The Missouri General Assembly is on spring recess this week, so there was no legislative activity at the State Capitol. Most senators and representatives have spent the week back in their respective districts, meeting with constituents, while also trying to catch up on the details of their regular jobs and lives.
Since we’re at the mid-point in the 2021 session, it seems like a good time to recap and see how far we’ve come. To date, the Senate has referred 28 bills and three resolutions to the House of Representatives. Among the more notable measures passed by the Senate are:
Senate Bill 4: This legislation includes several provisions relating to automobile insurance. The bill increases penalties for repeat offenders who fail to purchase insurance. It also requires the Department of Revenue to maintain an online system to verify auto insurance compliance.
Senate Bill 22: A measure to reform Tax Increment Financing (TIF) programs, this bill prohibits TIF incentives in most floodplains and “Greenfield” areas, which include certain agricultural lands outside of city limits. The bill also expands the TIF program to include port infrastructure projects near navigable rivers.
Senate Bill 26: This measure relates to public safety. It establishes a “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights” to ensure due process for police officers accused of wrong-doing. The bill also makes it a crime to block traffic during a protest. Citizens are given authority to seek injunctions against local governments that attempt to “defund the police.”
Senate Bill 51: A top priority for the governor, this is the COVID-19 liability bill. The legislation shields small businesses, health care workers and facilities, as well as certain manufacturers from pandemic-related lawsuits unless willful misconduct or recklessness can be shown. These reforms are intended to give businesses the confidence to reopen safely without fear of unfounded lawsuits.
Senate Bill 86: Public schools will not be allowed to use public funds to support or oppose any political candidates or ballot measures.
Senate Bill 128: This bill creates an “Inmate Canteen Fund.” Money inmates spend at prison canteens could be used to pay for recreational, religious, educational and reentry programs. The measure also provides feminine hygiene products to female offenders.
Senate Bill 152: This is an education reform measure I sponsored. The legislation makes changes to Missouri’s education savings program, expanding the definition of eligible educational institutions, and brings our state program in line with rules and guidelines of federal 529 plans. I was also able to attach an amendment that requires specialized programs for gifted students at any public school district or charter school where at least 3% of enrolled students are determined to be gifted.
Senate Bill 153: Most online sellers who deliver tangible goods to Missouri consumers would be required to collect sales/use taxes on the sale. This measure applies sales tax laws equally and fairly, leveling the playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses operating in Missouri. The bill adds three additional thresholds to trigger income tax cuts if state revenue exceeds a certain amount. A provision of the bill creates a state version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.
Senate Bill 262: This is the gas tax bill, which I voted against. This proposal would raise the price you pay at the pump by 2.5 cents per gallon every year through 2025, eventually raising Missouri’s fuel tax to 29.5 cents per gallon. This is nearly a 70 percent increase. I don’t believe this is warranted at a time when billions of dollars are coming into the state from federal COVID-19 programs and the state coffers are full of money. The bill still has to pass the House, so it’s not a done deal yet.
The Legislature resumes its work at the Capitol on March 22. We will continue to hear Senate bills in committee, but we’ll also begin taking testimony on House bills. I expect there will be more long days and late nights in the Senate chamber as we deliberate the measures before us. I’ll be sure to keep you updated as we work toward the end of session on May 14.
As always, I 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 email@example.com.