Sen. Mike Cunningham’s Legislative Column for Dec. 5, 2019

Legislative Column for Dec. 5, 2019

The 2020 legislation session doesn’t officially start until Jan. 8, the day lawmakers return to the State Capitol in Jefferson City. Legislative activity is underway, however. Pre-filing of bills began on Dec. 2, and already several hundred measures have been sponsored and submitted to the secretary of the Senate. The title of each one of these bills will be read aloud in the Senate chamber on opening day, clearing the way for committee referrals and, perhaps, eventual consideration by the full General Assembly.

To date, I have pre-filed nine bills for introduction during the Second Regular Session of the 100th General Assembly of the State of Missouri:

Senate Bill 528: This measure establishes a School Transportation Fund to help local districts cover the cost of busing students to school. In the event the state has education money remaining after Foundation Formula expenses are paid, that money would go to pay for school transportation costs. The fund would also receive money from use taxes paid on Internet purchases if separate legislation is passed.

Senate Bill 529: This legislation would require online merchants with gross receipts from Missouri sales in excess of $100,000 to collect use tax. This tax is similar to the sales tax that Missourians pay when they purchase tangible goods at brick and mortar storefronts. The current situation where local sales are taxed but online sales are not creates a disparity that puts Missouri businesses at a competitive disadvantage and denies local communities the revenue they need to provide essential services. Collecting use tax on Internet sales levels the playing field for hometown merchants and will help them better compete for consumers’ business. My bill would require 80 percent of use taxes to go to the School Transportation Fund, with the remaining 20 percent earmarked for the County Jail Reimbursement Fund.

Senate Bill 530: This measure addresses the illegal “grey market” gaming machines we see popping up in gas stations and truck stops. None of those machines are taxed and they reduce funding for Missouri’s schools by diverting money away from the legal Missouri Lottery. Under this bill, any establishment convicted of operating an illegal gaming device would face immediate and automatic revocation of their liquor license, as well as their license to sell Missouri Lottery products.

Senate Bill 615: Third class counties, including every county within the 33rd Senatorial District, could opt out of performance audits by Missouri’s state auditor if they’ve undergone an audit by a certified public accountant within the preceding two years. These counties would be required to submit their recent CPA audit report to the state.

Senate Bill 616: This legislation corrects issues relating to collection of a special sales tax following the dissolution of a county hospital district in Ripley County. With the hospital closed, it’s no longer necessary to collect the tax created to fund it, but legislation is necessary to end the tax and distribute remaining funds.

Senate Bill 617: The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will provide epinephrine auto-injector devices to fire departments, EMTs and other first responders in non-metropolitan areas of Missouri if this measure is approved. The dramatic increase in the cost of epi-pens in recent years means that emergency service providers in rural areas cannot afford to provide these life-saving devices.

Senate Bill 690: This bill ties the duration of unemployment benefits to the average unemployment rate in Missouri. Current law allows 20 weeks of unemployment benefits. If this legislation is approved, the length of time benefits are paid would decrease on a sliding scale to reflect the availability of jobs. Unemployment benefits would expire after 12 weeks when the state’s unemployment rate falls below 5.5 percent.

Senate Bill 691: This legislation makes minor changes to the way unemployment compensation fund payments are allocated. The fiscal note on a previous version of this bill found no net increase in cost to employers.

Senate Bill 692: Changes to Missouri’s Public Access to Automated External Defibrillator Act would reduce potential liability for persons or entities that acquire or provide one of these life-saving devices. Businesses and organizations should not fear lawsuits in the event someone uses a defibrillator in a good-faith effort to save a life.

Pre-filing is just the beginning of the legislative process. Before the 100th General Assembly adjourns in May, many more measures will be put forth. If history is any guide, few of the bills proposed this year will pass. Last year, just 42 Senate bills, out of 518 introduced, were signed into law by the governor. It’s a long, difficult struggle to turn a good idea into a good law. That deliberate process is intentional. My proposals, like all the others put forth next year, must survive scrutiny. Let the process began.

It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2019, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.