Legislative Update for March 19, 2018

The 2018 legislative session has officially reached its halfway point as lawmakers return to their districts for the legislative spring break. This time away from Jefferson City gives senators and representatives the opportunity to reconnect with their constituents and their families. It also provides some time to prepare for the upcoming challenges as the Missouri General Assembly nears the end of the 2018 legislative session.

The Missouri General Assembly is only constitutionally required to pass the state’s operating budget during the legislative session. If other pieces of legislation are not approved by the General Assembly before then, they die and must be reintroduced during the next legislative session. With this deadline in mind, the Missouri Senate continued to move forward with important pieces of legislation before departing for spring break.

 

On The Floor

The Missouri Senate approved Senate Bill 590 which makes several changes to the Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. This bill lowers the program’s cap from $140 million to $90 million. While the cap gets lowered under SB 590, the bill does provide the possibility of an additional $30 million to be authorized solely for projects located in an area with a 30 percent poverty rate or higher as determined by the Department of Economic Development.

Senator Nasheed strongly believes in the Historic Preservation Tax Credit program’s power to revitalize, redevelop and reinvigorate communities and local economies. She opposes cutting this program, but understands that others in the Missouri Senate see the program as a way to free up funds for the state. Senate Bill 590 is not where Sen. Nasheed wants it to be in terms of protecting the program, but it is a start in working to lessen the damage done and ensuring the program continues to be an opportunity to improve our local economies and redevelop some of our state’s historic buildings. As session continues, Senator Nasheed is looking to find ways to increase the funding available to the program.

Additionally, Sen. Nasheed was able see one of her legislative priorities move forward. She was able to amend Senate Bill 803, which prohibits shackling of pregnant prisoners, onto Senate Bill 870. This was a fitting bill to amend the anti-shackling legislation onto since SB 870 deals with emergency medical services. These provisions will help ensure that women are treated humanely and with dignity during stressful times like childbirth. Senate Bill 870 was perfected on March 14 and is one vote away from being sent to the Missouri House of Representatives for further consideration.  

The Missouri Senate also considered legislation reforming the state’s tax laws. Senate Bills 617, 611 & 667 make several changes to Missouri’s tax code. The plan is referred to as “revenue neutral,” meaning these proposed changes are believed to not have an effect on Missouri’s bottom line. This is done by cutting and increasing taxes from a variety of areas. Currently, the bill’s components include:

  • Lowering Missouri’s top income tax rate from 5.9 percent to 5.25 percent. 
  • Cutting corporate tax from 6.25 percent to 4.25 percent.
  • Increasing the current 17 cents per gallon motor fuel tax by ten cents per gallon over the course of several years to help fund transportation projects.
  • Entering the state into the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA), which allows the state to start collecting sales tax on online purchases.
  • Reducing the cap on Low Income Housing Tax Credits to $130 million.
  • Creating a Working Family Tax Credit for some of Missouri’s hardworking families with lower incomes.

This legislation is massive, coming in at over 420 pages. The legislation makes several profound changes to Missouri tax code as well as having a drastic impact on Missourians’ pocketbooks. As the Missouri Senate continues to debate this legislation, Sen. Nasheed will pay close attention to the details and work to ensure this legislation is truly beneficial to her constituents as well as the state’s bottom line. In these tough financial times where the state struggles to pay for education and much needed infrastructure projects, Sen. Nasheed worries this legislation may only compound that problem.

 

Bills and Committees

As the Missouri Senate neared the halfway point of the 2018 legislative session, Sen. Nasheed’s legislation continued to move through committees and be debated on the floor of the Missouri Senate. 

Senate Bill 803 – This bill prohibits the use of shackles on pregnant offenders during transportation, medical visits and labor. Senate Bill 803 was amended onto Senate Bill 870, which was perfected on March 14. 

Senate Bill 993 – This proposal gives the treasurer of the City of St. Louis the authority to create the Office of Financial Empowerment, which would be tasked with providing educational programs and other financial empowerment resources to the public. Senate Bill 933 was heard on March 13 before the Senate’s Local Government and Elections Committee.

 

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee did not meet the week before spring break, but the Missouri House of Representatives Budget Committee has finished their budget markup process and sent the budget to the floor of the Missouri House for discussion and debate following the end of the legislative spring break.

 

Other News

Missouri House Committee Approves Budget

On March 14, the Missouri House Budget Committee approved its version of the roughly $28 billion state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. While the budget covers a host of important state activities, funding education is one of the top priorities for the budget committee. In an attempt to stave off some of the governor’s $68 million proposed cut to higher education, the committee restored $38 million in funding while holding the remaining $30 million in reserve in exchange for a pledge from public college and university leaders that they won’t increase student tuition for the upcoming year. Additionally, the budget committee approved fully funding the K-12 education formula to the tune of $98 million. Now that the committee has approved these appropriations bills, they go to the full House where they are expected to be taken up after the General Assembly returns from its legislative spring break.

 

Missouri Ethics Commission

With the expiration of three members’ terms, the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) will lack the quorum necessary to conduct business. The state’s ethics commission is now one member short of the four members needed in order to carry out its duties of overseeing compliance with campaign finance, lobbying and conflict of interest laws and investigating ethics complaints. While members of most state boards and commissions are allowed to continue serving past the end of their terms, that is not the case with the MEC. The governor will need to appoint commissioners who will then need to be approved by the Missouri Senate before the MEC can conduct business again.