First, some good news this week. According to the Clayton Times, WalletHub recently conducted a comprehensive study that ranked Missouri among the best nationwide in terms of return on investment (ROI) for state and local taxes. Specifically, Missouri was ranked 7th in terms of return on investment for state and local taxes, and 5th in total taxes per capita for those age 18 and older. In order to determine which states yield the best and worst ROI for taxpayers, WalletHub compared the quality of government services received by residents to the total state and local taxes they pay in each of the 50 states.
The research-based website analyzed each state across five key government-service categories: education, health, safety, economy as well as infrastructure and pollution. The categories were further broken down into 25 relevant metrics. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the best quality of government service. For more info, visit: http://claytontimes.com/missouri-ranked-among-best-for-roi-on-state-local-taxes/
Missouri House Approves Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1266)
The Missouri House of Representatives approved legislation this week that would prohibit abortions on any fetus a doctor determines is capable of feeling pain.
House Bill 1266 would prevent such abortions unless they are found to be necessary to avert the mother’s death, or if there is a serious risk to the mother of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. In such cases, a doctor would be required to end the pregnancy in a way that gives the fetus the greatest chance of survival without posing such risks to the mother.
The bill also requires reporting of such abortions to the Department of Health and Senior Services, and would make a doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the bill’s provisions subject to discipline. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
House Moves to Protect and Expand the Use of Service Animals (HB 1369 and HB 2031)
House members approved two pieces of legislation this week related to the use of service dogs in Missouri. One would expand the state’s legal definition of what qualifies as a “service dog.” The other would make it illegal to misrepresent an animal as a service animal.
HB 1369 changes the definition of “service dog” to include psychiatric service dogs and mental health service dogs. The definition covers dogs that serve individuals with conditions including panic attacks, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The sponsor said the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has left the definition of what is considered a “service dog” in a gray area, so HB 1369 would make clear what animals qualify as service dogs.
HB 2031 would add the crime of misrepresenting a dog or animal as a service dog or assistance animal to Missouri’s existing law against impersonating a person with a disability. It would make those crimes misdemeanors punishable by up to fifteen days in jail, or up to 6 months for repeated violations.
HB 2031 would require the Commission on Human Rights to use its existing complaint hotline to take reports of individuals believed to be faking having a disability or a service animal. It would also require the Governor’s Council on Disability to design a placard that restaurants and other businesses could display stating that service dogs are welcome and that misrepresentation of a service dog is illegal. A brochure would also be created to help business owners know what questions are allowed and guidelines on how to behave around service animals. Both bills have now moved to the Senate for consideration.
Tax Reform Bill Receives First-Round Approval (HB 2540)
In an effort to ease the tax burden on Missouri families, the bill would reduce the state’s highest personal income tax rate from 5.9 percent to 5.0 percent. The change would place Missouri in the top 10 states for lowest personal income tax. The bill would also help Missouri’s business climate by cutting the corporate income tax from 6.25 percent to 5.0 percent. This reduction would also put Missouri in the top 10 states for the lowest corporate income tax.
Lawmakers gave initial approval this week to comprehensive tax reform legislation that would cut the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates and transform Missouri’s tax system to the most competitive in the nation. The legislation would also make substantive reforms to generate much-needed funding to repair and improve Missouri’s aging transportation infrastructure.
The sponsor of the bill noted the bill has four pillars – an income tax cut, a business tax cut, a funding mechanism for the state’s road fund, and a variety of fiscally responsible revenue generators. As he told his colleagues, “The reason that we run for office, and stand on the floor, is to try to do big and bold and ambitious things for this state, and I believe this is one of them.”
Additionally, the bill would generate much-needed revenues for the state’s roads and bridges. It would put Missouri in line with many other states by indexing vehicle user fees to the cost of inflation. The state’s current vehicle license and registration fees were put in statute in 1984, and have not changed in more than 30 years. The tax reform bill would update fees from their 1984 value to present day value. The increase is a key component to the effort to generate more than $2 billion in additional funding for transportation infrastructure over the next decade. The idea was recommended by both the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force and the House Policy Development Caucus.
Additionally, to maintain financial stability to the state tax code, the bill would make a number of other reforms including:
- Joining the Streamlined Sales Tax agreement so that Missouri collects sales tax on online purchases so that Missouri brick and mortar businesses are on equal footing with online competitors;
- Phasing out the federal income tax deduction on state returns for individuals and corporations with over $150,000 in income;
- Reducing waste in state government by consolidating maintenance between certain government agencies;
- Eliminating deductions and closing loopholes; and
- Implementing other necessary reforms that would eliminate government inefficiencies.
The reforms are critical components to keep the bill fiscally responsible and as close to revenue neutral as possible. The bill now requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
Earlier this week, I enjoyed chatting with Lt. Jason Coon, Johnson County Fire District, who traveled to the Capitol for the 2018 Fire Fighters Day hosted by the Missouri Fire Service Alliance and several other related associations. Hundreds of firefighters and first responders were at the Capitol to participate in the event that is meant to recognize the importance of the work they do to keep Missouri families and communities safe.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.