This past week I celebrated, along with my constituents, the Fourth of July with patriotic parades, fireworks and street fairs. It is a time when we as Americans celebrate our nation’s Independence, as well as honor our veterans. On the Fourth of July I attended parades in Fayette and Bunceton. The city of Bunceton had its Sesquicentennial Celebration July 1-4, which also included honoring our veterans. I also attended a parade on July 5 in Smithton during the Pettis County Fair.
State Operating Budget Signed into Law
With the governor’s signature, the appropriations bills that make up the Fiscal Year 2019 state operating budget officially became law and took effect when the new fiscal year began July 1. In total, the bills make up a $28.6 billion budget that makes a record investment in K-12 education, and stabilizes funding for Missouri’s institutions of higher learning.
Some of the highlights of the state spending plan include:
—Full funding for the school foundation formula for the second consecutive year for the first time in the state’s history. Lawmakers approved a $99 million funding increase for K-12 public schools, while also increasing funding for school transportation by more than $10 million.
—Reversal of a recommended cut of $68 million for higher education funding in conjunction with a deal that will prevent excessive tuition increases at the state’s universities and colleges.
—Funding increases for the state’s scholarship programs, which include a $2 million increase for Access Missouri, $3.5 million in additional funds for the A+ Scholarship Program, and an additional $1 million for Bright Flight.
—$1.8 million increase in funding for the state’s independent living centers, which help people with disabilities to increase their independence and their opportunity to participate in day-to-day life within their communities.
—$4 million in state support for Missouri’s Access to Recovery program and peer support, which helps individuals and families struggling with substance use disorders and provides the tools needed for long-term recovery.
—$8.5 million increase in funding for the First Steps Program that provides services to families with children, birth to 3 years of age, with disabilities or developmental delays.
—$4.75 million increase over the governor’s recommendation for tourism funding and grants ($14.75 million total).
While the governor signed the majority of the legislature’s budget priorities into law, he also used his line-item veto authority to strike several appropriations from the spending plan. In total he issued 21 line-item vetoes totaling more than $12 million. The vetoes impact funding for several of the state’s colleges and universities, including Missouri Southern, Harris-Stowe, Truman State, Northwest Missouri State, and Three Rivers Community College. Other vetoes impact funding for the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Office of Child Advocate, and Volunteer Firefighter Workers’ Compensation Grants.
With the vetoed appropriations, we as lawmakers will have the option to consider veto overrides during the annual Veto Session in September. An override requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the legislature and would reauthorize the vetoed spending line.
Schoolchildren Health, Hunger and Hygiene Tax Credit Signed into Law (HB 1288)
A piece of legislation designed to reauthorize several benevolent tax credits includes a provision that is designed specifically to benefit schoolchildren. The bill, which was recently signed into law by the governor, offers an incentive for financial contributions to organizations that provide funding for unmet health, hunger and hygiene needs of children in school.
The sponsor’s inspiration for the legislation was the result of attending a presentation by one of the founders of the Care to Learn organization. Care to Learn focuses on meeting the health, hunger and hygiene needs of schoolchildren with 33 chapters throughout the state. Knowing that these issues can be significant barriers to learning and student success, the bill’s sponsor was committed to finding a way to help.
The legislation approved by the General Assembly allows taxpayers to receive a credit against their taxes in an amount equal to 50 percent of the amount of the eligible donation. The program will be administered like the state’s other benevolent tax credit programs, such as those benefiting maternity homes and pregnancy resource centers. Once a donation is received, the provider organization will submit an application on behalf of the taxpayer to the Missouri Department of Social Services for approval of a tax credit.
As the sponsor said, “Children who struggle with not having enough to eat, with cleanliness, or with illness are distracted by those issues and unable to concentrate on reading, math or science. Removing these barriers can help them learn and be successful in school.”
In addition to creating the Schoolchildren Health, Hunger and Hygiene Tax Credit, the legislation modifies the Champion for Children Tax Credit, extends the sunset and raises the cap on Maternity Homes and Pregnancy Resource Centers Tax Credits, extends and expands the Donated Food Tax Credit, and creates the Diaper Bank Tax Credit.
Strengthening Security at Nuclear Power Plants (HB 1797)
Another bill already signed into law will strengthen security measures at nuclear power plants in Missouri and define specifically what armed nuclear security guards can do to provide protection at these facilities. Supporters say the legislation will play a vital role in ensuring the safety and security of the state’s only nuclear power plant in Callaway County.
Known as the Nuclear Power Plant Security Guard Act, the bill specifies the level of physical force security guards can use while guarding a nuclear power plant; protects certain nuclear power plant employers from civil liability in carrying out their duties; and increases the penalties associated with trespassing at a nuclear power plant.
The bill’s sponsor said the legislation will “be helpful to those charged with protecting some of our most sensitive assets in the country, and it also resolves conflicts between Missouri state statues and federal law.”
Helping Missourians Locate Unclaimed Property
The Missouri State Treasurer’s Office is currently working to help more than 100,000 Missourians reclaim lost property. This is part of an annual effort to put millions of dollars in unclaimed property back into the hands of its rightful owners.
Currently, Missouri has $988 million in unclaimed property for Missouri in more than 4.8 million owner accounts. One in 10 Missourians has unclaimed property, and the average return is $300. The unclaimed property is the result of financial institutions, businesses, government agencies, and other organizations turning over millions of dollars in cash and the contents of nearly 1,000 safe deposit boxes to the treasurer’s office each year. These entities are required to turn over unclaimed property to the State Treasurer’s Office after there has been no document transaction or contact with the owner for five years.
The state treasurer has printed the names of more than 100,000 Missourians who have unclaimed property in more than 100 publications across the state. Individuals interested in finding out if they have unclaimed property can also visit www.showmemoney.com and search the treasurer’s online database. Alternatively, they can write the treasurer’s office at P.O. Box 1004, Jefferson City, MO 65102 to inquire about any unclaimed property.
This year the legislature approved a bill (SB 644) to better protect unclaimed property account owners. The bill makes it a crime for an heirfinder to enter into an agreement to help claim unclaimed property for compensation without first registering with the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office. The bill also gives the State Treasurer’s Office greater flexibility to enforce provisions relating to heirfinder registration in order to better protect unclaimed property account owners. The bill is meant to provide additional protections for Missouri taxpayers and unclaimed property owners against fraud and abuse.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.