Efforts to repeal or change Missouri's prevailing wage law took another step forward Tuesday as a Missouri House Committee voted to advance a bill that could repeal the 59-year-old law.
The House Economic Development Committee combined three bills Tuesday. The new bill remains one of several being considered by the General Assembly that could overhaul the law.
Current law mandates workers on local and state public works projects get paid a state-set minimum wage. Each year, all contractors — union and non-union — turn in the hours worked to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Wages differ by occupation and county. Because local unions collectively bargain wages in each county, all union contractors are lumped into the same pool.
All three bills considered Tuesday aimed to simply repeal the existing law. The committee voted 6-2 to advance a substitute version of the combined bills. State Rep. Jeffery Justus, R-Branson, authored the bill that became the heart of the new bill.
Other bills in the House and Senate propose repealing or modifying the existing law. In late January, a Missouri Senate committee advanced its own version of a straight repeal bill. State Sen. Dan. Brown, R-Rolla, served as one of the lead authors on that bill.
A Senate Committee also advanced a bill sponsored by state Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, in late January that would exempt projects costing less than $500,000 from prevailing wage requirements. Schatz's bill also would eliminate the requirement that separate average wages be created for different occupations.
Under Schatz's bill, the prevailing wage would be set by the average hourly wages for each county calculated by the Missouri Department of Economic Development and Missouri Economic and Information Center.
A Senate committee also considered a bill sponsored by state Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, which would exempt all projects costing less than $25,000 from prevailing wage requirements. The bill also would require contractors in each county to report at least 300 hours per year to the state or prevailing wage requirements would not apply in a given county.
Romine's bill remains in committee.
During a news conference last week with the Missouri Press Association, Gov. Eric Greitens again expressed support for efforts to repeal the prevailing wage law. Greitens did not specify whether he favors a full repeal or compromise bill.
"We'll see which bill comes to my desk," Greitens said. "I do think that it's really important that in the state of Missouri we're not penalizing tiny courthouses, schools, institutions, and forcing them to pay more than market rate for work that they want to do. We need to make sure that they're paying the same fair rate as any private-sector company."