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Incoming lawmaker hopes to ease business regulations next session

The Missouri Times is previewing pre-filed legislation during the month of December, bringing you an insider’s look at bills that could potentially drive session next year. Follow along with our Legislative Preview series here.

Economic development is a consistent topic in the Missouri Legislature, with a myriad of options proposed to bolster the state’s economy every year. As the 2021 legislative session rapidly approaches, one new lawmaker hopes to do his part through what he sees as easing governmental barriers for Missouri businesses

HB 576, sponsored by incoming state Rep. Alex Riley, would require state agencies, departments, and commissions to repeal two existing rules before enacting a new one. Riley said the bill would primarily benefit small businesses overwhelmed by Missouri’s regulatory surplus.

“As of 2017, Missouri had over 113,000 different regulations imposed on the businesses and citizens of the state,“ Riley told The Missouri Times. “I’m a business defense attorney by trade, and I’ve noticed business owners frequently feel the need to come to attorneys to figure out all the rules and regulations and the hoops they have to jump through in order to operate their business. Corporations have the resources to hire throngs of attorneys to go through these thousands and thousands of pages of rules, but small businesses don’t have that luxury.” 

Incoming Rep. Alex Riley.

The Springfield Republican said he was motivated by similar acts passed in other states in recent years. 

“I was inspired primarily by the state of Ohio, which did something similar a couple of years ago,” he said. “Ohio has an even higher regulatory burden than Missouri does and what they’re trying to do is figure out how to make their state more competitive economically and boost economic growth. They identified this regulatory burden as one of the biggest things holding their state back. They’ve enacted a similar process there and have seen some good economic results, so I expect to see something similar in Missouri if this were to pass.”

Riley said one of his biggest priorities in the statehouse was economic development and increasing the state’s appeal to incoming businesses. While other states have snow-capped mountains and ocean-side beaches to draw in more people, Riley said Missouri would need to find other ways to draw people — including bolstering the state’s economy and easing regulations to allow entrepreneurs and business owners to thrive in Missouri.

According to Riley, it would take a joint effort in the General Assembly to boost the state’s economic status — one he expects to see in the statehouse this year.

“I don’t think this bill is some silver bullet that will take Missouri to a yearly 5 percent GDP growth all at once,” he said. “This, coupled with some of the other things in the works in the legislature — workforce development bills and other pro-economic initiatives — could help boost Missouri and take us to the next level. I really want to see the state take that next step forward toward being a leader in economic development in the next few years.”

The 2021 legislative session begins Jan. 6.