REAL ID-Compliant Driver Licenses to Soon Be Available
Good news this week as the Missouri Department of Revenue announced that it is on schedule to offer REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and non-driver identification on March 25. The REAL ID-compliant forms of identification will be necessary effective Oct. 1, 2020 for residents to fly domestically.
Effective Oct. 1, 2020, individuals will also be required to present a REAL ID-compliant driver license or ID card, or another form of acceptable ID, to access federal facilities, including military bases and federal courthouses, and to enter nuclear power plants. The Department anticipates increased foot traffic and longer wait times at license offices in the weeks immediately following the start of REAL ID-compliant license and ID card availability. The transaction and processing fees for a REAL ID- compliant license or ID card, new or renewal, will be the same as they are currently.
Visit dor.mo.gov/drivers/real-id-information/ for a complete listing of acceptable documents for REAL ID-compliant license and ID card processing, as well as other important information regarding REAL ID. For more information about the REAL ID Act, visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website at dhs.gov/real-id.
House Budget Chairman Unveils Plan to Fund Road and Bridge Improvements without Raising Taxes or Incurring New Debt-HB 4
House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith unveiled a spending plan this week that makes a significant investment in state transportation infrastructure without raising taxes or incurring new debt for the state. Smith rolled out the committee substitutes for the appropriations bills that make up the Fiscal Year 2020 state spending plan, which includes a $100 million appropriation to pay for road and bridge improvements.
Smith said the $100 million in general revenue will be dedicated to the State Road Fund for bridge projects in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which sets the transportation projects the Missouri Department of Transportation will undertake. Smith emphasized the importance of crafting a plan that provides adequate funding for Missouri’s transportation needs without putting the state further into debt.
“Our state transportation department already has a heavy debt load and has paid more than $700 million in debt payments in just the last two years. The solution to fix our roads isn’t to go further into debt, but instead to invest wisely and responsibly in our transportation network with the funds we have available,” said Smith, who noted that the department’s 5-year average debt
payment is $313 million per year.
Smith added, “Missourians need and deserve roads and bridges that are safe and reliable, and it’s our duty as the crafters of our state budget to provide a plan that doesn’t raise their taxes or force them to make payments on debt we didn’t need to incur.
This $100 million investment is the most fiscally responsible solution for Missouri taxpayers.”
The funding allocation for transportation infrastructure is contained in House Bill 4, which is one of the 13 appropriations bills that make up the Fiscal Year 2020 state operating budget. The House Budget Committee will work through the bills next week and consider potential amendments. The House will then take up the bills on the floor during the week of March 25-29.
House Approves Legislation to Prevent Debtors’ Prisons-HB 192
The Missouri House this week approved legislation to keep judges from putting people back in jail for failing to pay for the cost of previous stays in jail.
The bill would keep a person’s failure to pay a jail for housing that person from resulting in more jail time that would result in additional housing costs. Instead, a local sheriff could attempt to collect such costs owed through civil proceedings, or a judge could waive those costs.
The bill had broad, bipartisan support, as members of both parties agreed that being jailed for failing to pay so-called “board bills” only created a cycle of debt that some Missourians have been trapped in for years. Legislators gave examples of individuals who had stolen items like makeup or candy, and years later owed tens of thousands of dollars to the local jails that had housed them.
The bill would do away with hearings in which the court requires a defendant to show why he or she shouldn’t be jailed for failing to pay board bills. Lawmakers heard that defendants are often required to appear monthly for such hearings and a warrant is issued for them if they fail to appear.
The bill is now under consideration in the Missouri Senate.
House Members Move to Create Stiffer Penalties for Poaching-HB 260
Members of the House of Representatives have approved legislation that would create stiffer penalties for poaching certain animals.
Supporters say the bill will address an issue that currently exists where it’s cheaper for a non-Missourian to come into the state, poach an animal, and pay the fine than it is to buy an out-of-state hunting tag. The bill would increase the fines for poaching wild turkeys, deer, elk, black bears, or paddlefish in Missouri. Specifically, it would make the fines range from $500 to $1,000 for poaching a wild turkey or paddlefish; between $2,000 and $5,000 for poaching a white-tailed deer; and between $10,000 and $15,000 for poaching a black bear or elk.
Missouri in 2011 began bringing elk into the state from Kentucky with an aim of reestablishing the population of the animal here, and an eventual goal of having an elk hunting season. The Department of Conservation says elk hunting could begin as early as next year and that could bring millions of dollars into the state, but the sponsor said poaching is hurting the chances of that happening, and the current fines for poaching are not a deterrent.
The poaching of paddlefish has been very lucrative because paddlefish roe is often sold on the black market as caviar. This means one fish can be worth thousands of dollars. Supporters say they are happy the bill includes increased fines for poaching those fish.
When a fine is collected under HB 260 that money would go to the school district in which the poaching incident occurred.
Missouri House Approves Important Workforce Development Bill-HB 469
Legislation is now headed to the Senate that would allow the Missouri Department of Economic Development to improve and consolidate its workforce development programs. House members approved the bill that allows the department to consolidate three work force training programs into the Missouri One Start program.
The bill sponsor said the consolidation of the programs will allow for more flexibility and efficiency, and will allow more businesses to take advantage of the program. He noted that the changes will be possible without the need for additional funding. “This is our Department of Economic Development coming to us asking us to allow them to be more efficient and run better,” he said.
Currently, the program allows administrative expenses to 15 percent of total training costs. The bill approved by the House limits such expenses to a reasonable amount determined by the Department of Economic Development. In creating rules and regulations governing the Missouri One Start Training Program, the bill requires the department to consider such factors as the potential number of new jobs to be created, the amount of new capital investment in new facilities and equipment, the
significance of state benefits to the qualified company's decision to locate or expand in Missouri, the economic need of the affected community, and the importance of the qualified company to the economic development of the state.
The bill also allows the department to require a qualified business to repay all benefits if such business fails to maintain the new or retained jobs within five years of approval of benefits or if such business leaves the state within five years of approval of benefits.
Other Legislation Third Read by the House
HB 114 requires a dangerous sex offender when changing residence to turn over his or her driver license to the law enforcement official with whom the offender was last registered. The offender would then have 3 days to register with the law enforcement official in the new area of residence, which would result in the driver license being returned. Failure to re-register would result in a felony offense. It would also cause the offender’s driver license to be suspended, and the individual would be required to be electronically monitored for 2 years. Supporters say the state loses track of offenders when they move, so this is just a mechanism to keep track of them while they are relocating and hopefully it incentivizes them to re-register.
HB 588 requires the Department of Agriculture to convene a work group every five years to review all fees charged by the department and submit a report to the General Assembly on any recommended changes to the fees. The bill also increases the fees for several programs and licenses within the department's Plant Industries Division. Supporters say it is important to adequately fund the Department of Agriculture because it provides important services to the largest industry in the state. Many of the fees have not been increased since the 1980's and are not covering the cost of implementing the associated programs. It is also important to review the fees associated with the programs regularly and ensure the department is fully funded.
HB 333extends the sunset date for an income tax credit for surviving spouses of public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty from 2019 to 2027. The bill subtracts interest received on deposits held at a Federal Reserve Bank from a taxpayer's Missouri adjusted gross income. Supporters say right now banks are paying both corporate tax and bank tax on interest held in the Federal Reserve Bank and this bill removes the tax they have to pay on corporate tax. Under this bill, Federal Reserve Bank interest is reported clearly in only one place and will eliminate any confusion.
HBs 161 & 401 prohibits local school districts from setting an opening date for the school term that is more than 14 calendar days prior to the first Monday in September. Supporters say that as school start dates have become earlier, students who participate in fall sports and agricultural education have had to choose between the two activities. It has hurt more than just those students participating in agricultural education events; it has hurt the tourism industry as well.
HB 821 establishes the "Land Bank Act," which allows certain cities to establish a land bank agency for the management, sale, transfer, and other disposition of interests in real estate owned by the land bank. Supporters say the bill will help improve neighborhoods. This is an ongoing issue with abandoned properties that are deteriorated and derelict and no one wants to purchase these properties. This will help get these properties in the hands of responsible owners and help to clean up the city and make it a better place to live.
HB 220 specifies that any real or tangible personal property associated with a project which uses wind energy directly to
generate electricity shall be valued and taxed by any state and local authorities having jurisdiction. Supporters say the bill would allow the tax revenue generated by the wind energy project to stay in the local jurisdiction. Local governments used tax incentive programs to attract wind generation projects knowing that the project would bring additional tax revenues to the area. Without this bill, that additional tax revenue would be spread across the state, with little to no revenue remaining in the local jurisdiction.
HB 587 repeals the Missouri Treated Timber Law. Supporters say Missouri is the only state left to have a program similar to this. A national wood products association also offers certification. Many retailers are inspected by the department and the association.
HB 14 appropriates money for supplemental purposes for several departments and offices of state government. The bill includes approximately $11.5 million in additional funding for education, funding to reinstate Time Critical Diagnosis (TCD), and funding for an opioid response grant.
HCR 18 urges public schools to institute JROTC in their schools. Supporters say very few schools in the state currently offer the program which includes many skills that would help a participant gain employment.
HR 210 encourages and urges Major League Soccer to give serious consideration to placing one of its expansion teams in St. Louis.