Dozens of Missouri legislative bills become law today

Missouri Capital Building Jefferson City

Historically, most of the bills passed during the Missouri Legislature’s regular session become law on August 28. Of the roughly 2,100 measures filed this year, 144 proposals made it across the finish line. Dozens of proposals become official today. Here is a snapshot of 10 key measures taking effect:

Education funding
In the fiscal year 2019 state budget plan, Missouri’s K-12 public schools are getting $3.5 billion. The figure represents a nearly $100 million funding increase from last year and fully funds the formula used to finance education. The budget outline also includes school transportation funding of $102.5 million – a boost of $10 million but still massively underfunding busing costs.

Lawmakers agreed to a deal with most of Missouri’s public colleges and universities to allow the schools to increase tuition by no greater than 1% during the next school year. In exchange, the Legislature would maintain state aid at the current level of $1.2 billion.

Mobile fees for 911 services
A new law allows Missouri counties to try and collect a fee from cell phone users for local 911 services. If approved by a state 911 oversight board and local voters, individual counties could collect a monthly fee of up to one dollar. Bill sponsor, State Rep. Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, says counties hoping to implement the fee would have to present a plan to the board to show how the money would be spent. The funding could cover things like emergency texting, upgrading phone systems, staffing, training and pinpointing where calls are coming from.

Income tax cuts
The General Assembly passed a plan that reduces the individual tax rate from 5.9% to 5.5%. The rate will be gradually reduced to 5.1% if the state meets targets for income tax growth. The legislation from Speaker Pro-Tem Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, seeks to offset expected revenue losses by gradually phasing out the federal income tax deduction.

The plan also drops the corporate income tax rate from 6.25% to 4%. The rate cut would go into effect in 2020. In addition, the bill changes the way out of state corporations would pay taxes to be based on sales rather the current three-factor apportionment option that lets companies opt for the lower of two rates.

Individuals and companies will begin to see the changes next year.

Sweeping utility bill
The comprehensive utility bill sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, satisfies the state’s largest electric companies after years of legislative haggling. The measure changes the way regulated utilities negotiate rates with the state by allowing them to more quickly recover the cost of infrastructure upgrades.

The bill caps rate hikes at 2.85 or 3% per year, depending on the service area.

The measure also calls on the utilities to reduce rates by roughly 5% to compensate for a large federal corporate tax cut the companies are realizing.

Prevailing wage law
A big win for the Republican majority on labor issues came when both chambers endorsed a partial repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law after years of failing to do so. The law sets pay standards for public works projects based on location.
The construction jobs impacted include schools, courthouses and fire stations, among others. The bill, HB 1729, is sponsored by Jeffery Justus, R-Branson.

Industrial hemp
Pacific Republican State Rep. Paul Curtman’s legislation allows Missourians
to grow, cultivate, harvest and process industrial hemp. It creates a pilot program and requires Missourians who want to grow hemp to get a permit from the state Department of Agriculture. The plant, which comes from the same plant as marijuana, contains very low levels of the psychoactive chemical known as THC. Hemp can be used in about 25,000 products, including personal care products, fabrics, and furniture.

Changes to Missouri’s sex offender registry
State Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, sponsored provisions included in a Senate bill passed that will show three categories of sex offenders, instead of one, in Missouri’s sex offender registry. The tiers depend on the severity of the crime committed.

Under the new law, first-level offenders can ask to get off the list after ten years and second-level offenders could petition the court to be removed after 25 years. Level three offenders will remain on the registry.

Changing the state’s minimum marriage age
A proposal sponsored by State Representative Jean Evans, R-Manchester, increases the minimum age for marriage to 16 years old. It also prohibits those older than 21 years old from marrying anyone younger than 18. The bill aims to curtail human trafficking.

Medicaid coverage of chiropractic care
Missouri chiropractors are now allowed into the Medicaid system and Medicaid recipients will be covered for back pain. Bill sponsor, Republican Representative John Wiemann of O’Fallon, says his bipartisan legislation will help to ease the opioid crisis and save the state millions of dollars by offering a less expensive alternative.

Tightening restrictions on liability lawsuits
The GOP-dominated Legislature voted in favor of strengthening the position of insurance companies when multiple parties claim damages. Chesterfield Republican State Rep. Bruce DeGroot’s bill will allow them to use the “interpleader” procedure to avoid paying sums greater than their policy limits.