JEFFERSON CITY — Today in St. Louis, the governor signed into law Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh’s Senate Bill 49, which provides a common-sense solution to multiple long-term infrastructure repair and replacement needs at the Saint Louis Zoo, as well as Senate Bill 50, relating to health care.
Rather than creating a new sales tax authorization for counties in the St. Louis metropolitan area, Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, worked with stakeholders at the state and local level to reform a 1980s sales tax law by adding more transparency and taxpayer protections.
“With Senate Bill 49, we saw lawmakers from both sides of the aisle really come together to help the St. Louis Zoo and to clean up Missouri’s tax code,” said Walsh. “I’ve been proud to work on this legislation because it means that our world-class zoo will remain free to the people of St. Louis for generations to come, and I thank the governor for signing it into law.”
Under current law, any county has the ability to levy a general sales tax up to one-half of 1 percent with voter approval, which can be dedicated for any purpose at the discretion of the respective county. However, only in St. Louis County and only for issues where local governments were partnering with county government, five-eighths of the revenue collected has to be redistributed to local municipalities in the county. Senator Walsh’s legislation exempts the county from this distribution requirement and reduces the eligible tax rate in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis from one-half of 1 percent to one-eighth of 1 percent if the tax is being used for zoological activities.
Senate Bill 49 also allows the St. Louis Zoo to implement an admission fee for guests who do not live in St. Louis County or the City of St. Louis for any new facilities, programs or events that are not currently part of the Zoological Museum Sub-District. Finally, the measure will cap general sales taxes at the municipal and county level because current law does not limit how many times a city or county places a general sales tax on the ballot. This amendment adds clarity in the state’s tax code to ensure the interpretation of local taxing authority is not left up to the courts.
The governor also affixed his signature to SB 50, which establishes a statewide health care directive registry to provide a secure place to electronically store an advance health care directive and to give authorized health care providers immediate access to them when a patient is admitted to a hospital.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of advance directives. Without them, decisions about your medical treatment or end-of-life care may be left up to people who don’t know you or your wishes,” said Walsh. “Advance directives identify a representative to speak for you, giving you a voice in your health care decisions even if you’re unconscious or too ill to communicate.”
Senate Bill 50 will allow Missouri residents to store their advance health care directive so that medical providers, family members and anyone else they grant access will honor their wishes. The database of advance directives will be a confidential and secure site, protected by the most up-to-date web and database security standards. All submitted information will be used only by authorized individuals and will be kept completely confidential. In order to protect your medical privacy, your information cannot be shared or sold and is exempt from the Sunshine law.
The submission process is simple and secure. During a visit with their health care provider or attorney, an individual, or his or her legal representative, will have the option of submitting and signing their advance health care directive documents electronically — very similar to how a person opens a bank account today. States like Virginia have successfully contracted out this type of electronic registry, and several health technology information companies already exist around the country and compete to offer the best and lowest bid for this service, saving the taxpayers money.
“We each have the right to make our own health care decisions,” added Walsh. “Senate Bill 50 simply provides people with an easy and confidential option for ensuring their end-of-life and other critical health care decisions will be honored. After four years of working to establish a statewide health care directive registry here in Missouri, it’s a relief knowing one will soon be available for our citizens and families. Again, I thank the governor for signing this important legislation into law.”
Both SB 49 and SB 50 take effect Aug. 28, 2017. For more information on either of these bills, or any of Sen. Walsh’s other legislation, visit her Missouri Senate website at www.senate.mo.gov/mem13/.