July 14 was the deadline for Governor Parson to either sign or veto the bills passed by the 2021 Missouri legislature. The legislature passed 48 policy bills for the governor to consider. Passing a bill, or even just some language within a bill, is not an easy task, so legislators anxiously await the governor’s decision to see if their work will be enacted into law or tossed in the trash.
On the deadline date, we learned the fate of each bill. 44 bills were signed and four were vetoed. I have described several of the signed bills in previous reports, so now I will cover one of the vetoed bills – SB226.
SB226 started off as a simple change to the frequency businesses have to file their sales tax paperwork, a commonsense adjustment to ease the regulatory burden on our small businesses. But then amendments were added, and a couple of them poisoned the bill. One good amendment stated that if a health department shut down businesses because of a Covid outbreak in the city, those businesses would not owe property taxes to the city for the time of the shutdown. After all, how are they supposed to make money to pay the taxes if the city won’t let them open.
But the bill also acquired two problem amendments. One said that movie theaters and Branson shows could keep all of the sales taxes they charged their customers for two years to make up for their losses during the pandemic. The problem is that Covid damaged a lot of businesses, not just theaters and shows, most of which were eligible for financial help from the feds. Government allowing a break for just one industry is like a parent telling their kid they love them more (or less) than their siblings. The second problem amendment was an income tax break for marijuana businesses. That touchy topic amendment was slipped in without much attention, but the governor’s team caught it.
At this point, SB226 is dead unless the sponsor wants to try to override the governor’s veto in September’s veto session, but I doubt that happens. More likely, the good parts of the bill will be brought up again in next year’s session.
Until next time, health, happiness and prosperity to you and your family.
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PICTURES FROM THE DISTRICT
Leibrandt Jewelry in Cameron celebrates grand re-opening at new location and 147th anniversary
OTHER NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
Governor Parson Takes Final Action on Legislation Approved by the General Assembly
In the final week he was able to take action on bills approved by the General Assembly, Gov. Mike Parson signed several key measures into law. The majority of the bills will now become law on August 28. They address critical areas of need in the state such as enhanced educational opportunities for students, stronger protections for children and newborns, and increased support for law enforcement and veterans.
Bills recently signed into law:
Funding for Roads and Bridges (SB 262)
SB 262 is meant to increase transportation funding for critical state and local infrastructure projects across the state of Missouri. The bill will generate the funding by increasing the state’s fuel tax by 2.5 cents per gallon each year for five years, beginning in 2021.
Gov. Parson said, “With nearly $1 billion in unfunded transportation needs each year, we can no longer wait for another day or another generation. We must change course and address these problems head-on. SB 262 provides vital revenue that will help us fund essential road and bridge projects all across the state. Quality roads and bridges increase the efficiency and safety of our roadways, invite travelers and business investment, and save Missourians money.”
The governor noted that Missouri has the seventh largest transportation system in the nation but only ranks 45th in available revenue per road mile. Over the last 25 years, the state has not significantly increased funding streams for state or local transportation projects, while the cost to maintain Missouri roadways has continued to increase significantly.
The bill could increase transportation funding by more than $450 million once its provisions are fully implemented. An estimated $330 million per year would be available for the State Road Fund administered by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), and nearly $125 million – approximately 30 percent of total revenue – would go directly to cities and counties for local transportation projects.
The bill also includes a provision to allow Missourians to avoid the increased fuel tax. Missourians that do not wish to increase their contributions to state and local roadway repair and replacement projects can submit the required documentation – including fuel receipts – to the Missouri Department of Revenue each year for a refund.
Empowering Students to Succeed Academically (HB 349)
HB 349 is meant to empower parents to have access to schools and educational resources that will best meet the needs of their children. The legislation will create Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to help parents afford the best educational opportunities for their kids. ESAs are meant to be “a lifeline” for many children in failing schools across the state. The accounts will empower “parents with choices and alternatives so they can find the fit that is best for them.” Missourians will be able to receive a tax credit for donating to educational assistance organizations, which will provide scholarships to eligible students for a variety of costs such as tuition, tutoring, and transportation. Scholarships will be limited to students in cities with a population of 30,000 or more.
Protecting Children from Abuse (HBs 557 & 560)
HB 557 creates stronger protections for young people in unlicensed, faith-based reform schools. The bill was prompted by news articles detailing the mental, physical, and sexual abuse suffered by children in some of these schools. The bill aims to protect children by requiring all such facilities to notify the Department of Social Services of their existence, and requiring background checks for employees and volunteers. Additionally, it requires the schools to comply with health and safety standards, gives parents full access to see their children, and provides a method for children to be removed when abuse or neglect is suspected.
Improving Public Safety (SBs 53 & 60)
SBs 53 & 60 is a wide-ranging piece of legislation designed to improve public safety throughout Missouri. The bill prohibits law enforcement officers from using a respiratory choke-hold unless such a hold is utilized in defense against a serious physical injury or death. The bill also implements the Police Use of Force Transparency Act of 2021, which requires each law enforcement agency to collect and report local data on use-of-force incidents involving peace officers to the National Use of Force Data Collection through the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Other provisions in the bill will make it a crime to point a laser pointer at police, make it a felony offense for a law enforcement officer to engage in sexual conduct with a detainee or prisoner, modify the requirements to have a criminal record expunged, and allow a prosecuting or circuit attorney to file a motion to vacate or set aside a judgment at any time if he or she has information that the convicted person may be innocent or may have been erroneously convicted. The bill also includes “Raise the Age” provisions to ensure 17-year-old criminal suspects are handled by the juvenile justice system rather than be prosecuted as adults.
Supporting Law Enforcement (SBs 53 & 60)
Another provision in SBs 53 & 60 will create the Critical Incident Stress Management Program within the Department of Public Safety. The program will provide services for peace officers to assist in coping with stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from a response to a critical incident or emotionally difficult event. The bill also creates the 988 Public Safety Fund for the purpose of providing services for peace officers to assist in coping with stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from a response to such events. Additionally, the bill makes changes to peace officer licensure and commissioning requirements, and increases compensation for many county sheriffs.
Putting Newborns on a Path to Success (HB 432)
HB 432 seeks to protect newborns from potential abuse by creating the Birth Match Program. The bill requires data sharing between state departments that would better allow the state to offer prevention and crisis management support to families who may need it. The program will create a timely way for Social Services to help newborns who are likely in abusive situations before they are harmed. The bill orders data sharing between the Children’s Division of the Department of Social Services and the State Registrar’s office to compare birth reports with reports of parents who have been convicted of certain crimes or have a termination of parental rights in order to ensure the safety of the child and provide services, if needed.
Supporting Victims of Abuse (HB 432)
HB 432 contains a provision that creates the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act to provide assistance to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. The provision requires employers with 20 or more employees to provide reasonable workplace safety accommodations and allow unpaid leave to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. The amount of unpaid leave required would be limited to one week for employers with fewer than 50 employees, and two weeks at larger workplaces. Reasons for unpaid leave include attending hearings, accessing the courts, addressing physical or mental health issues and finding new living quarters.
Providing a Safe Place for Newborns (HB 432)
A provision in HB 432 will modify the state’s existing Safe Place for Newborns Act, which allows a parent to permanently give up a newborn up to 45 days old without prosecution, as long as it is done safely and in accordance with the law. The legislation would allow a parent to relinquish a newborn to a device known as a newborn safety incubator. This would allow for a parent to anonymously relinquish a child to an incubator that is climate controlled with an alarm that notifies 911 when a baby is present. Similar devices have been authorized in other states such as Arkansas and are designed to protect babies from being hurt or killed from unsafe abandonment.
Preventing Misuse of Seclusion and Restraint (HB 432)
HB 432 contains a provision that will prevent the misuse of disciplinary practices known as seclusion and restraint. The bill provides stronger definitions for the practices and regulates how they can be implemented and utilized. Seclusion and restraint are disciplinary practices used by some schools when dealing with kids who pose a threat to themselves or others. The practice is meant to be used as a last resort and involves restraining the child or removing him or her to a separate space. The bill will require schools to create policy that prohibits the use of restraint and seclusion, including “prone restraint”, for any purpose other than situations or conditions in which there is imminent danger of physical harm to self or others. The bill also requires any incident requiring restraint or seclusion to be monitored by school personnel with written observation. Additionally, it ensures parents and guardians are promptly notified when schools have used the measures on their child, and it mandates annual trainings for the school personnel who use them.
Cracking Down on Copper Theft (HB 69)
Provisions contained in HB 69 will allow the state to better crack down on copper thieves, as well as those who steal precious metals and catalytic convertors. The bill requires most transactions of scrap metal to be paid for by check or electronic funds transfer, or to include a copy of the seller’s photo identification. The change will better allow the state to track copper thieves. A system currently exists to track sales of potentially stolen copper, but cash transactions of less than $50 are untraceable. The bill will ensure all sales can be tracked, which will help to identify and deter thieves. The legislation also addresses the growing problem of catalytic convertor theft by making it a class E Felony to steal a catalytic convertor. Additionally, the bill requires buyers of precious metals to wait at least ten days to melt down the item.
Promoting Responsible Land Management (HB 369)
HB 369 creates the Prescribed Burning Act, which is meant to promote the safe, responsible use of controlled burns by licensed prescribed burn professionals throughout the state. The bill specifies that landowners will not be liable for damage, injury, or loss caused by a prescribed burn, or the resulting smoke of a prescribed burn, unless the landowner is proven to be negligent. Missouri is one of only five states that does not have statutes relating to prescribed burning.
Preventing the Scourge of Feral Hogs (HB 369)
Another provision in HB 369 is meant to help Missouri prevent the immense damage caused each year by feral hogs. The bill raises the penalty for anyone who recklessly or knowingly releases feral swine to live in the wild. Under the bill, the offense would increase from a class A misdemeanor to a class A felony. The goal is to deter individuals from further contributing to the state’s feral hog problem, which is a threat to both agriculture and wildlife.
Honoring Military Members and Veterans (SB 120)
SB 120 contains a number of provisions meant to help active members of the military and veterans. The bill follows recommendations from the U.S. Department of Defense, and pending voter approval, will create the Missouri Department of the National Guard. The new department would administer the militia and programs of the state relating to military forces, except for the Missouri Veterans Commission. It also designates November as Military Family Month to recognize the daily sacrifices of military families. SB 120 also grants an interview for any Missouri National Guard members applying for state jobs, and adds veteran questions to state forms to help connect them to services and enacts several other provisions.
Public Safety (SB 26)
SB 26 modifies several provisions related to public safety, including providing taxpayers with the ability to obtain injunctive relief if a local government decreases its police department’s budget by a prescribed amount and creating additional protections for law enforcement officers.
Additionally, the bill modifies provisions related to jail time credit for criminals prior to conviction and allows a defendant’s behavior during that same period to be considered in sentencing proceedings.
Public Safety (SB 49)
SB 49 modifies several provisions related to public safety, including establishing new watercraft and waterway regulations and eliminating safety inspections for new vehicles.
Awareness and Monument Designations (HB 72)
HB 72 establishes Law Enforcement Appreciation Day as the first Friday in May, creates Pioneering Black Women’s Day on March 26th, and establishes The Gateway Arch as Missouri’s official state monument.
Higher Education (HB 297)
HB 297 expands the available uses of 529 education savings plans, requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a state plan for Career and Technical Education, and allows college student-athletes to earn compensation for their name, image, or likeness.
Public Funds (SB 86)
SB 86 prohibits the contribution or expenditure of public funds for a variety of political causes and updates provisions related to ESAs.
Memorial Highways (SB 520)
SB 520 establishes numerous memorial highways throughout the state.