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Government & Law Outlook: Elijah Haahr

Missouri House of Representatives Speaker

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A six-year state representative from Springfield, Kutak Rock LLP attorney Elijah Haahr next takes on the speaker of the House role.

2019 Projection: Missouri will make more strides in workforce development than it has the last two decades.

SBJ: What will be the biggest challenge in 2019?
Haahr: It will be the budgetary process. There are two decisions that came down last year that we’ll have to deal with. One is the Wayfair decision, this issue of online taxation. Our goal in the state is to see how we want to handle that. The second one is sports gaming. We need to decide if that’s something we want to offer to the state’s citizens. Which of these we take advantage of and spend the money on will take a lot of time. We have to decide what to spend the money on. If some bills, like the managed care (Federal Reimbursement Allowance), were to pass, that could generate $30 million-$40 million in new state revenues. The people of Missouri are very clear not to raise taxes.

SBJ: What new legislation do you expect to move forward?
Haahr: We have a lot of new opportunities for the new year. We’ll focus on workforce development. We have a great tax policy and great tort policy. We did a lot of work on labor stuff, and a lot of what we’re going to do is start to turn out the workforce. We’ll work with community college systems. A big example of that on a macro level is going to be general workforce development. A lot of these high-skilled jobs that pay $50,000 to $70,000 a year, a lot of them are jobs you can do with a certificate or diploma from a community college and they’re very specialized. On a micro level, (Ozarks Technical Community College) is looking for money for an advanced manufacturing center. That’s something no one in Missouri has. But in other states, like the Carolinas, every community college in the state has an advanced manufacturing center. They’re turning out people that can do robotics and 3D printing and they can go to work the next day after they get their certificate and that’s something OTC wants to be on the forefront of. In the health care space or manufacturing space, there’s some great short-team programs that Southern states have tapped into. This is the year we’ll do multiple things that will catch us up to other states.

SBJ: How will the passage of medical marijuana impact Missouri?
Haahr: We have an opportunity for a new crop for rural Missouri. This gives them an opportunity to be back in the forefront. That’s a real gift to rural America.

SBJ: Will we see right-to-work legislation reappear in 2019?
Haahr: No, I think the vote was clear in 2018. I don’t see an appetite to go back. We’re going to go in a different direction. Right-to-work falls in the bucket of economic development tools. We need to look at what we can do with higher education. We need people to have manufacturing degrees, earn a real livable wage and put dramatic increases in those programs.

SBJ: What might surprise people in the legislature?
Haahr: The home run project is we’re putting in time and effort to develop a hyperloop in Missouri. We’ll have the opportunity to run down (Interstate) 70. We built the interstate system in Missouri, and we’ll be the gateway to the world if we build a hyperloop. It would change the culture of Missouri.

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