The Second Regular Session of the 97th Missouri General Assembly is in the books. As usual, there was a flurry of activity in the last week as bills were finalized and passed by both chambers. Over the next few weeks, this Capitol Report will document highlights of the session, beginning with Senate bills I filed and House bills I handled that have been Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed, which is the legislative term for approved and sent to the governor for his signature. Previous Capitol Reports have gone into detail on much of this legislation, so I will provide just brief summaries here. All bills are awaiting the governor’s action unless noted below.
Senate Bills 509 & 496 provide a slow, reasoned and budget-protecting tax cut. Starting in 2017, over a minimum of five years, .5 percent will be cut from the personal income tax rate, from 6 percent to 5.5 percent. During the same period, owners of small businesses will receive a 25 percent deduction on the income they claim on their personal tax forms. Neither reform will happen until state revenues exceed the highest revenue number of the past three years. Since our highest tax bracket is for those making $9,000 or more, and since an additional reform was put in to lower taxes for those making under $20,000 per year, every Missourian will get a tax cut under SB 509. The General Assembly passed SB 509 and overrode the governor’s veto.
Senate Bill 510 changes the definition of “misconduct” as it relates to unemployment insurance claims. Any employee who is terminated through no fault of their own should get benefits. Lately, labor referees and courts have expanded definitions so that people who were fired for just cause are still getting benefits. SB 510’s definitions will help make sure only those who qualify will get financial assistance.
Senate Bill 655 addresses landlord tenant issues. Like many bills, this came to me from a constituent who was having problems removing a non-lessee from his rental property. SB 655 redefines who is and who is not a lawful tenant, changes rules for eviction and helps protect landlords against people who damage property. Similar language was contained in HB 1410, which also passed.
Senate Bill 656 started as a simple bill to remove the requirement that applicants for a concealed carry permit train and test with two different weapons. The House added several pro-Second Amendment provisions, including the creation of school protection officers, reaffirming Missouri’s open carry laws and adjusting rules for corporate security advisors. Senate Bill 745 was also Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed and has the original language from SB 656.
Senate Bill 662 is another bill filed on behalf of a constituent. The constituent’s business was targeted by the Department of Revenue for back sales tax collections he didn’t even know he was supposed to be collecting. SB 662 requires DOR to notify applicable businesses on sales tax policy changes, and if it fails to do so, prohibits the department from going after back taxes. Senate Bill 612 contains similar language and was passed as well.
Senate Bill 829 is a companion bill to SB 662, also filed for the same constituent. SB 829 shifts the burden of proof for large corporations and those who collect sales tax to DOR in tax disputes. It was unacceptable that those being targeted had to prove their innocence.
Senate Bill 892 changes the date of Missouri’s presidential primary. While state and national political parties set the rules for their own delegate nomination process, the state runs the primary election, if that is the method chosen. To fit into current party rules, and avoid the problematic caucuses from 2012, we moved our primary election to March.
Senate Bill 991 was filed to allow law enforcement agencies to work with agencies across the border in the Kansas City metro area. While SB 991 never made it out of committee, the language contained in the bill was amended onto Senate Bill 852, which passed the General Assembly.
House Bill 1125 allows deployed military members and disabled individuals to use a proxy to file for office. While they could file under current law, most elections have rules which state you have to be present to draw for ballot position on the first day. HB 1125 allows affected candidates to send a proxy and have a chance to be first on the ballot. HB 1125 was passed early in session, has been signed by the governor, and is now law.
House Bill 1136 is a bill brought to me by county clerks and election board officials who handle elections. It had been 30 years since we “cleaned up” election statutes and this bill does just that. The House formed an interim committee last summer to hear ideas on updating election laws and HB 1136 was the result.
House Bill 1261 clarifies the powers of the state auditor when it comes to Transportation Development Districts. It was a follow-up to changes lawmakers made last session.
House Bill 1296 allows businesses to advertise that they will pay your sales tax. Most often used in short-term promotions, this practice was banned in Missouri, but not in many surrounding states, putting Missouri retailers at a disadvantage. Through a House amendment, the bill also contains a provision that allows multi-state service corporations to allocate their revenues in new ways for tax purposes, much like we did for manufacturers last year.
House Bill 1372 clarifies Missouri’s law regulating protests at funerals. The current law was upheld by courts, but suggestions were made to make it clearer and those suggestions were included in this bill.
House Bill 1455 is identical to SB 829, addressing the burden of proof language for taxpayers.
House Bill 1710 creates a check-off box on Missouri tax return forms for the Missouri National Guard Foundation Fund, a non-profit fund that helps the families of military members lost in action.
House Bills 1735 & 1618 allow motorcycle sales on Sundays. Currently, dealerships in the Kansas City metro area have to compete with Kansas dealers who can sell on Sundays. HB 1735 allows Missouri dealers to sell if they so choose.
House Joint Resolution 90 sends an issue to the voters regarding an early voting period. Early voting would be on six business days for the General Election (November) ending the Wednesday prior to the election. This is a cost-effective and safe way to extend the convenience of voting.
I have enjoyed working with both fellow senators and representatives on these bills. Each involved multiple steps, and I appreciate the time and effort put in by those who handled my bills in the House and by those who authored bills in the House that I carried in the Senate.
State Senator Will Kraus-R serves District Eight and is a resident of Lees Summit.