Missouri Capitol construction continues

The $40 million project will conclude by January 2021

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This article was originally posted to the Missouri Senate website.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Construction work continues on the State Capitol building as the Missouri General Assembly stands adjourned during the summer months.

The $40 million project, which began in March, will modernize the stonework of the building’s façades, dome and drum before the governor’s inauguration in January 2021. The Capitol’s south lawn serves as a staging zone for the construction, with scaffolding covering the building at multiple locations.

During construction, eastbound traffic on Capitol Drive has been diverted onto West Main Street, while westbound traffic has condensed from two lanes to one.

As of June 28, work is well underway on the Senate wing of the Capitol’s exterior. From there, workers will move counterclockwise toward the east façade, gradually making their way around the building.

On the south portico, the area of the building beneath the central columns, workers are busy removing damaged stonework in preparation for the arrival of new replacement stone, selected by the Missouri State Capitol Commission to match the color and consistency of the original material. Construction crews have caulked and ground the portico’s joints to ready it for the fresh stonework.

On the east terrace, crews are working to waterproof the stone. The terrace’s treads and balustrades — that is, the step bases and stair railings, respectively — have been entirely removed. The pointing and pinning of the base-level stone is almost finished, and workers have poured new concrete around the first-floor entrance.

Construction on Monument Plaza, directly north of the Capitol, has also advanced. The Liberty Bell pavilion slab is undergoing repairs, and a new curb is being installed to better blend with the area’s aesthetic. To address flooding, a new drain box has been positioned near the Veterans Memorial.

Work on the Capitol and surrounding grounds will continue in the coming years. Updated construction pictures, photographed at regular intervals, are available on the Missouri Senate website, allowing interested citizens to keep track of the project’s progress.

Missouri legislature approves prevailing wage reform

House Bill 1729 awaits the governor’s consideration

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — During the final week of the 2018 legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly approved a bill limiting the circumstances under which the state’s prevailing wage statutes apply.

Prevailing wage laws guarantee a minimum hourly rate for workers on public construction projects. The specific rate varies by county and the type of work performed.

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The measure, House Bill 1729, eliminates the prevailing wage for any project costing $75,000 or less, but not for occupations in localities with at least 1,000 reportable work hours.

The final language represents a compromise between opposing sides. Several assembly members wanted to go further, with some even advocating a full repeal of the state’s prevailing wage.

The bill’s supporters say prevailing wage doesn’t make sense for small-scale projects in poorer communities. When a district wants to build a new school, for example, making them pay above market-value for construction work is inefficient and costly to taxpayers, they argue. At worst, it could even price the community out of building a new school in the first place, especially during lean budget years.

“Now more than ever is the time to reform how we pay for public construction,” said state Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, “so that the municipalities and schools and cities will be able to have the resources they need to do needed construction projects.”

Those who stand by the existing prevailing wage law, however, believe it protects Missouri workers from out-of-state contractors. With only the relatively low floor of the state and federal minimum wages, which are far below most prevailing wages, large companies could easily out-bid smaller, local contractors.

What’s more, they argue, prevailing wage is never an exorbitant cost, as rates are calculated based on a specific area’s needs. In poorer communities, the prevailing wage won’t be nearly as high as in a wealthy suburb.

“Missouri contractors first. That’s how I’ve always been, and that’s how it should be,” said state Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, the minority floor leader. “They’re citizens of the state. They pay taxes. The money they generate through the work they do stays in the state. And that’s how I want it to continue.”

House Bill 1729 awaits consideration from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who is expected to sign it into law. Should he instead veto the legislation, lawmakers will have an opportunity to override the decision during an extraordinary session in September. A two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives is required to reverse a governor’s veto.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens resigns, eclipsing Republicans’ productive legislative session

The end of the 2018 legislative session saw triumph and tragedy for Missouri’s Republican majority

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri legislature wrapped up the 2018 legislative session, which ran from January to May, allowing lawmakers to escape the Capitol before the Republican governor’s sudden resignation.

The state’s dominant Republican Party, which holds super-majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, chalked up a few major wins in the session’s final weeks. But any legislative accomplishments were soon overshadowed by the beleaguered Gov. Eric Greitens’ decision to forfeit his powerful perch.

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Among the bills passed:

The majority party was also successful in changing the date of an upcoming referendum on right-to-work legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Greitens last year. The question on whether to repeal the law, which prevents labor unions from requiring represented workers to pay dues, will be placed on the August ballot, as opposed to facing voters during the November general elections.

The Missouri legislature also approved the state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Taking advantage of a projected rise in state revenue, the updated budget avoided cutting funding for higher education and increased spending on several social programs. You can read more about the legislation here.

The General Assembly will reconvene in September to consider overriding any legislative vetoes from Republican Gov. Mike Parson. Parson, a long-time fixture of Missouri politics and, until last week, the state’s lieutenant governor, was sworn into the governor’s office Friday evening following his predecessor’s resignation.

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A view of the Missouri governor’s mansion on May 31, 2018, a day before Gov. Eric Greitens’ planned resignation. [Zachary Reger / Missouri Senate]
Greitens stepped down under intense pressure from state and national politicians of both parties. His abdication came amid ongoing legislative and criminal investigations into his alleged use of sexual blackmail against a former lover and possible campaign finance violations during his 2016 run for governor.

As a historic first, the General Assembly called itself into a special session for the sole purpose of considering possible impeachment charges against Greitens. With the former chief executive’s resignation, however, such action is no longer necessary — but the House-led investigation might continue some aspects of its fact-finding mission, regardless.

Political attention in the state now shifts to the upcoming midterm elections, where U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, will face likely Republican nominee Josh Hawley, the state attorney general, for a seat that could decide partisan control of Congress’ upper chamber.

At the state level, the August right-to-work referendum will get plenty of attention, as will the November vote on an initiative to increase government transparency. The proposed constitutional amendment, Clean Missouri, would eliminate lobbyists’ gifts to state lawmakers, establish a citizen commission for legislative redistricting and lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates.

A majority of votes would enshrine Clean Missouri into the state’s constitution. After Greitens’ successful strategy of campaigning on cleaning up corruption in Jefferson City, but his perceived failure to deliver on that promise, one can expect a strong drive for the initiative’s passage this fall.