Legislative Actions and Information for the Week of April 8, 2019
|On The Floor
Transportation funding is one of the major issues facing our state this legislative session. On April 9, the Missouri Senate debated a bonding proposal to help resolve this issue. Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 proposes issuing $350 million worth of bonds to construct and repair 250 bridges across the state. This is a hotly contested issue. Proponents of SCR 14 say it provides critical funding to key infrastructure projects that need help now, rather than later. Critics of the plan agree that our roads and bridges need improvement, but they disagree that the state should go into debt to do it. The Senate debated SCR 14 until 2 a.m. the following day, before finally laying it over for future debate. The Senate picked back up SCR 14 later in the week, having reached a compromise of $301 million in bonds, covering 215 bridges. This resolution has since been referred to the Senate’s Fiscal Oversight Committee.
The Senate also debated Senate Joint Resolution 13, dealing with the Missouri General Assembly. This plan would shrink the size of the Missouri House of Representatives from 163 members to 136. It also modifies term limits for members of the General Assembly. Currently, members may only serve eight years in the House and eight years in the Senate, for a combined total of 16 years. This proposal would allow an individual to serve no more than 16 years in the General Assembly, regardless of the house they serve in, meaning they could serve entirely in the House or in the Senate, or some combination of both. While the Senate debated SJR 13, an amendment was proposed that would roll back some provisions of Amendment 1, also known as Clean Missouri, passed by voters in November 2018. The amendment proposed closing off certain legislative records and rolled back changes to the voter-approved redistricting process. This amendment was offered, but not voted on. Senate Joint Resolution 13 was placed on the informal calendar.
Bills and Committees
Senate Bill 22 – This bill was approved by the Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this week. It requires the discovery phase of a trial to begin only after the defendant has been arraigned. It also gives prosecutors the discretion to redact personal identifying information from materials the state discloses to the defendant’s counsel during the discovery process. This legislation now heads to the Senate floor.
The Senate’s Appropriations Committee has marked up the 13 appropriations bills comprising Missouri’s operating budget for the next fiscal year. During this extensive process, senators go through the state’s proposed budget, line-by-line and make adjustments as needed. The first round of markup is complete, but there are several line items that remain open for the Senate to consider. While progress continues to be made on the budget, a potential complication in the process could occur if revenue projections are not met on Tax Day, April 15.
Missouri House Gives Initial Approval to Limiting Tax Votes to General Election
The Missouri House of Representatives gave first round approval to House Joint Resolution 19 on April 10. This proposed constitutional amendment would require ballot measures increasing state or local taxes to only be voted on during a November general election, when turnout is often the highest for the election year. Proponents of HJR 19 say it would increase voter participation in taxation decisions. However, since general elections are only held in even years, critics worry that it could force cities to wait two years for a vote on tax and other funding proposals. There is also the concern this requirement could lead to more crowded general election ballots.
Tax Bill Proposes Internet Sales Tax, Income Tax Cut
The Missouri House of Representatives voted 78-72 on April 9, to grant preliminary approval to legislation that would allow the state to capture tax revenue from online sales that currently goes largely uncollected. However, House Bill 548 would also erase any net revenue gains to the state by cutting state income taxes. This comes at a time when there are concerns about state revenue projections being met for the upcoming fiscal year. Because the first-round vote fell four votes short of the minimum 82 needed for final passage, it remains unclear if HB 548 will have enough support to advance to the Missouri Senate.
Missouri House Advances Campus Conceal and Carry Bill to Senate
Carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus would be legal under legislation the Missouri House of Representatives passed on April 8, by a vote of 98-52. Current law makes it illegal to carry a concealed weapon on a college campus without advance permission from the school’s governing body. House Bill 575 would repeal that prohibition and allow so-called “campus carry” by anyone. Under a 2016 change to state law, neither permit nor training is required to carry a concealed weapon in Missouri. This legislation also would allow university governing boards to designate certain faculty members or staff as “campus protection officers” who would have the same legal authority as police to make arrests or use deadly force without undergoing the same level of training.
Donation Ban Upheld
In 2016, Missouri voters approved a wide-ranging constitutional amendment dealing with campaign finance reform, including a prohibition on direct corporate contributions. Amendment 2 allows a corporation to create a connected political action committee (PAC) to solicit donations from “members, officers, directors, employees or security holders” of the corporation, but doesn’t include donations from the corporation itself. After the Missouri Ethics Commission issued an advisory finding that Amendment 2 prohibits a corporation from giving money to its connected PAC, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry went to court seeking a declaratory judgement that the commission got it wrong and the constitution does allow a corporation to fund its connected PAC. The Cole County circuit judge rejected the chamber’s argument. On April 9, the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District upheld the ruling. The case, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry v. Missouri Ethics Commission, could end up going to the Missouri Supreme Court.