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Chamber spotlights legislative support from Mid-Missouri lawmakers

by Ryan Pivoney | June 14, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
In this Sept. 11, 2018 photo, Rep. Travis Fitzwater introduces a bill during a meeting of the Workforce Development Committee of Missouri House of Representatives.

Eight Mid-Missouri lawmakers were "Business Champions" during the most recent legislative session, according to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Missouri Chamber on June 9 released a list of 92 state lawmakers who supported pro-business policies during the 2022 legislative session, which ended in May. The chamber's list includes 24 state senators and 68 members of the House, including top leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Sens. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, Justin Brown, R-Rolla, and Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, received the designation. Ten of the 34 members of the Senate were left off the chamber's list, including Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane.

Rowden was one of four senators to receive a 100 percent rating for his votes.

In the House, Reps. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, and Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, were "Business Champions," as were Rep. Bruce Sassmann, R-Bland, and Rep. Willard Haley, R-Eldon.

Reps. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, Suzie Pollock, R-Lebanon, and Lisa Thomas, R-Lake Ozark, did not receive the designation.

The chamber credits the "Business Champions" with supporting legislation "to grow our economy and make Missouri a more competitive place to do business."

Specifically, the pro-business legislators squashed efforts to regulate workplace policies on vaccines and proposed funding cuts for the state transportation system. They extended and expanded the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant, reformed the One Start job training program and required access to computer science courses for high school students. They also supported business tax credits worth 15-20 percent of qualified expenses.

"The Business Champion program is our way of thanking Missouri's top pro-business lawmakers for their commitment to moving Missouri forward," Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel Mehan said in a news release. "Right now, we are in a critical moment that will determine how well our state will thrive in the post-pandemic economy. The lawmakers we are highlighting as 2022 Business Champions were our most important supporters of the policies needed for Missouri to continue to seize this historic opportunity for growth."

The "Business Champion" distinction isn't an endorsement from the chamber, but to receive one state lawmakers have to vote for the organization's position on an issue at least 70 percent of the time.

For this year's list, votes on 26 bills and amendments were considered. Issues ranged from workforce development to advanced recycling and repealing the recent gas tax increase.

Griffith said he sides with the chamber on most issues, but it's always an honor to be recognized for that support.

"Industry, no matter whether it's in manufacturing, whether it's small business or whether it's corporate, I think each one of those brings dollars into our state, and the more that we can attract businesses to our state, the better we are and the more prosperous we can be," he said.

Veit said he tries to strike a balance when voting on business legislation.

"I was honored to receive it, but I believe that we have to have strong businesses," he said. "There are certain laws that are business-friendly and there are certain laws that protect individual rights, and there's a balance. I try to balance what's best for my constituents."

Maintaining that balance often boils down to common sense, Veit said, and not tipping the scales one way or the other.

Both area legislators have previously received the "Business Champion" title from the chamber.

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