The first half of our legislative year ended last week, which coincided with our spring break. My staff and I used this week off from session to catch up on correspondence and meet with constituents in the district. I held six town halls in the district last week. I will touch on those in more detail in a future Capitol Report.
The first half of the session in the Missouri Senate was unusual in that we got down to serious business very quickly. Several early planning meetings, early assignment of committees by Senate leadership, and a floor leader willing to push us have all contributed to the fast pace.
I have been fortunate to sponsor six pieces of legislation that have been passed by the Senate. Two of those were major Senate priorities. These six bills are now in the House, five of which were assigned to various committees this week. Two are already scheduled for hearings next week.
SB 26 – I have discussed this tax reform bill in several previous Capitol Reports and it has gotten a lot of publicity. I am currently working with House leadership to make sure the bill gets a quick hearing and goes to the floor for a vote. SB 26 is a reasonable tax cut that is phased in over five years to make sure normal revenue growth would cover the impact to the budget. The bottom line is that we need to attract more businesses and residents to Missouri to broaden our tax base, not rely on higher taxes for those who are here.
SB 28 – I’ve also discussed this unemployment compensation bill, which changes the definition for “misconduct.” Based on a Florida law change, which is working well, the new definition could save Missouri businesses more than $500 million while making sure those who really deserve benefits get them.
SB 102 – A few years ago, I sponsored a bill which made it harder to sell stolen copper wire by requiring scrap dealers to collect identifying information on the sellers, including a photo. This bill adds catalytic convertors to that statute. Catalytic convertor theft is a growing problem throughout the state, particularly in Jackson County.
SB 116 – This bill makes it easier for military members overseas and other overseas voters to make certain their vote counts. It improves and shortens the process by which voters receive an absentee ballot, expands the elections they can vote in, and gives the benefit of the doubt if they affirm their ballot was mailed on time. While I was in Iraq, I cast my vote, and, I can tell you from personal experience, it takes too long, is too complicated, and many deployed military may regrettably skip the process because of it.
SB 117 – Currently, a recently separated military member who is not a Missouri resident has to wait one year before getting in-state tuition at our public universities. Faced with having to pay as much as $13,000 for the difference, many leave and go back to their home state. This allows those service members to waive the year residency and get in-state tuition immediately. It is the right thing to do for veterans, and it is a good economic policy as Missouri gets more taxpayers.
SB 138 – This is a simple bill that levels the playing field for Jackson County and, specifically, Blue Springs. Most other large counties can collect Neighborhood Improvement District fees on foreclosed properties, but since Jackson County foreclosures are in a different statute, they were not covered. I was glad to help the county and Blue Springs get this accomplished.
While I have several priority bills left, I am very pleased with what has happened so far. I look forward to presenting my bills in the House and continuing to work on more issues in the Senate.
State Senator Will Kraus-R serves District Eight and is a resident of Lee’s Summit.