We have reached the half way point of my first legislative session. Going to work for Missouri is exactly what we have done. Legislation on crime, property tax, foreign land ownership, and initiative petition reform have been priorities, and were accomplished in the house. Knowing these things affect everyone in my district has been refreshing to support and the vision for making things better has never been clearer. For me, studying legislation, working with constituents, and getting a better understanding of the building has been the highlights of early session.
My first ever bill (HB1023) was referred to Rules Committee before spring break began. Another step in the checks and balances system that thoroughly vets legislation. The work continues to educate the committee and work with the chair on the legislation. If voted out of rules it will come to the house floor for debate and perfection, another exciting step for me as the bill handler. I will continue to update everyone as it progresses. I think this is a great learning opportunity for me and many constituents to dive into the complete legislative process of bills in Missouri.
I appreciate all the support, visits, and guidance I’ve received thus far in my legislative career. I’m here to serve and that’s my dedication to everyone in Bates, Vernon, and Cedar Counties. We will resume the second half of session on Monday March 20, 2023. Please stop by office 114 if you are near Jefferson City, or contact us with any questions.
Lawmakers Conclude Highly Productive First Half of Session
As the 2023 session reached its midpoint lawmakers headed into their brief break from legislative action with a long list of accomplishments. From vital public safety legislation to measures that would improve access to healthcare to a bill that would expand educational opportunities, House members gave their stamp of approval to legislative proposals that would positively impact Missourians from all walks of life in all parts of the state.
House Speaker Dean Plocher praised his colleagues for the work they did in the first half of the legislative session. He said, “We began the session with an ambitious agenda focused on building a more prosperous Missouri with opportunities for all. Our members have made good on that promise by working diligently and deliberatively to advance commonsense reforms and solutions that will ensure a quality education for our children, grow our economy, and keep our streets safe. I’m proud of the work we’ve done and ready to work with the Senate and Governor Parson to make sure these proposals make their way into law.”
Legislators begin their one-week break with 30 House Bills sent to the Senate including one piece of legislation truly agreed to by both chambers and signed into law by the governor. Lawmakers will have until Friday, May 12 to have their legislative priorities approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the governor’s desk.
Some of the priority bills approved during the first half of the legislative session include:
Curbing Violent Crime – HB 301 is a wide-ranging public safety bill that includes a key provision that would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in areas of the state with an excessive homicide rate. The bill specifies the governor would be empowered to appoint a prosecutor in any circuit or prosecuting attorney’s jurisdiction that has a homicide rate in excess of 35 cases per 100,000 people and where the governor determines there is a threat to public safety and health. The bill also contains several other provisions designed to improve public safety in Missouri.
House Speaker Plocher said of the bill, “With hundreds of murders each year and thousands of unprosecuted criminal cases, we see a St. Louis that is anything but safe and that drives people and employers away from our area. I’m confident HB 301 can give us an important tool to restore law and order to St. Louis or any part of our state where violent crime has grown out of control.”
Supporting Law Enforcement – HBs 702, 53, 213, 216, 306 & 359 will take the politics out of policing by placing the St. Louis Police Department under the control of a state-appointed board of commissioners, which will stabilize the department so it can perform the basic job of law enforcement. The bill also specifies that the board must appoint and employ a permanent police force of no less than 1,313 patrolmen. Additionally, the bill requires the board to increase annual salaries for officers by at least $4,000 by July 1, 2024.
The bill sponsor said his legislation is “going to re-fund the police department, and increase the morale, and increase employment – more officers, more funding, more support for that department so they can do their jobs.”
Protecting the Constitution – HJR 43 is designed to protect the state constitution from the influence of out-of-state interests by allowing voters to decide if the state should raise the threshold to modify the constitution in the future. The measure would change the threshold required to approve changes to the state constitution. Currently, changes to the constitution require only a simple majority for approval. If approved by the legislature and voters, HJR 43 would raise the threshold to 60 percent voter approval for passage.
Proponents say the increased threshold will help minimize the influence of out-of-state groups that have no ties to Missouri but spend millions of dollars to change the state constitution. The sponsor of HJR 43 said the groups “try to reimagine Missouri in their vision.” He said, “I think it should be in the vision of the people of the state of Missouri.”
Developing Missouri’s Workforce – HB 417 will help employers develop and retain skilled workers by allowing the Department of Economic Development to award grants to qualifying employers for each employee or prospective employee who obtains upskill credentials. Credentials that could be eligible under the program include manufacturing technology, cybersecurity, blueprint reading, medical assistants, pharmacy technician and medical records coding.
The sponsor said, “This program allows businesses to do something that I think is vitally important right now and that is to grow their own workers.”
Ensuring Access to Life-Saving Exams – HBs 575 & 910 ensures coverage for diagnostic breast examinations and supplemental exams will not have a copay or deductible in an effort to ensure women have access to these life-saving exams. The bill specifies that any health carrier or health benefit plan that offers or issues health benefit plans that provide coverage for diagnostic breast examinations, coverage for supplemental breast examinations, low-dose mammography screenings, breast magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasounds, or any combination of such coverages cannot impose any deductible, coinsurance, co-payment, or similar out-of-pocket expense with respect to such coverage.
“If we do not offer diagnostic testing without a copay, we will not receive the benefits of early cancer diagnosis. Diagnosing breast cancer early benefits us all. First and foremost it saves the lives of women that we care about and the mothers of our children. It reduces overall cost of healthcare,” said the sponsor of the bill, who noted a study found the national cost savings with early diagnosis would be $26 billion each year.
Providing Property Tax Relief – HB 713 would change current state law that requires assessors to determine vehicle values by using the National Automobile Dealers’ Association Official Used Car Guide. The bill would repeal that requirement and instead have assessors use the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for all vehicles for the original value of all motor vehicle assessment valuations. The bill establishes a 15-year depreciation schedule that would be applied to the MSRP to develop the annual and historical valuation guide for all motor vehicles.
The bill sponsor said of his legislation, “The bottom line is it’s a taxpayer protection act. If there’s nothing else we can do we can protect our taxpayers from unjustly having to pay more taxes on a vehicle that’s a year older; that has more mileage.”
Simplifying Vehicle Sale Tax – HB 415 simply states that licensed motor vehicle dealers would collect and remit sales tax on all motor vehicles sold. The sponsor of the bill noted that vehicle sales tax is the only sales tax not collected at the point of sale. He said his legislation would put Missouri in line with the other 47 states who require dealerships to collect the vehicle sales tax.
The sponsor said, “The way the process will work is that you will go into the dealership, you’ll do all of your paperwork. You will leave with a temp tag, but that will start the ball rolling for the Department of Revenue to issue your plates and you will receive them in the mail.”
Protecting Missouri Farmland – HBs 903, 465, 430 & 499 is a critical national security bill that would protect fair competition and limit foreign ownership of Missouri farmland by defined enemies of the United States of America. The bill approved by the House would limit foreign ownership of Missouri farmland to 0.5%, from the current restriction in statute of 1%. The bill also would prohibit a foreign business from certain countries from purchasing any land in the state. Nations on the “Restrictive Country” list in the bill are defined as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. The bill encourages friends and allies of the United States to continue cooperating with Missouri-based companies, especially in agriculture research and development.
The bill sponsor said his legislation “protects U.S. national security interests while allowing our allies and friends access and opportunity to compete in our diverse economic environment while completely restricting access and opportunities to our enemies.”
Other Bills Sent to the Senate this Week
HJR 37 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would require the State Road Fund to be subject to appropriation by the General Assembly, rather than standing appropriated without legislative action.
The sponsor of the resolution said, “We are changing nothing else about the constitution as it relates to transportation and this just confirms the legislature’s role as the body with the authority of oversight of the people’s money just like we do with every other department in the state.”
HBs 133 & 583 would create the “Entertainment Industry Jobs Act”. Under the bill, a qualified taxpayer would be allowed a tax credit equal to 30% of the aggregate amount the taxpayer invested and expended as a rehearsal expense or tour expense.
The bill sponsor said, “This act would encourage and incentivize artists to come and do their pre-concert practice, set stage construction, sound and lighting purchases, staging and personnel hiring from Missouri companies.”
He added, “This is a particular industry that would be really new to the state of Missouri. I don’t think we’re picking winners and losers within our state. I want to pick a winner and I want that winner to be Missouri. I think all we have to do is level the playing field and we can win any day of the week.”
HB 402 modifies the definition of hospital to include facilities designated as rural emergency hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the purposes of hospital licensing law.
Supporters say the bill will allow for access to critical federal funding for rural hospitals. Several rural hospitals have already closed in Missouri in recent years, with more at risk of closure as well. By allowing rural hospitals to meet certain standards to access federal funds, the bill provides an avenue for financial security.
HB 461 establishes the Broadband Development Council to explore ways to expand access to broadband services; the potential for increased use of broadband for education, career readiness, workforce preparation, and alternative career training; ways to encourage state and municipal agencies to expand service to better serve the public through the use of streaming, voice over Internet protocol, teleconferencing, and wireless networking.
Supporters say the state and federal governments have distributed millions of dollars in grant funds for the expansion of broadband throughout the state. This bill would establish a council to provide stakeholder engagement and legislative oversight to ensure the effective use of the funds.
Please contact me at:
201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 114B
Jefferson City, MO 65101-6806