Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, May 6, 2013
Legislative Updates and Information

JEFFERSON CITY — With less than 10 days remaining in the legislative session, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed worked aggressively last week with members of the House and Senate to enact her education reform bill, Senate Bill 125. If enacted, the bill will rank as the first piece of education reform legislation passed by the General Assembly in almost a decade.

With the session coming to a close, Sen. Nasheed joined ranks with her fellow minority party members and progressives to prevent the steamrolling efforts of conservatives to place a monetary cap on the damages a person could obtain in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and to raise utility rates.

Also this week, Sen. Nasheed succeeded in having $300,000 in funds released for a math and science tutoring program. Sen. Nasheed’s Senate Bill 426, known as the Math and Science Tutoring Act, seeks to establish a center staffed by professionals, who will teach math and science to students to enable them to reach their full potential. Sen. Nasheed said, “I commend the governor for recognizing the importance of this program and releasing state funding to create this tutoring center.”

Sen. Nasheed is looking for her constituents to weigh in on the formation of legislation for the 2014 legislative session. She is in the process of mailing a survey to constituents, seeking their input as to the issues they think are important. This survey will also be available online at that time.

At the close of the week, Sen. Nasheed recognized on the floor of the Senate the two college interns who have served her superbly this session: Hannah M. Young, a student at Northwest Missouri State, and Brittany Campbell, a student at the University of Missouri.  Telling her colleagues that she has been very lucky to have two wonderful and capable interns, Sen. Nasheed presented resolutions thanking Hannah and Brittany for their outstanding service.

Last week, certain minority and majority members were able to stand up for Missourians on the topic of the utility Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge (ISRS) measure. This bill would unfortunately saddle many low-income homes with greater debt, thereby adding more stress on the home finances, while adding to the profits of companies like Ameren. Sen. Nasheed stood, opposed to the rate increase, the entire time the bill was open for debate on the Senate floor.

Also last week, Sen. Nasheed convened a meeting of the Legislative Black Caucus in order to hear organized opposition to changes in the public assistance programs that would make it more difficult for those in need to receive state aid. Another topic brought up for discussion during that meeting was an official stance on the possible minority inclusion of $1,000,000 to the FY 2014 budget to enhance proposed state band programs.


The state Senate attempted again to reform the state’s tax credit system last week.  Lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully during the past few sessions to reduce the amount of tax credits issued by the state, but differences between the House and Senate have scrambled all previous attempts at reform. The Senate has attempted to rein in the Low-Income Housing and Historic Preservation tax credit programs – the two largest tax credit programs offered by the state, but the House and Senate have been unable to agree on specific numbers for the programs. This week, the Senate made a few changes to a House bill that limits low-income housing tax credits to $55 million annually and eliminates the program after 2018. The House version reduces historic preservation tax credits from $140 million annually to $45 million, but senators turned around and increased the limit to $60 million.

Sen. Nasheed said she did not want to alter the tax credit programs because of the positive impact they have had in her district.

“I truly believe we need to leave well-enough alone,” Sen. Nasheed said. “I have had the opportunity to see the impact of these low-income and historic preservation tax credits in the City of St. Louis. If we didn’t have these tax credits, we wouldn’t have Washington Boulevard as it exists today. Ten years ago, there was decay surrounding Washington Boulevard but we were able to revitalize that area and others in the City.”

The Senate version of House Bill 698 includes incentives to attract data centers to the state if those centers create at least 20 new jobs, and it includes $60 million in tax credits over eight years for freight forwarders at Lambert St. Louis International Airport.  The package also includes so-called “Angel Investor” tax credits for those who invest in small business start-ups in Missouri.  The investor tax credits, sponsored by Minority Floor Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, are limited to $6 million annually and expire after 2019.

Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, D-Kansas City, said she agreed with her colleagues that the state’s tax credit system needs to be reformed, but she had some reservations.

“I believe there should be some reform of the tax credit system, but I want to be sure we’re still meeting the needs in our communities through low-income housing and some of these other programs,” Sen. Curls said. “There is still such an unmet need in my area for low-income housing to combat homelessness.”

The Senate returned the tax credit bill to the House with a few changes.

Meanwhile, conferees from the House Budget Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee this week will begin trying to work out the differences between the budgets passed by both chambers. Under the Missouri Constitution, work on the state budget must be completed by the Friday prior to the last Friday of session, so lawmakers have until 6 p.m. May 10 to send the $25 billion budget to the governor.

There are less than two weeks remaining in this legislative session, with the General Assembly adjourning at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17.