The members of the Missouri House and Senate finished up an extremely productive legislative session Friday evening as they gave final approval to several important measures. The regular session came to a close with the General Assembly giving final passage to more than 145 bills. The number represents an increase from the previous session when the legislature pushed 76 bills across the legislative finish line. The bills approved this year make substantive improvements for the people of Missouri by lowering taxes for working families, cutting bureaucratic red tape, providing expanded educational opportunities to young people, supporting the state’s veterans, and protecting victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse.
Fiscally Responsible State Spending Plan with a Record Investment in Education
In addition to the policy initiatives adopted by the General Assembly, one of the biggest accomplishments of the 2018 session is a fiscally responsible state spending plan that makes a record level of investment in K-12 education. The spending plan approved by lawmakers fully funds the Foundation Formula for two consecutive years for the first time in state history. The spending plan also reverses cuts to higher education proposed by the governor. The restored funding is part of an agreement with the state’s colleges and universities that will keep tuition increases in check so that higher education remains affordable for Missouri families.
The fiscally responsible $28.3 billion spending plan approved by the legislature also holds welfare spending in check, and includes a budget reserve of $100 million to allow for emergency spending needs. Additionally, the budget approved by the House and Senate increases the level of transparency and accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars. The budget plan breaks down spending for the state’s legal expense fund, and improves transparency for spending within the state’s conservation department, as well for dollars allocated to home-delivered meals.
Some Key 2018 Legislative Accomplishments Include:
— Vacancies in County Elected Offices (HB1428) – HB 1428, which was one of the bills I sponsored, was Finally Agreed and Truly Passed. This bill allows the County Commission to temporary appoint a qualified person to an elected county office position, due to the vacancy caused in any manner, within 14 days of the vacancy, until the Governor fills the vacancy by appointment, within 60 days of the vacancy. The next general election would then determine the newly elected office holder.
This legislation would not apply to any county office in which the county has adopted a charter for its own government, such as Class I counties, or any county office position that already has an adopted plan for vacancy. This legislation would help prevent certain county offices to be closed due to a vacancy.
— Working Family Tax Relief (HB 2540) - Missouri families will keep more of their paychecks under a tax cut approved by the General Assembly this session. The bill will provide Missourians with the largest single year income tax cut in the state’s history. The bill reduces the existing individual income tax rate from 5.9 percent to 5.5 percent. Additional triggers based upon revenue growth in the state will eventually lower the individual tax income rate to 5.1 percent, putting Missouri among the top states for lowest state income taxes.
— Corporate Tax Reform (SB 884) – In an effort to make Missouri even more attractive to job creators, the legislature has approved a bill that will make Missouri’s corporate income tax the second lowest in the nation, lowering the corporate income tax rate from 6.25 percent to 4 percent in 2020. The bill will be revenue neutral by closing loopholes in the current corporate tax structure, and will require all corporations to use a single-sales factor income allocation method, which will encourage investment and job creation in the state. The measure is meant to update the state’s outdated and complex corporate income tax code, and to create the best environment to drive economic development in Missouri.
— Uniform Small Wireless Deployment Act (HB 1991) – The House and Senate worked together this session to approve legislation bringing Missouri’s wireless technology into the 21st century. The bill will allow “small cell” facilities to be deployed statewide so that the next generation of wireless technology can deliver faster and more efficient service. The bill is expected to create more than 20,000 jobs and attract $2 billion in capital investment leading to nearly $4 billion in economic growth over the next few years.
— Grid Modernization and Rate Stabilization (SB 564) – The bill will allow the state’s biggest electricity companies to make improvements to their infrastructure with the more consistent rate increases. The legislation will lead to more than $1 billion in new investment and 3,000 new jobs in Missouri.
— Expanding Rural Broadband (HB 1880) – The General Assembly believes expanding and accelerating access to high-speed broadband communications services is in the best interests of citizens and encourages rural electric cooperatives to enter into agreements or contracts with certain entities set forth in this act. Currently, rural electric cooperatives just like Co-Mo Electric located at Tipton, MO, has done, have certain powers, including the power to construct electric transmission and distribution lines or systems. Under the bill, such "electric transmission and distribution lines or systems" would be defined to include copper and fiber optic cable, facilities, as well as technology that carries light signals and data beyond that necessary for the transmission and distribution of electricity.
— Rural Broadband Development (HB 1872) – The General Assembly approved a bill this year to help expand broadband internet service throughout the state. The bill establishes a program to award grants to applicants who seek to expand access to broadband internet service in unserved and underserved areas of the state. The program will be administered by the department of economic development. The legislation is
meant to address the 61 percent of rural Missourians, representing more than one million individuals, who do not have access to reliable broadband services.
— Funding Road and Bridge Projects and Supporting the Highway Patrol (HB 1460) - Under legislation approved this session, voters will have the opportunity to decide if the state’s tax on fuel should be increased to provide a dedicated funding source for the state highway patrol, which will free up funding for Missouri’s roads and bridges. If approved by voters in November, the measure would gradually phase in a fuel tax increase of up to 10 cents per gallon by raising the tax by 2.5 cents a year for four years beginning July 2019. The bill is expected to raise at least $288 million annually for the State Road Fund to provide funding of Missouri state law enforcement, and $123 million annually to local governments for road construction and maintenance.
— Legalizing Industrial Hemp (HB 2034) - The Missouri General Assembly approved a bill that will legalize the growing of industrial hemp in Missouri. The bill is meant to promote industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity in Missouri, which was one of the largest producers of industrial hemp in the nation before it became illegal. The legislation will exempt industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana and the list of controlled substances. It will allow an individual who has received an industrial hemp license to grow, harvest, cultivate, and process industrial hemp. The bill establishes a pilot program under the Department of Agriculture to implement the licensing standards and requirements. In addition, the bill requires every grower or handler to be subject to an industrial hemp monitoring system to ensure compliance with state law and department rules.
— Criminalizing “Revenge Porn” (HB 1558) - Members of the legislature approved a bill that will make it a felony offense to disseminate private sexual images without the consent of the person in the image. The legislation makes it a class D felony to disseminate private sexual images without consent. The legislation also makes it a class E felony to threaten the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images.
— Raising the Marriage Age to Protect Young People (SB 655) - The Missouri General Assembly has given final approval to legislation that will raise the marriage age in Missouri in an effort to protect young people. Under current law, no marriage license will be issued to authorize the marriage of a person under 15 without a court order for good cause shown. The bill approved by the General Assembly will raise the minimum age of marriage to 16 and removes the discretion for the court to issue a license to anyone under the minimum age. In addition, the bill states that no license can be issued for the marriage of a person 21 years or older if the other party is less than 17 years of age. The bill is an important part of the state’s efforts to prevent child marriages that are used to disguise abusive situations and human trafficking.
— Fighting Human Trafficking (HB 1246) – Legislation approved by the General Assembly addresses the growing problem of human trafficking. The state is currently ranked 20th in reported human trafficking cases according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Lawmakers built on past efforts to address the trafficking problem by passing legislation that will make Missourians better aware of the resources available to assist victims of trafficking. The bill requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a poster to promote the use of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. The posters will be displayed at common areas where human trafficking can occur such as hotels or motels that have been cited for prostitution, and train and bus stations.
— “Raise the Age” (SB 793) – Members of the General Assembly approved legislation meant to reduce the number of young people in the adult correctional system; to make Missouri safer; and to save taxpayer dollars. The bill will raise the age at which suspects are automatically prosecuted as adults from 17 to 18. Missouri is one of only five states that currently automatically try 17-year-olds in adult courts. The bill will require children under the age of 18 to be prosecuted in juvenile courts unless the child is certified as an adult or is being prosecuted for a traffic or curfew violation. To help afford the increased load on the juvenile justice system, the bill creates the "Juvenile Justice Preservation Fund" as well as a surcharge of $3.50 to be assessed on all civil actions filed in Missouri.
— Treatment Courts (HB 2562) – The Missouri General Assembly gave final approval to a bill meant to improve the quality and consistency of treatment courts throughout Missouri. The bill will establish treatment court divisions, which include, but are not limited to, Adult Treatment Court, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Court, Family Treatment Court, Juvenile Treatment Court, and Veterans Treatment Court. The legislation will give local courts the authority and flexibility to set their own policies for treatment courts. The bill specifies that the Treatment Courts Coordinating Commission will establish standards and practices for the treatment courts.
— Prevailing Wage Reform (HBs 1729, 1621 & 1436) – The legislature approved legislation that would
reform the state’s prevailing wage law to ensure taxpayers are getting better value when their tax dollars are spent on public works projects. The bill modifies the prevailing wage hourly rate so that if fewer than 1,000 hours are reported, workers will be paid the public works minimum wage, which is based on the actual county average wage for all workers reported by the Department of Labor. If more than 1,000 hours are reported, the workers will be paid the prevailing wage rate, which will be a weighted average wage. The bill will also exempt projects under $75,000 from the prevailing wage law. The legislation is meant to save colleges, schools, counties, and cities millions and stimulate more building by making taxpayer dollars go further.
— Supporting Veterans (SB 573) – A wide-ranging piece of legislation approved by the General Assembly will provide additional support to members of the National Guard and the state’s veterans. The bill will allow members of the National Guard or reserve components of the Armed Forces of the United States to deduct their military income from their Missouri adjusted gross income to determine their Missouri taxable income. The bill will also allow private nonpublic employers to grant preference to a veteran, the spouse of a disabled veteran with a service-connected disability, or a surviving spouse of a deceased veteran, when hiring and promoting employees. The goal of the change is to make it clear that private businesses can give preferential hiring treatment to veterans in the same way that both the state and federal government do. Another provision of the bill will require all state buildings to display the POW/MIA flag. Other provisions of the bill will allow veteran-owned businesses to participate in the Missouri Linked Deposit Program; extend the period of assistance in the Show-Me Heroes Program from one year to five years following discharge; establish the Veterans’ Bill of Rights; and establish the Missouri Military Community Reinvestment Program Act to assist military communities in supporting and sustaining their installations.
The early part of June you should be receiving my End of Session Newsletter, summarizing the total “Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed” bills for 2018. You can determine the effective date of a bill by going to house.mo.gov and following the path Bill Information/Bill Tracking/Bills Truly Agreed and Finally Passed by Effective Date.
It is an honor to serve the constituents in the 48th House District. As always, if we can ever be of any assistance to you at your State Capitol or you ever have questions, concerns, or input, do not hesitate to contact us at 573-751- 0169 or you can reach my assistant, June, at email@example.com. If your plans bring you to Jefferson City at any time during the year, please feel free to visit my Capitol office room 235B.
I continue to pray daily for the Lord’s guidance in making decisions as your State Representative. Please pray for me, the Legislative Body, and pray to preserve our Freedoms.