This week was a great last week. Last week, we were able to get HB 604 added as an amendment to a bill, but this week we were finally able to get my House Bill 604 Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed as the underlying bill — next stop is the Governor’s desk. Name, image, and likeness also passed this week. That will give college players the ability to use their personal “brand” to make money outside of their team and school commitments.
Be on the lookout for an end of session report next week. I will dive deeper into the bills I filed and passed, as well as some things I learned along the way.
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.
Lawmakers Wrap Up Successful Legislative Session
The 2021 Legislative Session began in January with the House Speaker calling on his colleagues to “take on even the toughest challenges” and “make the hard decisions that will improve the quality of life for Missourians of all ages.” As the legislative session came to an end, the members of the Missouri House had approved numerous bills meant to help Missourians from all walks of life in all parts of the state.
In total, the General Assembly approved more than 65 bills and sent them to the governor for his approval. Legislators addressed issues such as support for foster children, protections for victims of domestic abuse, new educational opportunities for young people, safeguards for Missourians’ Second Amendment rights, prohibitions against government overreach, and tax relief for Missouri families.
The General Assembly officially adjourned at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 14, which concluded the portion of the legislative session when bills can be passed. The governor will now have the opportunity to act on the various bills sent to him. He has the option to sign bills into law or veto legislation he finds problematic. The legislature will return in September for an annual Veto Session in which members could potentially override any vetoes made by the governor.
Some of the priority issues passed during the 2021 session include:
Empowering Students to Succeed Academically (HB 349)
HB 349 is meant to empower parents to have access to schools and educational resources that will best meet the needs of their children. The legislation will create Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to help parents afford the best educational opportunities for their kids. ESAs are meant to be “a lifeline” for many children in failing schools across the state. The accounts will empower “parents with choices and alternatives so they can find the fit that is best for them.” Missourians will be able to receive a tax credit for donating to educational assistance organizations, which will provide scholarships to eligible students for a variety of costs such as tuition, tutoring, and transportation. Scholarships will be limited to students in cities with a population of 30,000 or more.
Protecting Victims of Domestic Abuse (SB 71 and SBs 53 & 60)
SB 71 will allow victims of domestic abuse to obtain lifetime orders of protection against their abusers. Under current law, a court can issue an order of protection for up to one year. SB 71 will allow courts to issue protection orders for any length of time the judge feels is appropriate, up to and including a lifetime. The change is meant to spare victims from the trauma of having to revisit their abuse in court each year to extend an order of protection. The bill also adds protections against electronic stalking.
Enhancing Support for Foster and Adoptive Parents (HB 429 and HB 430)
HB 429 and HB 430 will provide additional financial assistance to Missouri families who provide a stable home to children in need. HB 429 authorizes an income tax deduction for Missouri taxpayers for the expenses related to providing care as a foster parent. The bill will authorize a deduction of up to $5,000 for married couples or single parents, provided that individuals who are married but file separately can only claim up to $2,500 each. The bill also contains additional improvements to the state’s adoption regulations and proceedings.
HB 430 expands the state’s existing $10,000 tax credit to any child adopted by Missouri taxpayers on or after Jan. 1, 2022. Currently the credit applies only to adoptions of special needs children. The bill also increases the annual limit on the amount of tax credits that can be authorized from $2 million to $6 million. The bill also expands the tax credits for contributions to domestic violence shelters and maternity homes.
Putting Newborns on a Path to Success (HB 429 and HB 432)
HB 429 seeks to protect newborns from potential abuse by creating the Birth Match Program. The bill requires data sharing between state departments that would better allow the state to offer prevention and crisis management support to families who may need it. The program will create a timely way for Social Services to help newborns who are likely in abusive situations before they are harmed. The bill orders data sharing between the Children's Division of the Department of Social Services and the State Registrar's office to compare birth reports with reports of parents who have been convicted of certain crimes or have a termination of parental rights in order to ensure the safety of the child and provide services, if needed.
Protecting Children from Abuse (HBs 557 & 560)
HB 557 creates stronger protections for young people in unlicensed, faith-based reform schools. The bill was prompted by news articles detailing the mental, physical, and sexual abuse suffered by children in some of these schools. The bill aims to protect children by requiring all such facilities to notify the Department of Social Services of their existence, and requiring background checks for employees and volunteers. Additionally, it requires the schools to comply with health and safety standards, gives parents full access to see their children, and provides a method for children to be removed when abuse or neglect is suspected.
Supporting Victims of Abuse (HB 432)
HB 432 contains a provision that creates the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act to provide assistance to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. The provision requires employers with 20 or more employees to provide reasonable workplace safety accommodations and allow unpaid leave to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. The amount of unpaid leave required would be limited to one week for employers with fewer than 50 employees, and two weeks at larger workplaces. Reasons for unpaid leave include attending hearings, accessing the courts, addressing physical or mental health issues and finding new living quarters.
Providing a Safe Place for Newborns (HB 432)
A provision in HB 432 will modify the state’s existing Safe Place for Newborns Act, which allows a parent to permanently give up a newborn up to 45 days old without prosecution, as long as it is done safely and in accordance with the law. The legislation would allow a parent to relinquish a newborn to a device known as a newborn safety incubator. This would allow for a parent to anonymously relinquish a child to an incubator that is climate controlled with an alarm that notifies 911 when a baby is present. Similar devices have been authorized in other states such as Arkansas and are designed to protect babies from being hurt or killed from unsafe abandonment.
Creating Mental Health Parity (HB 604 and HB 432)
Two bills approved by the General Assembly contain language that is meant to help Missourians have access to the mental health care they need. The bills create the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires health insurers to cover mental health care in the same way they cover physical health conditions. Specifically, it requires health benefit plans to meet the requirements of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. The bill will remove hurdles that have made it more difficult for Missourians to see medical professionals and access medications for mental health conditions.
Preventing Misuse of Seclusion and Restraint (HB 432)
HB 432 contains a provision that will prevent the misuse of disciplinary practices known as seclusion and restraint. The bill provides stronger definitions for the practices and regulates how they can be implemented and utilized. Seclusion and restraint are disciplinary practices used by some schools when dealing with kids who pose a threat to themselves or others. The practice is meant to be used as a last resort and involves restraining the child or removing him or her to a separate space. The bill will require schools to create policy that prohibits the use of restraint and seclusion, including “prone restraint,” for any purpose other than situations or conditions in which there is imminent danger of physical harm to self or others. The bill also requires any incident requiring restraint or seclusion to be monitored by school personnel with written observation. Additionally, it ensures parents and guardians are promptly notified when schools have used the measures on their child, and it mandates annual trainings for the school personnel who use them.
Protecting Missourians’ Second Amendment Rights (HBs 85 and 310)
HBs 85 and 310 will protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians against an overreaching federal government. The Second Amendment Preservation Act is meant to protect law-abiding gun owners from potential gun control legislation that could be passed in Washington, D.C. It states that laws and other actions that prohibit the manufacture, ownership, and use of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition within Missouri exceed the powers granted to the federal government. It also declares that all federal laws, acts, and orders that infringe on Missourians’ second amendment rights are invalid in the state.
Improving Public Safety (SBs 53 and 60)
SBs 53 and 60 is a wide-ranging piece of legislation designed to improve public safety throughout Missouri. The bill prohibits law enforcement officers from using a respiratory choke-hold unless such a hold is utilized in defense against a serious physical injury or death. The bill also implements the Police Use of Force Transparency Act of 2021, which requires each law enforcement agency to collect and report local data on use-of-force incidents involving peace officers to the National Use of Force Data Collection through the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Other provisions in the bill will make it a crime to point a laser pointer at police, make it a felony offense for a law enforcement officer to engage in sexual conduct with a detainee or prisoner, modify the requirements to have a criminal record expunged, and allow a prosecuting or circuit attorney to file a motion to vacate or set aside a judgment at any time if he or she has information that the convicted person may be innocent or may have been erroneously convicted. The bill also includes “Raise the Age” provisions to ensure 17-year-old criminal suspects are handled by the juvenile justice system rather than be prosecuted as adults.
Supporting Law Enforcement (SBs 53 and 60)
Another provision in SBs 53 and 60 will create the Critical Incident Stress Management Program within the Department of Public Safety. The program will provide services for peace officers to assist in coping with stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from a response to a critical incident or emotionally difficult event. The bill also creates the 988 Public Safety Fund for the purpose of providing services for peace officers to assist in coping with stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from a response to such events. Additionally, the bill makes changes to peace officer licensure and commissioning requirements, and increases compensation for many county sheriffs.
Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (SB 26)
SB 26 is meant to provide support for those who protect and serve. The bill creates the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights to ensure due process for peace officers who are the subject of an investigation that could lead to disciplinary action, demotion, dismissal, transfer, or placement that could lead to economic loss. The bill also contains a provision to protect police departments against efforts to cut their budgets. It allows citizens in any community that cuts its law enforcement budget by more than 12 percent to sue for injunctive relief, which would mean the cuts could be immediately halted and reversed under Missouri law.
Preventing Abuse of Prescription Drugs (SB 63)
SB 63 creates a statewide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), which is meant to be a tool to fight drug abuse. The PDMP will allow medical professionals to see their patients’ medication history, which will allow them to recognize signs of addiction and prevent dangerous drug interactions. The program will be administered by a task force of health care professionals. The bill limits access to private information to medical professionals, specifically prohibits the information from being used to deny firearm purchases, and includes a rolling purge of the data.
Improving Local Government Transparency (HB 271)
HB 271 will create a database that allows taxpayers to search expenditures and payments received and made by counties and municipalities. The bill creates the Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database, which would be an easy to use, downloadable database housed on the Missouri Accountability Portal. The bill is meant to improve transparency by providing public access to local government expenditure data.
Preventing Government Overreach (HB 271)
Another provision in HB 271 will provide oversight for the ability of local health officials to close businesses, churches, and schools during an emergency. The bill will limit the authority of local health officials to close businesses, schools, and churches during a public health or safety emergency to a period of 30 days. Officials could extend the closure but only with the approval of the city council or other local governing body. Health orders issued outside of a state of emergency would be limited to 21 days and would require a two thirds vote of the local governing body for an extension. The bill also allows local governing bodies to terminate a health order with a simple majority vote.
Prohibiting Vaccine Passports (HB 271)
HB 271 will ensure Missourians do not have to show proof of vaccination in order to access public transportation or other public services. The bill will ban so-called “vaccine passports.” It ensures that no county, city, town, or village receiving public funds can require an individual to provide documentation of a COVID-19 vaccination in order to access a public transportation system, services, or any other public accommodations.
Protecting Missouri Farms from Unauthorized Inspections (HB 574)
HB 574 is meant to protect agricultural producers from animal rights activists who may seek access to their facilities under false pretenses, and is also designed to limit the spread of disease by ensuring only qualified inspectors are allowed into the facilities. The bill specifies the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture, the county sheriff and any other federal or Missouri state agency with statutory or regulatory authority have exclusive authority to inspect the grounds or facilities in Missouri. Facilities include those used for the production of eggs, milk or other dairy products, or raising of livestock.
Bolstering the Workforce with Skilled Veterans (HB 476)
HB 476 will cut bureaucratic red tape to ensure more skilled veterans are able to work and practice in the state. When the bill becomes law, the state will recognize military occupational specialties for licensure. Specifically, the legislation includes a Military Occupational Specialty as a type of licensure when applying for licensure in Missouri in the same occupation under Missouri's Reciprocity Laws. The bill will allow military men and women to use the training they received while serving to come home and get skilled jobs, and to continue utilizing the skills they have worked so hard to obtain.
Leveling the Playing Field for Missouri Businesses (SB 153)
SB 153 is designed to level the playing field so Missouri-based businesses can better compete with their online counterparts. Commonly referred to as the Wayfair bill, it would require online retailers to collect sales tax on internet purchases made by Missouri consumers. Currently, only online merchants with a brick-and-mortar presence in the state are required to collect sales tax on these purchases, which adds an extra incentive for consumers to shop online rather than locally. The bill would require retailers selling more than $100,000 worth of goods into the state to collect and pay the tax. The change is anticipated to generate between $80 million and $120 million in new revenue annually.
Reducing the Tax Burden on Missouri Families (SB 153)
Another provision in SB 153 would balance this new tax revenue collected from online purchases by cutting personal income tax for Missouri taxpayers. Under legislation previously approved by the General Assembly, Missourians receive a 0.1 percent reduction in income tax when revenues grow at a healthy level. SB 153 adds two additional 0.1 percent reductions if revenues reach the growth trigger. Additionally, the bill calls for a third 0.1 percent reduction in 2024. In total, with the previous legislation and SB 153, Missourians could see their income tax cut by a total of 0.8 percent. The bill also creates the Missouri Working Family Tax Credit Act, which is a state level earned income tax credit (EITC) worth at least 10 percent of any federal EITC utilized by a taxpayer. If revenues grow at a healthy level the amount of the credit would increase to 20 percent. The EITC will provide vital tax relief for low- and middle-income families.
Exempting Stimulus Payments from State Income Tax (SB 153)
Another provision in SB 153 will protect Missourians from having to pay state income tax on the federal stimulus payments they received. The bill is similar to one approved by the legislature last year that exempted the first round of stimulus payments from state income tax. However, that bill did not account for future rounds of stimulus payments. SB 153 will eliminate tax liability for all federal stimulus payments.
Investing in Transportation Infrastructure (SB 262)
SB 262 will generate much-needed funding to repair and improve Missouri’s aging transportation infrastructure. The bill increases the state’s gas tax by 2.5 cents per gallon, starting in October 2021, and increases it by that same amount each year until it reaches an additional 12.5 cents per gallon in 2025. The bill includes a rebate provision that allows Missouri drivers who choose to keep receipts for gas purchased request a full refund of the additional taxes paid. The gas tax has not increased in Missouri since 1996. When fully implemented, SB 262 could generate more than $500 million annually for the state, as well as for cities and counties. The Missouri Department of Transportation estimates the state faces a $745 million annual funding gap to pay for its roads and bridges.
Improving Cybersecurity for Missouri (SB 49)
One of the provisions in SB 49 is meant to enhance the state’s ability to thwart potential cyberattacks. The bill creates the Missouri Cybersecurity Commission to identify risk and vulnerability from cyberattacks of critical infrastructure in the state. The commission will solicit data and find vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure in political subdivisions around the state and make sure a good security process is in place to protect the state from cybersecurity threats.
Embracing Innovative Delivery Technology (SB 176)
SB 176 would allow new technologies that are intended to make package deliveries faster and more convenient. The bill will authorize personal delivery devices (PDDs), which is a ground-based device that delivers goods and is operated by an autonomous driving system. The legislation puts guidelines in place to ensure the robot delivery devices can function safely in Missouri communities. The PDDs would operate primarily along sidewalks and crosswalks to deliver items. The bill would require that they obey traffic and pedestrian control signals, operate 10 miles per hour or less on a sidewalk, and not block public rights of way.
Implementing Important Consumer Protections (HB 697)
HB 697 puts important consumer protections in place for residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which provide loans for energy efficient home improvements. The bill remedies the fact these programs currently have little oversight by requiring them to be reviewed by the Division of Finance at least every other year. The bill also requires PACE programs to provide residential borrowers with complete information about the potential impact of their loan. Additionally, the bill will require programs to base loans on local government appraisals rather than rely on private appraisers who may have higher valuations. The change is meant to protect consumers against lopsided loan-to-value ratios.
Protecting Small Businesses and Health Care Workers (SBs 51 and 42)
SBs 51 and 42 is meant to protect small businesses, frontline health care workers, schools, and churches from lawsuits related to COVID-19. The legislation is meant to give businesses the confidence to fully reopen so the state’s economy can thrive once again. The bill raises the bar for liability for COVID-19 related lawsuits by protecting against unmerited civil actions against health care workers, first responders and small businesses. Additional provisions provide heightened protections for religious institutions from pandemic-related lawsuits.