Highlights of the First Half of 2018 Session
After months of work by the House Budget Committee, the Fiscal Year 2019 state operating budget is now ready for discussion and debate on the House floor. When lawmakers return from their annual break on March 26, the budget will be their top legislative priority. House members will work to approve the appropriations bills that make up the spending plan and send them to the Senate so that both chambers are on track to complete the budget by the May 11 deadline.
Next week, when House members offer amendments to the budget plan, it’s important to note that such changes must remain revenue positive or revenue neutral. If a member wants to add money to a specific area of the budget, he or she must first find another area of the budget from which the funds can be transferred. There is no way to simply add funding to a particular program without first cutting it from somewhere else in the budget. This process ensures the budget remains in balance.
Over the next few weeks, House members are also expected to consider comprehensive tax reform legislation that would lower 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 that would generate nearly $2 billion over the next 10 years for the state road fund to repair and improve Missouri’s aging transportation infrastructure
Last week, the House sent several more bills to the Senate for consideration. In fact, in the first two-and-a-half months of session, the House has been able to send more than 160 bills to the Senate. These bills included a wide variety of topics from ethics reform and reducing burdensome regulations to investing in Missouri’s energy infrastructure and helping first-time home buyers.
Reminder: This year the House will hold the Vietnam Veterans Day celebration on Thursday, March 29th at 9 AM in the House Lounge at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. If you or someone you know is a Vietnam veteran who would like to be honored this year, please contact my office by:
Email: email@example.com Phone: 573-751-1688
You may read in more detail about what is happening at your State Capitol below.
As always, I will work diligently for you as your State Representative.
Highlights of the First Half of the 2018 Session:
Ethics Reform (HB 1303) – House members once again passed legislation meant to diminish the influence of lobbyists. Similar to legislation the House has passed in each of the last two sessions, the bill would ban gifts from lobbyists to legislators and other statewide elected officials. Missouri currently has no limits on lobbyist gifts. The bill that is now in the Senate would create a gift ban with some common sense exceptions that would allow a legislator to receive an award or accept flowers for the funeral of a loved one without breaking the law.
Reducing Burdensome Regulations (HB 1500) – House members sent a bill to the Senate that would cut burdensome red tape and reduce government overregulation so that businesses can thrive in Missouri. The bill would address issues faced by hair braiders in Missouri as they currently must obtain a cosmetology license that requires 1,500 hours of training that is not relevant to the practice of braiding. In comparison, a real estate agent needs only 72 hours of training, and an emergency medical technician needs only 100 to be licensed. House members passed legislation to specify that hair braiders do not have to obtain a cosmetology license in order to earn a living. The bill would require individuals engaging in braiding to register with the State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners.
Preventing Overregulation (HB 1928) – Legislation now in the Senate would ensure government engages in the licensing and regulation of occupations and professions only when it is necessary to protect the welfare of the public. If the need exists, the regulation adopted by the state would need to be the least restrictive type of occupational regulation consistent with the public interest to be protected. The bill would also establish a heightened level of review with specific criteria for all legislation that would seek to license an occupation or profession for the first time or to substantially expand the scope of a current professional license.
“Paycheck Protection” Legislation (HB 1413) – The Missouri House of Representatives gave approval to legislation that is meant to hold unions accountable to their members. Commonly referred to as “paycheck protection,” the bill would also allow public employee union members to ensure their dues aren’t used for political purposes they do not support. In effect, the bill would give public employee union members the right to opt-in annually to have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. The current system requires a public employee to opt-out, and if they fail to do so their dues are automatically deducted.
Repealing Prevailing Wage Law (HBs 1729, 1621 & 1436) – The Missouri House approved a bill meant to make public construction projects more affordable for taxpayers. The bill would repeal Missouri’s prevailing wage law to help reduce the cost of construction and maintenance projects for municipalities and school districts. Missouri’s existing prevailing wage law sets a minimum salary that must be paid to individuals working on public projects, such as the construction or repair of bridges, school buildings, and fire stations. If the prevailing wage law is repealed, bidders on such projects would pay the state or federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. Contractors and subcontractors would be permitted to pay higher than the minimum wage, but that would not be a requirement.
Investing in Missouri’s Energy Infrastructure (HB 2265) – The Missouri House approved legislation that would encourage investment in the state’s energy infrastructure while also capping utility rate increases for customers. The bill would set annual rate caps at 2.85 percent for Ameren and 3 percent for other electricity companies. Under the current system, Missouri has seen rates increase four times faster than the national average over the past decade. If the bill becomes law it would result in Ameren cutting rates by 4 to 5 percent and putting $100 million back into the pockets of its customers. To modernize Missouri’s energy infrastructure, Ameren has committed to invest $1 billion in their infrastructure and put 3,000 people to work during construction.
Helping First-Time Home Buyers (HB 1796) – House members gave approval to a bill that would make it easier for Missourians to save money to buy their first home. The bill would establish the First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account Act and authorize a tax deduction for contributions to a savings account dedicated to buying a first home. The bill would authorize an individual income tax deduction for 50 percent of the contributions to the account. It would have an annual contribution deduction limit of $1,600 per taxpayer. The bill specifies the maximum contribution limit for all tax years would be $20,000 and the maximum total amount in the savings account would be $30,000.
Developing Missouri’s Workforce (HB 1465) – The Missouri House of Representatives approved legislation to help ensure Missouri’s system of higher education is working to meet the state’s workforce and education needs. The bill would give institutions greater flexibility to offer degrees that meet the needs of their local communities and businesses. In effect, it would allow community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in certain programs.
Visiting Scholars Certificate (HB 1665) – Legislation that has received the approval of both the House and Senate and now awaits the governor’s signature would provide young people with greater access to highly-skilled, experienced instructors in areas such as health care, manufacturing, and engineering. The legislation would allow the State Board of Education to issue a visiting scholar certificate as a license to teach in public schools. The visiting scholar certificate would allow a professional to be employed in a content area in which the individual has an academic degree or professional experience. The bill is meant to allow students to benefit from the expertise of successful professionals in fields of high need.
Expanding Virtual School Options for Missouri Students (HB 1408) – House members approved a piece of legislation meant to better prepare young people for success in the workforce. The bill is meant to expand course options and access for K-12 students. The legislation would change the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to “The Missouri Course Access Program” (MCAP) and allow any K-12 student to enroll in MCAP courses. The bill would give students the opportunity to take courses that their school does not offer, especially in the case of small schools unable to hire teachers for advanced or specialized subject areas.
Important Reforms for the State Unemployment System (HB 1409) – The House sent to the Senate a bill meant to protect the state’s unemployment system from insolvency in the event there is another economic downturn. Supporters say the bill is necessary because Missouri is the only state that has been forced to borrow money from the federal government to pay for unemployment benefits during each of the last five economic downturns. They also say businesses are negatively impacted because borrowing federal dollars causes employers to lose a portion of a federal tax credit they normally receive.
The bill would tie unemployment benefits to the average unemployment rate so that more benefits are available when unemployment is high. If the state were in a position of high unemployment (9 percent or higher), benefits would be available for 20 weeks. In periods of low unemployment (lower than 6 percent), benefits would be available for 13 weeks. The legislation is also designed to make sure the state has enough money in its unemployment trust fund so that businesses don’t have to pay a penalty.
Eliminating Fraud from the TANF Program (HB 1443) – House members sent legislation to the Senate that is meant to increase accountability and eliminate fraud in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The bill would increase penalties for the misuse of funds provided by this program that is intended to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. The bill would also prohibit TANF or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from being accessed as cash through an ATM. Additionally, the bill would add pornography to the list of items that are prohibited from being purchased by TANF or SNAP benefits.
Criminalizing “Revenge Porn” (HB 1558) – Members of the Missouri House of Representatives approved legislation that would make it a felony offense to disseminate private sexual images without the consent of the person in the image. Often referred to as nonconsensual pornography or “revenge porn,” the offense occurs when an individual sends or posts sexually explicit photos or videos of someone without their permission even if they were originally taken with consent.
Fighting Human Trafficking (HB 1246) – Legislation that has already passed both chambers and been signed into law is meant to address the growing problem of human trafficking. The state is currently ranked 20th in reported human trafficking cases according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Lawmakers have built on past efforts to address the trafficking problem by passing legislation that would make Missourians better aware of the resources available to assist victims of trafficking. The bill would require the Department of Public Safety to develop a poster to promote the use of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. The posters would be displayed at common areas where human trafficking can occur such as hotels or motels that have been cited for prostitution, and train and bus stations.
Raising the Marriage Age to Protect Young People (HB 1630) – As part of their effort to fight human trafficking in Missouri, House members approved legislation that would prohibit marriages for children under the age of 15, and raise the minimum age for marriage with parental consent to 17. Missouri currently has a minimum age of 18 to obtain a marriage license without parental consent. Young people age 15 to 17 can receive a license with parental consent. Individuals of any age also have the option to get married without consent if they successfully petition the court to obtain a license.
The bill would raise the age requirement to 17. Young people under the age of 17 who want to be married would need to obtain a court order that verifies the marriage is advisable and there is no evidence of coercion or abuse of either party entering the marriage. The bill also would strictly prohibit any marriage where either party is under the age of 15, and would ensure no marriage license is issued to any person 21 years of age or older if the other party to the marriage is less than 17 years of age.
Parental Notification Bill (HB 1383) – The Missouri House has voted to require the notification of both parents when a minor in Missouri seeks to have an abortion. The legislation would require that a parent or guardian giving consent for a minor to have an abortion notify any other custodial parent or guardian in writing before the minor gives her consent.It would not apply in an emergency or for custodial parents or guardians that have been found guilty of certain crimes, are listed on the sex offender registry, are the subject of an order of protection, have had parental rights terminated, or for whom the whereabouts are not known. Missouri law now requires that a minor seeking an abortion and one parent or guardian of that minor give written consent before the procedure can be performed.
Support for Pregnancy Resource Centers and Maternity Homes (HBs 1288, 1377 & 2050) – During the first half of the session, House members gave their approval to legislation that would continue and expand support for pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes in Missouri. The bill would extend the sunset for tax credits that help encourage investment in these programs that benefit many of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. Under current law, the tax credit for donations to maternity homes is set to expire June 30, 2020. The tax credit for donations to pregnancy resource centers expires December 31, 2019. The legislation approved by the House would extend the sunset for both credits to 2024.
Last Friday, it was Law Day at the Crawford County Courthouse. Local elected officials and I enjoyed visiting with students from Bourbon, Cuba, and Steelville about what we can do for them.
Earlier this week, I really enjoyed visiting and taking photos with 3rd graders, parents, and teachers from Steelville Elementary. Every year the school comes up to show students their state capitol and introduce them to how their government functions.
I got a chance to attend the St. James Chamber of Commerce Luncheon this week and hear about the proposed renovation of the St. James High School.
I am committed to serve the constituents of the 120th District, so please feel free to contact my office anytime at 573-751-1688. Your District 120 Capitol Office is 201 W Capitol Ave, Rm 415-B, Jefferson City, MO 65101. If you wish to unsubscribe from this report, please email Dylan Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org