Sen. Dave Schatz’s Column for March 15, 2018

Schatz- Column banner - 021215Lawmakers have reached the halfway point of the 2018 legislative session.  Next week, the Missouri General Assembly will be on mid-session break. While there are still several legislative priorities of mine that have yet to reach the finish line, I am confident that I will be able to work with my colleagues in order to pass these bills and proposals before the end of session.

During the first half of the legislative session, my Senate colleagues and I introduced 558 bills and 22 Senate Joint Resolutions. Below are updates on several of the bills I have sponsored during legislative session.

Senate Bill 708 increases the minimum motor vehicle liability coverage a person must carry for others’ property, when operating a motor vehicle, according to the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law. This legislation increases the minimum coverage to $25,000. The majority of states near Missouri have increased their minimum liability coverage to $25,000, and the current $10,000 minimum was set more than 30 years ago. I filed this legislation because motorists should know that their fellow drivers can at least cover the replacement cost of their vehicle in case of an accident. Senate Bill 708 has passed the Senate and the House Insurance Committee.

Senate Bill 750 creates the offense of filing false documents. There is a terrible situation occurring in our state where many judges, prosecutors and police are being targeted by activists who use our legal system to harass these public servants. Activists or others with an axe to grind are placing liens on the homes and property of our public servants, and it is very difficult to remove these false liens. Senate Bill 750 and its companion bill, House Bill 1769, make filing a false lien a criminal offense and it establishes a process to remove these fake liens. House Bill 1769 will soon be considered by the full Senate.

This issue was brought to my attention by members of the St. Louis County Police Department and by Rep. Kirk Mathews. Because of the increasing prevalence of these activities in our state, I am working to quickly move this bill through the legislative process and get it to the governor’s desk for his consideration. The sooner this bill becomes law, the sooner victims can begin resolving these false attacks filed against them and their families.

Other proposals moving through the legislative process include bills regarding crisis pregnancy centers, legislation helping seniors afford vital lifesaving prescriptions and a major tax overhaul.

Senate Bill 632 modifies several tax incentives for contributions made to certain benevolent organizations including the Pregnancy Resource Center Tax Credit. This tax credit allows Missouri taxpayers who donate to a pregnancy resource center to qualify for a state tax incentive. This bill will increase the program’s cap to $3.5 million beginning in July of 2019. Senate Bill 632 also extends the tax credit program for Missouri’s maternity homes, which provide housing for pregnant minors at no cost. These tax incentives allow these centers to extend and increase their services to pregnant women, children and others in the Show-Me State.

Senate Bill 563 restores the cuts made to the MO Rx Program, and removes the Medicaid dual-eligible only requirement while restoring the program to all seniors who were eligible prior to last year’s budget, when the unfortunate cuts were made to the program.

The MO Rx program was created to help seniors with out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. The Senate is committed to supporting our senior citizens in the Show-Me State. By passing this measure, we will restore prescription drug assistance to nearly 60,000 Missouri seniors who will once again be able to afford their vital life-saving prescriptions.

Senate Bill 617 represents an overhaul of Missouri’s tax laws. The legislation is intended to provide a tax cut to taxpayers while increasing funding for Missouri’s roads and bridges. Transportation funding is one of my top priorities. I believe it is vital for our state’s future that we do everything we can to improve Missouri’s transportation infrastructure.

Currently, the state’s top income tax rate is 5.9 percent. This legislation aims to lower that income tax rate to 5.25 percent in 2019, while increasing Missouri’s gas tax by 2 cents a year for three years. I believe we can generate millions of dollars in savings for Missouri taxpayers. Senate Bill 617 also contains language allowing the state to collect sales tax on internet purchases. Currently, internet retailers do not collect Missouri sales tax on purchases made online by Missouri residents. Companies such as Amazon have already begun collecting these taxes and I believe it is only fair that internet sales are taxed just like every sale conducted by a Missouri brick and mortar business.

While this legislation still has a long way to go before it reaches the finish line, I am excited to work with my colleagues to find a way to generate more transportation funding for our state’s roads and bridges.

It is often said that more work happens in the General Assembly after spring break than before and I am looking forward to getting back to work on these important issues.