Legislative Session Draws to a Close
After more than four months of hard work, late nights and lengthy discussions, the Missouri House of Representatives concluded the 2016 legislative session with a long list of accomplishments. The session began with a focus on substantive ethics reform, and the legislature pushed several measures across the legislative finish line that will help to improve the culture at the State Capitol. The House and Senate also worked together to approve a fiscally responsible spending plan that makes a record investment in K-12 education, significantly boosts funding for Missouri’s colleges and universities, and provides new spending to help improve and repair the state’s transportation infrastructure.
In addition to ethics reform and the state spending plan, the legislature moved to protect the integrity of the elections process by implementing a system of voter identification, and approved legislation to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in the state’s welfare programs. Lawmakers also adopted several economic development measures to reduce bureaucratic red tape for Missouri’s small businesses, invest in Missouri’s system of ports, and attract conventions to the Show-Me State. Additionally, the legislature passed bills addressing issues ranging from suicide prevention to CPR instruction to tax relief for active duty members of the military.
With the completion of the regular session, the many bills passed by the General Assembly now head to the governor for his consideration. Legislators will next return to the State Capitol in September for the annual Veto Session when they will have the opportunity to consider overriding any vetoes made by the governor.
You may read more about what is happening at your Capitol below. As always, I will work diligently and tirelessly for you as your State Representative.
Now that the legislative session has come to an end, over the next few weeks I will provide some of the highlights from the legislature’s work this year:
Ethics Reform Proposals (HB 1983 and HB 1979 and HB 2203)
Of the seven single subject ethics reform bills approved by the House, three crossed the finish line and have already been signed into law.
HB 1983, sponsored by Rep. Dogan, will prohibit statewide elected officials, members of the General Assembly, and candidates for those offices from receiving compensation as political consultants who are paid for profit to engage in specified political activities on behalf of other individuals holding office as statewide elected officials or members of the General Assembly. The bill is meant to make sure public servants are serving for the right reasons and not to profit or make personal gain from their public office.
HB 1979, sponsored by Rep. Rowden, will require elected officials to wait six months after their term expires before becoming a lobbyist. The bill will add Missouri to the list of more than 30 states that require a waiting period before a lawmaker can become a lobbyist.
HB 2203, sponsored by Rep. Barnes, will limit how long campaign funds can be invested and how they can be used. Specifically, it ensures campaign contributions are used as intended for political campaigns. The bill also prohibits anyone from working as a lobbyist until they have emptied their campaign account by refunding it to donors, donating it to charity, or contributing it to a political party.
Fiscal Year 2017 State Operating Budget
The Missouri House and Senate agreed on a fiscally responsible $27.26 billion that makes record investments in K-12 education and boosts higher education funding to protect Missouri families from having to pay more in tuition. The budget also leaves money on the bottom line so that the state can meet its obligations in the event revenues don’t meet projections. The Fiscal Year 2017 state operating budget includes a $70.3 million increase for the Foundation Formula, which funds K-12 public schools, as well as a $5 million increase for K-12 transportation. The budget also includes a $37.2 million increase in performance funding for Missouri colleges and universities, and funding boosts to the state’s various scholarship programs. The spending plan that takes effect in July also invests $20 million to revive the state cost-share program to fund transportation projects; appropriates $2.5 million for the Dairy Revitalization Act; provides a $4.55 million increase for business startups through the Missouri Technology Corporation; and allocates $6.46 million for the Alternatives to Abortion program
Voter ID (HB 1631 and HJR 53)
The House and Senate reached final agreement on two measures designed to require a valid form of photo identification in order to vote. One is a proposed constitutional amendment that will go on the November ballot for voter approval. The other is a statutory change that is now on the governor’s desk for his consideration.
HJR 53, sponsored by Rep. Dugger, will allow voters to decide if the Missouri Constitution should be changed to allow a system of voter identification. If approved by voters, HB 1631, sponsored by Rep. Alferman, would then implement the system of voter identification. The bill would require voters to present a specified form of identification in order to vote in a public election. Valid forms of identification would include photo IDs issued by the state, the federal government or the military. The bill also would require the state to pay for individuals to obtain a valid ID if they do not have one, or to obtain documents necessary for an ID. Additionally, the final version of the HB 1631 contains a provision that would allow a voter without a valid photo ID to vote with a regular ballot by showing another form of identification.
Overriding the Governor’s Budget Restrictions
For the first time in state history, the Missouri General Assembly successfully moved to override budget withholdings made by the governor. Voters approved Amendment 10 to the state constitution in 2014, which gives the legislature the authority to ensure programs receive funds that were appropriated by the General Assembly but then restricted by the governor. The legislature’s authority works in a similar fashion to its ability to override a gubernatorial veto and requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. The Missouri House and Senate worked together to override the governor’s withholds of $575,000 for the Missouri Scholars Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, and $350,000 for the Brain Injury Waiver Fund.
Big Government Get Off My Back Act (HB 1870)
The General Assembly approved legislation meant to cut the bureaucratic red tape that too often stifles the growth of small businesses in Missouri. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Hoskins, revives the Big Government Get Off My Back Act for tax years 2016 through 2021.
The act originally ran from 2009 to 2014 and was instrumental in prohibiting new rules and regulations on small businesses, as well as unnecessary fee increases. The act also gives a $10,000 tax deduction for any small business, with 50 employees or less, that hires additional employees and pays them at least the average county wage. A business can claim a $20,000 deduction if it also pays for at least half of its employees’ health insurance premiums.
In its final year in 2014, the act provided tax relief to 196 small businesses throughout Missouri. Supporters hope to provide assistance to even more businesses by reviving the program.
Meet in Missouri Act (HB 1698)
Legislators approved a bill this session to give cities a new tool to help attract more conventions to the state. The General Assembly approved the Meet in Missouri Act to provide grants that will help large conventions that take place in Missouri to recover some of their costs. Specifically, the act, sponsored by Rep. Rowden, will authorize grants that would cover up to half the operating expenses of a large convention or $1 million, whichever is less. To be eligible, a convention would have to draw at least half of its attendees from out of state. In addition, the anticipated sales tax revenue generated by the event would have to exceed the grant amount. The program will have $3 million each year to award in the form of grants. The bill also includes safeguards to ensure the convention meets its attendance goals. If it falls short, it would have to refund a portion of the grant money.
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