It’s halftime in the Missouri Legislature. State lawmakers have recessed for one week. Reflecting on the first half of the session, Senator David Pearce, of Warrensburg, said he and his colleagues were able to pass several economic development measures. Click to hear KMZU’s Chelsea Wade talk with Sen. Pearce:
Press Release from the Missouri Senate
JEFFERSON CITY— After nine weeks at the Capitol, Missouri state senators returned to their hometowns today marking the halfway point of the First Regular Session of the 97th General Assembly. In those first nine weeks, a number of key priorities passed, including a fix to the Second Injury Fund and a bill that will bring broad-based tax relief.
Senator Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, applauded senators from both sides of the aisle saying the long days and nights showed their commitment to making the best decisions for Missourians.
“We’ve had a big first half of this session,” said Dempsey. “We passed nine priority bills among nearly 70 bills sent to the House designed to protect Missourians, cut waste and create jobs across the state.”
Within the first month of session, the Senate passed two bills aimed at promoting job creation and encouraging charitable donations. Senate Bill 10 would make Missouri more competitive when bidding against other states to host amateur sporting events. The measure would authorize the state to issue up to $3 million annually in incentives to organizers who bring events like the NCAA basketball tournaments to the Show-Me State. The incentive is critical if Missouri is going to stay competitive in attracting these sporting events, and it will bring revenue to the state.
Senate Bill 20 will extend certain benevolent tax credits to people who make donations to pregnancy centers, child crisis nurseries and food pantries. “Encouraging individual donors to personally direct their charitable dollars to local programs is a fiscally responsible way of easing the future burden on the state budget,” said Dempsey.
The Senate also voted in February to rein in inefficient tax credits that could save Missouri taxpayers nearly $1.3 billion over the next 15 years. Senate Bill 120 would cap Missouri’s most costly tax incentives, including the Low-Income Housing and Historic Preservation tax credit programs. Part of the estimated savings from the reduction in those tax credit programs would help fund new job-creating incentives, including credits for data storage centers and the “Missouri Export Incentive Act.”
Dempsey said this comprehensive economic development and tax credit reform bill is part of Senate leadership’s commitment to cutting government waste while creating a more business-friendly environment.
“Tax credit reform is a legislative priority for us this year,” said Dempsey. “We have to find the delicate balance of protecting funding for vital programs while offering tax incentives in a financially responsible way in order for businesses to stay competitive. Offering these efficient tax incentives will help create jobs in the state, while saving our state more than $1 billion over the next decade.”
One of the biggest successes of this legislative session so far was passing Senate Bill 1. The bill would modify the state’s Second Injury Fund and Workers’ Compensation system. Dempsey said the bill will create a more competitive climate for job creators and encourage economic growth while addressing issues within the now insolvent Second Injury Fund.
“We wanted to address issues within the Second Injury Fund, and take care of those people who were injured on the job and not receiving compensation,” said Dempsey. “This bill also limits the liability exposure for Missouri businesses, keeping companies and jobs within the state.”
Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said approval of the bill, shows the Senate’s commitment to moving crucial legislation this session.
“The Senate took the lead on modifying the Second Injury Fund and made the tough decisions required to help provide for those who greatly need this financial help,” said Richard. “There was urgency on this issue, and I’m proud of my colleagues who were able to move this legislation forward.”
Education reform legislation was also passed in the first half of the 2013 session. The Senate approved a bill aimed at helping students in failing school districts. Senate Bill 7 removes the two-year waiting period unaccredited school districts receive before the Missouri State Board of Education can intervene.
“Education is the greatest investment we can make,” said Richard. “We were able to work together to make meaningful reform. We have students who are suffering. It’s our job as lawmakers to assist them.”
The Senate also passed a bill that would tighten the definition of “misconduct” when it comes to unemployment benefits in an effort to address abuse of the system. Over the last few years, Missouri courts have narrowly construed the definition of “misconduct” when it came to deciding unemployment benefits. Senate Bill 28 will reduce Missouri’s debt by more than $500 million.
Missourians could also see more money in their paychecks thanks to a measure passed just this week. Senate Bill 26 would cut personal and corporate state income taxes on hard-working Missourians while freeing up capital for job creators across the state. The last time the state Legislature cut income taxes was in 1921. Richard said this broad-based tax relief will help send a strong signal that the Show-Me State is open for business.
“Unlike Washington D.C., we aren’t addicted to taxing and spending,” said Richard. “Here in Missouri, we are cutting inefficient programs and providing the savings to working Missourians and job creators.”
The Senate is also protecting the paychecks of Missouri public employees. Late this week, the Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 29. The measure bars public employee labor unions from withholding fees from public employees’ paychecks without written annual approval. Dempsey said this bill is just common sense and it will help keep jobs in the state.
“Union employees shouldn’t have to fund political campaigns they don’t support,” said Dempsey. “We are looking out for our hard-working Missouri employees.”
After a very successful start to the legislative session, the Senate is scheduled to next convene on Monday, March 25th, 2013 at 4 p.m. Senators will get back to work on important issues facing the state of Missouri.
To see a complete list of the bills that advanced out of the Senate during the 2013 legislative session and to see the bills’ progress, visit www.senate.mo.gov.