As 2018 slides into 2019, Missouri will have a few new laws on the books.
A higher minimum wage takes effect Jan. 1, raising the current $7.85 per hour amount to $8.60 in 2019 and another 85 cents per year until 2023. It was approved by voters in November.
“Clean Missouri,” otherwise known as Amendment 1, was also approved in November and went into effect Dec. 6. Its most contentious aspect — the state’s redistricting process — won’t be applied, however, until the 2020 U.S. Census.
Much state legislation from the regular 2018 session became law in August, but two bills passed during the fall special session were thus delayed. A bill to create an online STEM program for elementary and secondary students will begin soliciting program proposals Jan. 1. A second bill, to create alternative drug and alcohol treatment courts, takes effect Jan. 8.
According to the Missouri Department of Labor, existing minimum-wage rules will remain the same with the 75-cent increase that begins Jan. 1. Employers are still required to pay tipped employees 50 percent, now $4.30, of the minimum wage plus any amount that would bring the employee’s hourly wage to the state’s minimum.
Employers are also still required to pay 1½ times the minimum rate for every overtime hour worked. And if an employer owns a retail or service business that makes under $500,000 annually, that employer is still exempt from paying the minimum rate.
The 85-cent incremental increases through 2023 are restricted to all private, non-exempt businesses.
Amendment 1 bans lobbyist gifts of more than $5, limits campaign contributions legislators can accept and requires legislators to follow Missouri’s open records law.
This amendment, which became law Dec. 6, will also have a distinct impact on the state legislature’s redistricting process. A “non-partisan state demographer” will replace a 10-member commission that previously drew the state’s district maps.
The demographer will be chosen by the majority and minority leaders of the Missouri Senate from a list of candidates compiled by the state auditor. The demographer will follow a list of criteria, including one that creates districts that are equal in population, contiguous and “promote partisan fairness and competitiveness.” Districts also must not marginalize minority communities.
A bill to establish drug and alcohol treatment courts for cases involving criminal drug offenses or substance abuse offenses becomes law Jan. 8. These courts will mandate treatment and medical resources for defendants as an alternative to prison time.
The treatment courts will include cases assigned to an adult treatment court, DWI court, family treatment court, juvenile treatment court, veterans treatment court or any combination.
The courts will also provide drug or alcohol testing, treatment of participants and referrals for defendants to state-funded departments for testing and rehabilitation. After successfully completing the court-ordered program, all charges or penalties against a participant may be dismissed, reduced or modified. Any fees the court receives from a defendant as payment for substance treatment programs will not be considered court costs, charges or fines.
This bill was a revised edition of a previous House attempt to establish treatment courts. The approved version broadened the original proposal to include both drug and alcohol treatment.
A bill passed during the special session this past fall established a STEM computer education program for all elementary and secondary education levels. The program will be designed to increase student awareness of career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is required to select a provider for the online program that can establish a curriculum for STEM career education and give students interested in STEM careers relevant course instruction. A provider must be selected by March 8.
The department must have the STEM awareness program in place beginning with the 2019-20 school year. The state treasurer will be the custodian of the STEM program fund, which can include appropriations, grants, gifts, bequests and public or private donations.
The original bill was vetoed by the governor, who asserted that only one STEM education provider would have benefited.