. Louis’ earnings tax, Democrat Mayor Tishaura Jones on Monday ended a hiring freeze of non-essential employees.

“The City of St. Louis is safer and healthier without the harmful interference of members of our state legislature who do not represent our City or its best interests,” Jones said in a statement. “Our essential services and workers remain funded by our earnings tax.”

House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis County, appointed Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis County, to a special committee tasked with reviewing earnings taxes in St. Louis and Kansas City. In January, the committee recommended lessening and eliminating the earnings tax. It also supported legal action against St. Louis in a suit to stop the 1% earnings tax on remote workers.

Murphy sponsored House Bill 1516, which would have eliminated the earnings tax for remote workers and established a process for remote workers to obtain refunds of the earnings tax. The House voted 100-47 to approve the bill on March 27. Jones announced the hiring freeze on March 29.

Murphy’s bill didn’t advance in the Senate, along with Senate Bill 1475, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, which was similar to Murphy’s bill.

The chamber posted a video containing media clips from a wide range of sources reporting on the failure to advance legislation. It named all five members of the Senate’s Freedom Caucus: Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring and a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg and a candidate for secretary of state, Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester and a candidate for treasurer, and Nick Schroer, R-Defiance.

“Repeatedly, political posturing and dysfunction stood in the way of moving Missouri forward,” according to the post. “Members of the Freedom Caucus … paralyzed the Missouri Senate with their political grandstanding, preferring media attention to statesmanship and compromise. Ultimately, it is Missouri employers, families and communities that will suffer.”

The organization urged voters to choose wisely when electing their representatives.

“While we commend the leaders who worked tirelessly to defend Missouri’s interests against the chaos, their efforts were overshadowed by a small group of obstructionists who chose personal ambition over the people they were elected to serve,” Daniel Mehan, president and chief executive officer of the Missouri Chamber, said in a statement. “The 2024 legislative session demonstrates the importance of electing candidates who are truly committed to serving the people of Missouri.”

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