Another busy week is coming to a close in Jefferson City and once again I'm doing everything I can for small businesses in Missouri. This week, a piece of legislation I filed called the "Big Government Get off My Back Act" was heard in the Senate Committee on Government Reform.
Senate Bill 183, if passed, would modify several provisions relating to the collection of moneys by public entities. Specifically, it would limit the state of Missouri's power to increase user fees; and it would also limit the ability of any state agency to propose a rule not required by the federal government or the General Assembly, and result in net savings for Missouri taxpayers. The Act would also expand the definition of "small business" from those consisting of fewer than 50 full or part-time employees to 100.
Further, SB 183 provides for an income tax deduction for each new job created by any small business for the 2017-2021 tax years, and includes a sunset provision. Small businesses in Missouri would receive a $10,000 tax deduction for hiring new employees and paying them the average wage in the county unless that average is above the statewide average, as determined by the Department of Economic Development.
I previously sponsored nearly identical legislation in the House of Representatives, which passed in 2009 and expired in 2014. By the end of 2014, nearly 200 small businesses were able to utilize this program to grow jobs in Missouri small businesses. I am hopeful businesses will again be able to benefit from this pro-business legislation, and that it will pass out of committee and be debated on the floor soon.
In other news, Senate Bill 335 was unanimously voted out of the Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee, moving it one step closer to becoming law. I first told you about this bill in last week's column when it was heard in committee. This bill would add "mental health service dog" to the definition of a service dog. A mental health service dog, or psychiatric service dog, is a dog that has been specially trained for an owner who has a psychiatric disability, medical condition or developmental disability. These dogs are trained to perform tasks to assist the owner, including alerting or responding to panic attacks and anxiety, as well as performing other tasks directly related to the owner's disability. I am thrilled this was passed by the committee and look forward to debating it on the floor of the senate.
Finally, another piece of legislation I am sponsoring was heard in the Senate Education Committee this week. Senate Bill 360 would modify provisions relating to virtual public schools, specifically as it pertains to funding. This bill seeks to reinstate funding previously appropriated for virtual schools, which was defunded by our previous governor in 2009.
In 2009, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) launched its Top 10 by 20 program, which aims for student achievement in Missouri to rank among the top ten states by 2020. Among program goals is seeing that all Missouri students will graduate college, and career, ready. Unfortunately, ACT results for Missouri's 2015 graduating class reveal that barely half our students are college-ready in reading, while less than half are college-ready in math and science. Throughout the country, about 1.5 percent of students choose to enroll in virtual schools. Paving the way, by virtue of a viable funding structure, for Missouri students to access virtual classes, be it on a full-time or class-by-class basis, will go a long way toward helping bridge the gap in college readiness so many Missouri students now suffer.
I urge you to contact my office with any questions or concerns you have about state government so I can better represent you during the 2017 legislative session.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.