On Monday, January 5, I plan to join other agriculture leaders in Columbia as the governor convenes the Missouri Beef Summit, where we will be discussing potential opportunities for our state’s cattle industry. Topics to be addressed by experts in their fields are beef genetics and beef processing. Missouri Cattlemen and agriculture commodities groups will also be represented and make presentations.
Agriculture and the cattle industry are top priorities for both the incoming Speaker of the House as well as with Governor Nixon. Missouri consistently ranks in the top three cattle producing states in the U.S. and currently ranks second in the nation in cow-calf production. This is due in part to superior breeding and genetic programs that are offered to our state’s cattlemen. However, the main purpose of the governor’s Beef Summit will be to have an open and candid discussion of the feasibility of building and operating a large scale packing plant in Missouri and expanding the number of in-state feeding facilities. This summit should be both interesting and enlightening as we look for ways to ensure the continued success of our cattle industry.
Several measures that were passed in the 2014 Session and signed into law by the governor went into effect on January 1, 2015. First, the state’s minimum wage increased to $7.65. This increase did not come from any legislative action but was the result of a law that Missouri voters passed in 2006, which provided for an annual cost-of-living adjustment in the minimum wage. We are one of twenty states who increased its minimum wage effective January 1 and one of twenty-nine states that currently has a higher minimum wage than does the federal government. In addition, Governor Nixon released the funds to give all state employees a 1% pay raise, effective January 1. (This does not include elected officials.) This past Session the governor withheld appropriated money, citing his concern that the needed funds would not be available to cover the increase.However, to offset the withheld funding, the governor took money from the state facilities maintenance fund, money that wasto be used to make repairs and to do maintenance work on state buildings. He stated that those future projects would be covered under his new bond proposal.
Another law taking effect on January 1 is the Breast Density Notification Law. This measure requires healthcare facilities performing mammograms to include information about the density of a patient’s breast tissue. Dense breast tissue is linked to an increased risk of acquiring breast cancer. Patty Richard (Senator Ron Richard’s wife) is one who did major work on this bill.
The Self-Storage Units bill was another law that became effective January 1. It will improve laws regarding liens and will allow facility owners to use technology to communicate with their customers. It also requires applicants to provide informationabout any third party who is storing items in a leased unit. It allows facility owners to treat vehicles, watercraft, or trailers as abandoned vehicles that can be towed from the facilities if the rent is unpaid after sixty days.
The new year also brought a change in the way beer is regulated in Missouri. Stricter standards are imposed on the way it is distributed and sold. Two of the main supporters of this change—Anheuser Busch and the Missouri Retailers Association—claim that the new law is good for producers, consumers, and small businesses.
Another law just taking effect would guarantee that insurance companies offer affordable coverage for patients who use cancer-fighting drugs. Basically what this law does is to treat as equal oral chemotherapy and intravenous cancer drugs. Previously, oral medications were more expensive because they were covered under prescription drug benefits, whereas intravenous drugs were considered a medical benefit. By treating these as equal, it will save millions of dollars for the approximately 1.6 million cancer patients in our state.
Finally, underground facility owners in the state are required to participate in the Missouri One-Call System. This is a non-profit corporation that upon request locates all buried utilities, from water lines to communication cables. The system alerts utility owners before digging takes place.