As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by trade, I consider the label "bean counter" a term of endearment. As your state senator, you better believe I make it my mission to be the best steward of your taxpayer dollars as I can possibly be -- and that includes uncovering new ways to generate revenue without taking any more of your hard-earned beans than is absolutely necessary.
With that in mind, this week I introduced Senate Bill 452, the Video Lottery Control Act, to members of the Senate Economic Development Committee, on which I sit. The bill establishes a regulatory framework for Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs): player-activated commercial gaming machines that randomly generate the outcome of virtual lottery drawings. Maximum bets and payouts would be capped at $2 and $500, respectively.
Right now, by virtue of turning a blind eye and allowing VLTs to operate unregulated, we are leaving valuable money on the table, a practice any bean counter worth his salt simply can't abide. We can't afford to let that sort of passive negligence go unchecked -- and we won't, not if I can help it. Senate Bill 452 will right that wrong and, while not a cure-all, will provide a much-needed shot-in-the-arm to not only the state economy as a whole, but to our hometown communities as well.
My proposed legislation will bring VLT operation into compliance with state law, which clearly mandates that games of chance must be governed by the Missouri Lottery Commission, except those operating on riverboat casinos, in which case they are governed by the Missouri Gaming Commission.
Forcing the underground operators of these machines to operate in accordance with the letter of the law, to come out from the backrooms and operate in the light of day will not only make playing video lottery games safer and ensure fairness, it is also projected to generate a net state revenue increase of more than $100 million annually once the program is fully phased-in. Thirty percent of adjusted gross receipts will be distributed solely to higher education. Licensing renewal fees will be distributed to the Veterans Commission on Capital Improvement Trust Fund. While I'm by no means a proponent of gambling, if it's going to go on anyway, it might as well be doing some good instead of just lining the pockets of unlicensed (read: non-taxpaying) operators.
Senate Bill 452 stipulates that manufacturers, retailers, operators and handlers of VLTs be licensed by the Missouri Lottery. Anyone who meets licensing requirements can be an operator, including casinos, which would mean the possibility of a new product offering for Missouri's 13 casinos, who by the way, are the bill's only opponents.
Licensed VLT operators would generally be limited to bars/restaurants and truck stops, which could have up to five VLTs per licensed facility. Fraternal or veterans' organizations such as Eagles Lodges and VFW posts could have up to 10 VLTs per licensed facility.
This revenue-generating legislation was well received in committee, with several witnesses testifying to its integrity and importance. I am hopeful it will be voted out of committee and scheduled for floor debate soon.
In the meantime, I will continue to look for ways to help combat revenue shortages so we can do things like fully fund our schools and address needed improvements to our state's transportation system, among other critical concerns.
Supporting our Honey Bee Farmers
I'll admit, I've long thought of livestock as any animal that can be roped and tied, plucked or sheered, but the esteemed honey bee farmers of the 21st District have enlightened my thinking. For them, I have filed Senate Bill 472, which has been referred to the Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee.
Senate Bill 472 would modify the definition of "livestock" to include honey bees for the purposes of state sales tax law. This bill would allow tax write-offs to the numerous honey bee farmers in my district for business expenses related to the costs associated with farming bees. This business-friendly legislation will make the business of farming honey bees more equitable with other classifications of livestock farming, e.g., cattle, chicken, sheep, etc., affording honey bee farmers the same tax exemptions enjoyed by other livestock farmers.
Further, SB 472 recognizes the importance of doing all we can to support our honey bee farmers, many of whom reside and operate in the 21st Senate District. As has been widely reported, honey bee populations have been on the decline, which is concerning because research shows that one out of every three bites of food we eat is a result of pollinators like honey bees. Honey bees need healthy crops and healthy crops need honey bees, so keeping honey bee farming sustainable is necessary for all of us to continue enjoying the foods we love.
Bill Tracking Update
SB 183 - 03/02/2017 Reported Do Pass (GREF)
Extends the Big Government Get Off My Back Act and modifies several provisions relating to the collection of money by public entities
SB 257 - 03/01/2017 Hearing Held (COMM)
Allows telephone companies to select an alternate method of property tax assessment
SB 280 - 03/02/2017 Reported Do Pass (VETS)
Requires the Department of Revenue to issue both REAL ID compliant and noncompliant driver's licenses and identification cards
SB 335 - 02/15/2017 Voted Do Pass (SFCH)
Modifies the definition of a service dog
SB 359 - 02/21/2017 Hearing Held (SBIN)
Modifies provisions relating to the promotion and sale of alcoholic beverages
SB 360 - 02/14/2017 Hearing Held (EDUC)
Modifies provisions relating to virtual public schools
SB 375 - 02/09/2017 Referred to Committee ((SFCH)
Changes the law regarding consent for a minor to obtain an abortion
SB 376 - 03/02/2017 Reported Do Pass (GENL)
Designates "Old Drum" as the historical dog of the state of Missouri
SB 395 - 02/13/2017 Referred to Committee (PROF)
Modifies provisions relating to the practice of public accounting
SB 416 - 02/28/2017 Hearing Held (WAME)
Exempts the purchase of utilities for certain food preparation uses from state sales and use taxes
SB 452 - 02/28/2017 Hearing Held (EDEV)
Creates the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act
SB 454 - 03/02/2017 Referred to Committee (PROF)
Modifies provisions of the Missouri Athletic Trainer Practice Act
SB 472 - 03/02/2017 Referred to Committee (AGRI)
Modifies the definition of "livestock" to include honey bees for the purposes of the state sales tax law
SB 485 - 03/02/2017 Referred to Committee (EDUC)
Excludes funds designated by taxpayers in an urban district as early childhood education funds from the local tax revenue calculation used to provide funding to charter schools that declared themselves as a local education agency
SB 531 - 03/01/2017 First Read (S)
Provides for patient due process for persons receiving services from the Division of Developmental Disabilities
SB 532 - 03/01/2017 First Read (S)
Modifies provisions relating to Department of Mental Health inspections
SCR 7 - 01/18/2017 Referred to Committee (RJRR)
Expresses support for the people of Israel
SCR 15 - 02/14/2017 Referred to Committee (RJRR)
Designates Aug. 21, 2017, as "Total Eclipse Day" in the state of Missouri
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.