This was a fun week. It started out Monday morning when I met Governor Parson up in Marshall. He first visited Hardeman R-10 School to celebrate teacher appreciation week and visited with the children. A lot of smiles and the kids got to ask questions about what it was like being the Governor. After that, we headed to the Saline County Career Center to see all the different classes they offer to get kids ready for the workforce. Workforce Development is a priority for Governor Parson and these career centers are essential in getting kids ready for the workforce directly out of High School, should they want to go that route. We must continue to invest in these kind of buildings and programs to have a ready and able workforce in the future.
Later that day, it was my honor to present a constituent of the 51st, Allison Weber of Marshall, a courtesy resolution for her fantastic year competing on the Drury University Swim Team. Allison won the National Championship for the 1000 Freestyle. I was able to introduce her to the entire General Assembly, as well as Lt. Governor Kehoe and Governor Parson. It was great having a National Champion visit us here at the Capitol.
I was also awarded Advocate for Agriculture Policy Freshman Legislator of the Year by The Speaker.
BILLS: Out of the four bills I filed this year, three are getting closer to finish line. We combined two bills into one, HB 604, and it should be third read on the Senate floor next week (the week of May 3rd). The other bill gaining some traction is HB 1337, which will make it easier for YMCAs to feed at-risk children, has been added as an amendment to a Senate bill that is likely to pass. A lot of work to do these last two weeks.
Check out some pictures of the events from this week and as always, don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions or concerns I thank you for your support and am honored to be your representative in Jefferson City.
House Approves Funding Bills for Capital Improvement Projects (HB 17, HB 18, and HB 19)
The members of the Missouri House took time this week to approve three bills that will provide vital funding to capital improvement projects around the state. The nearly $773 million in funding contained in the three bills would allow for new construction and repair work at state parks, four-year universities, community colleges, and state-owned facilities.
HB 17 reappropriates $229.7 million for capital improvement projects and maintenance and repair projects that span multiple budget cycles and fiscal years. The bill includes funding for projects around the state including repair and construction for the Missouri School for the Blind, several state parks, veterans’ cemeteries, Fulton State Hospital, Missouri State Highway Patrol facilities, and Missouri National Guard facilities.
The House Budget Committee Vice-Chair said, “These are projects that have been previously vetted and approved in past years. They’re projects that are ongoing. We need to reauthorize and reappropriate this funding to ensure the completion of these projects.”
HB 18 authorizes $312 million of maintenance and repair spending for state-owned facilities. The bill includes more than $40 million for state park and historic site capital improvements. It also includes more than $56 million for repairs and improvements at state veterans’ homes. Additionally, the bill allocates more than $80 million for maintenance and repair at state facilities across Missouri.
HB 19 allocates $230.6 million to be used for capital improvement projects in all parts of the state.
The bill includes $68.5 million for improvements and upgrades at state parks and facilities across the state. It also includes more than $50 million for the state’s four-year universities. This funding includes $15 million for a new veterinary medicine diagnostic laboratory at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and $4.6 million for Truman State University for a center for the treatment of autism and other developmental disabilities. Lincoln University will receive $4 million to expand facilities for nursing education and Missouri Southern State University will receive $2.5 million to repair and maintain the Taylor Performing Arts Center. Funds are also approved to expand technical education in several locations including Ashland, Perryville, and Farmington. Additionally, the bill appropriates $18 million for deferred maintenance at the state’s 12 community colleges.
The bill also includes more than $9 million for improvements for the State Capitol Building.
The House Budget Committee Vice-Chair said, “We have a duty and an obligation to set aside resources, as we are doing here, to protect and preserve our Capitol Building for posterity for future generations of Missourians.” He added, “The people of this state deserve a Capitol Building as good as they are, and that’s what we’re giving them in HB 19.”
The three funding bills are now under consideration by the Senate.
House Approves Bill to Crack Down on Call Spoofers (HB 242)
Members of the Missouri House took action this week to protect vulnerable Missourians from predatory callers who hid their identities. The bill passed by the House would establish the "Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act."
Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to caller ID display to disguise their identity. Scammers often use neighbor spoofing so it appears that an incoming call is coming from a local number, or spoof a number from a company or a government agency the individual they are calling may already know and trust. Spoofers use scam scripts to try to steal money or valuable personal information, which can be used in fraudulent activity.
“It's the vulnerable adults who I am worried about more than anything else. They think they get a phone call from maybe their son, and it’s not, and they pick up and they go down some kind of tale of misfortune and then try to get some personal information from them and all of a sudden it leads into some financial information, or dollars being sent to these people,” said the bill’s sponsor.
The bill would create the offense of caller identification spoofing. An individual commits the offense of caller identification spoofing if he or she enters or causes to be entered false information into a caller ID service with the intent to deceive, defraud, or mislead the recipient of the call to obtain anything of value. It would also be a crime if the person places a call knowing that false information was entered into a caller ID service with the intent to deceive, defraud, or mislead the recipient of the call. The offense is a class E felony.
Any victim of call spoofing would have standing to recover punitive damages against the caller in an amount up to $5,000 per call. Additionally, the Attorney General would be empowered to initiate legal proceedings or intervene in legal proceedings on behalf of victims.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Bills Sent to the Senate
HB 849 creates the "Capitol Complex Tax Credit Act" and the "Capitol Complex Fund". The Capitol Complex Fund is authorized to receive any eligible monetary donation, as defined in the bill, and will be segregated into two accounts consisting of a rehabilitation and renovation account and a maintenance account. The choice of projects for which money is to be used, as well as the determination of the methods of carrying out the project and the procurement of goods and services, will be made by the Commissioner of Administration. For all taxable years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2021, any qualified donor will be allowed a credit against any state income tax or state taxes imposed on financial institutions for an amount equal to 50 percent of the monetary donation amount. The Department of Economic Development will not issue tax credits for donations to the Capitol Complex Fund in excess of $10 million per year in the aggregate. Supporters say there are projects that need to be completed within the Capitol Complex. Some of these projects include mold removal and making buildings in the Capitol Complex accessible to handicapped individuals. These projects could cost anywhere between $250 million and $300 million. Current funding for these projects is provided by bonds. With this bill, the state would possibly reduce the cost of projects within the Capitol Complex by 50 percent since that amount could come from donors.
HB 353 requires temporary, total and partial disability payments to be made to a claimant by check, other negotiable instrument, or by electronic transfer or other manner authorized by the claimant. Supporters say the bill will allow payment checks to be received up to six days earlier and will allow more efficient types of electronic transfer of funds.
HB 839 provides that, in addition to current requirements for licensure, peace officers must submit to being fingerprinted on or before January 1, 2022, for the purposes of a criminal history background check and enrollment in the state and federal Rap Back Program. Additionally, any time a peace officer is commissioned with a different law enforcement agency he or she must submit to being fingerprinted. Supporters say this will make it a law requiring all officers to be entered into Rap Back to keep their certification up-to-date. This would notify the agency’s head if they commit some offense in another state so their employer knows about it.
HB 381 requires all non-charter counties, by the first Monday in March, to prepare and publish in a qualified newspaper a financial statement for the previous year. The financial statement shall include the name, office, and current gross annual salary of each elected or appointed county official whose salary is set by the County Salary Commission. Supporters say the bill will allow small counties to publish notice in the same manner as large counties, using the condensed format of financial statements, and should result in savings for small counties. The salary of officials is a common question asked by citizens and its publication will increase transparency.
HB 338 changes the laws regarding land surveys. Supporters say the bill is just a technical fix.
HB 443 authorizes county commissions to use a part of the principal of a cemetery trust fund for the support and maintenance of the cemetery when the net income of the trust fund is insufficient for those purposes. Supporters say many cemeteries have large principal balances that they cannot use, even for mowing. This bill fixes that problem. The bill also adds the definition of "human and pet cemetery" to the provisions relating to cemeteries in the state, which allows for the creation of cemeteries in which both human remains and the remains of other creatures could be interred and memorialized at the discretion of the lot holder and according to the rules of the human and pet cemetery.
HB 1061 provides that store front consumer-based retail trade establishments located in any county of the third or fourth classification may qualify for benefits under the Missouri Works Program. Supporters say currently the Missouri Works Program is for eligible manufacturing. However, many rural communities do not have manufacturing businesses and this bill would open the program up for retail trade business in rural communities without increasing the overall cap on the program.
HB508 modifies provisions relating to feral swine. Currently, any person who knowingly or recklessly releases any swine to live in the wild or possesses or transports certain live wild boar without a permit from the Department of Agriculture is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. This bill changes the penalties to a class E felony. The bill also changes the term "feral hog" to "feral swine" and specifies that any person who kills a feral swine outside without the consent of the landowner or not in compliance with certain requirements is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Supporters say feral swine are a threat to two of the largest industries in the state, agriculture and outdoor recreation. Feral swine cause destruction to property and crops. In the past people have released hogs either due to economic downturn or for sport. Currently, there is very little to deter a person from releasing hogs into the wild and this bill would increase the penalty, which should deter people from releasing a hog.
Bills Sent to Conference
HB 15 is a supplemental appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2021. The bill appropriates federal funds for a variety of needs across the state. The House sent the bill to the Senate on April 1. The Senate made changes to the bill before sending it back. The two chambers will now try to reach a compromise on the bill in a conference committee.
HBs 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 – House members have asked the Senate for a conference on the majority of the appropriations bills that make up the Fiscal Year 2022 State Operating Budget. The spending plan approved by the House appropriates $32 billion in funding. The Senate version of the budget includes $35.1 billion in spending. The two chambers have until May 7 to agree to the final version of the budget.
Senate Bills Approved
SB 37 repeals provisions of law that give the Department of Agriculture oversight over standards relating to anhydrous ammonia and authorizes the Air Conservation Commission to adopt, promulgate, amend, and repeal rules and regulations for covered processes at agricultural stationary sources that use, store, or sell anhydrous ammonia, and regulations necessary to implement and enforce the risk management plans under the federal Clean Air Act. Supporters say the bill would reduce regulations on retailers of anhydrous ammonia by consolidating all regulations within the Department of Natural Resources, the agency with expertise to implement the new program. The House added several amendments to the bill that would authorize a tax credit for the sale of biodiesel fuel, extend the sunset for the Wood Energy Producer Tax Credit, the Meat Processing Facility Investment Tax Credit, and the Rolling Stock Tax Credit, modify the Family Farm Livestock Program, and extend a pilot program that allows recipients to use SNAP funds at local farmers’ markets. The bill now heads back to the Senate where that body can either accept the changes made by the House or send the bill to conference where the two chambers can work on a compromise.
Bills Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed
SB 106 modifies provisions relating to financial institutions. The bill permits electronic notification of annual or special stockholders' meetings. It permits directors of a bank or trust company to attend board meetings by telephonic conference call or video conferencing, and such directors may be counted as part of the quorum, provided the bank or trust company has a composite rating of 1 or 2 under the Uniform Financial Institutions Rating System of the Federal Financial Institution Examination Counsel. Under current law, two members of the State Banking and Savings and Loan Board are required to have at least five years of active bank management experience. This act requires at least three members to have at least five years of active bank or association management experience at an institution chartered under state law. The act allows the holder of a retail installment contract to charge, finance, and collect a reasonable service fee not to exceed $25 for each check, draft, order, or like instrument returned unpaid by a financial institution, plus an amount equal to the actual charge for the return of each check, draft, order, or like instrument returned unpaid. Current law allows parties to agree in writing to any rate of interest, fees, and other terms and conditions in connection with any business loan of five thousand dollars or more. This act modifies that provision to apply to extensions of credit primarily for business, commercial, or agricultural purposes. The act allows a lender to: charge reasonable and bona fide third-party fees paid out by the lender to any public officer for remote or electronic filing in any public office; and charge a reasonable service fee not to exceed $25 for any check, draft, order, or like instrument returned unpaid by a financial institution, plus an amount equal to the actual charge for the return of each check, draft, order, or like instrument returned unpaid. The act allows the charge of a reasonable and bona fide third-party fee incurred for the remote or electronic filing of the perfection, release, or satisfaction of a security interest related to a second mortgage loan. It modifies the amount that a lender may collect from a borrower upon default. Specifically, a lender is entitled to recover the amount due and accrued under the agreement, including interest and penalties through the date of payment in full or to the date of final judgment. Supporters say the bill updates state banking codes and allows banks to operate more efficiently using new technology.
REAL ID Deadline Extended
Missourians with plans to fly later this year received good news this week as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the deadline for obtaining a REAL ID-compliant identification card. Missourians were facing a deadline of October 1 of this year, but the department announced this week the deadline has been pushed to May 3, 2023.
Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.
DHS said the extension was granted because the COVID-19 pandemic has “significantly impacted states’ ability to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, with many driver’s licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity.”
The secretary of Homeland Security said, “Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority. As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the REAL ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.”
While the deadline has been extended, the Missouri Department of Revenue will continue with efforts to inform Missourians about REAL ID. All Missourians are invited to attend a series of public webinars designed to raise awareness about REAL ID.
The department will hold webinars on Thursday, April 29; Tuesday, May 4; and Wednesday, May 5. For more information and to register for the webinars, anyone interested can visit dor.mo.gov/drivers/real-id-information/.
Utility Assistance Program Expanded to Help Missourians Pay Energy Bills
Missourians in need of financial assistance to pay their heating bills received good news recently. Gov. Mike Parson announced the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Energy Assistance (EA) Program is extending one-time primary heating bill payments through May 31, 2021.
Eligibility for the program is also expanding. The program has been available to Missouri families with incomes up to 135 percent of the federal poverty level. It will now include Missouri households with an income of up to 60 percent of the State Median Income. The change will allow a family of four with an income of up to $51,021 to receive benefits. Previously, the income limit for a family of four was $35,364.
Gov. Parson said, “Missourians have spent a lot more time at home due to COVID-19, especially those learning and working remotely, which has caused some families to have higher than normal energy bills. Expanding the current LIHEAP Energy Assistance heating program time frame and the household income eligibility for this year’s heating and cooling programs will help relieve more families of this financial strain.”
In addition to meeting the income criteria, households must also meet the following criteria to qualify for LIHEAP:
- Be responsible for paying home heating costs
- Have $3,000 or less in bank accounts, retirement accounts, or investments
- All household members must be a U.S. citizen or legally admitted for permanent residence
In Federal Fiscal Year 2020, Missouri provided $78.6 million in LIHEAP assistance to over 108,000 households.
Missourians interested in learning more about the program can visit https://mydss.mo.gov/energy-assistance or call 1-855-373-4636