Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, March 24, 2014
Supporting Our Local Economies

Legislative News

The Missouri Senate returned to Jefferson City this week for the second half of the 2014 legislative session. With just seven weeks left, and numerous priorities to address, we worked diligently on various measures, including passing proposals to help and protect business owners throughout the state. 

Senate Bill 662 requires the Missouri Department of Revenue to notify affected sellers of certain decisions modifying sales tax law. In recent years, we’ve heard from multiple businesses that have received massive tax liability bills after the department reassessed what services and products are taxable.

Shown above, Sen. Richard receives the Legislator of the Year award from the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

The problem is that many of those owners were never notified of the change in their tax liability. Some only knew about the issue after getting a bill for thousands of dollars, jeopardizing the future of their livelihood.

This legislation simply ensures the department notifies businesses if there has been a change in the interpretation of sales tax law that modifies what items are taxable. Should the department fail to contact the business owner, they would no longer be liable for the debt. Ultimately, the legislation just guarantees that business owners aren’t blindsided by tax bills and have the option to appeal the decision or work with the department before the liability is leveled fully against them.

We also approved Senate Bill 673, which would lower the amount of time citizens can receive benefits based on the unemployment rate. As the rate falls, the length of benefits is reduced. This would relieve some of the financial pressure currently facing the program.

More importantly, the legislation changes how we can pay back the federal government for unemployment funds our state was forced to borrow in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Under the bill, the Board of Unemployment Fund Financing could issue bonds to pay back federal unemployment advances when the total debt exceeds $300 million.

Because of our state’s AAA credit rating, the interest rates on bonds is far lower than the interest rate on the debt we owe the federal government. This would save employers hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment insurance surcharges. That money can then be used for expansion and growth.

Additionally, we passed a bill this week to urge more people to take advantage of farmers’ markets. Over the last 10 years, these markets have allowed farmers to sell their goods directly to consumers. These setups help those in our agricultural industry. It also gives people more access to fresh, local products, which are often healthier and more nutritious.

Senate Bill 727 creates a sales and use tax exemption for farmers’ markets, and creates a pilot program to allow those on food stamps to purchase local food items from these setups as well. I think this is a fantastic idea. Those who receive state aid can then put that money back into their local economy, bolstering the agricultural industry in their area and helping those who provide the food we eat.

In other news, I was honored to receive the Legislator of the Year Award from the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association. The organization sent out the following press release to announce the award:

Senator Richard Recognized with
Legislator of the Year Award

JEFFERSON CITY— The Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association (MAPA) is pleased to honor Senator Ron Richard, R-Joplin, with the Legislator of the Year Award. Senator Richard received the award for his continued support of transportation issues.

Each year the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association presents two legislators from the House and Senate with an award recognizing their leadership. This year, the awards were presented during the Missouri Transportation Construction Coalition Legislative Drive-In at the Capitol on March 25.

As the Senate Majority Floor Leader, Sen. Richard is committed to bringing the 1 percent transportation sales tax to the floor for debate. Senator Richard recognizes the importance of transportation infrastructure to Missouri and the role a robust transportation network plays in Missouri's economy.

MAPA appreciates Senator Richard’s commitment to transportation and is honored to recognize his leadership. 

District News

Discover Nature Girls Camp is a free three-day, two-night girls’ camp that will be hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) this year on Aug. 5 through Aug. 7.   This camp is aimed at introducing girls ages 11 to 15 to different outdoors skills. The camp will give them a supportive, learning environment to actively participate in “hands-on” outdoor skills.

These activities will be led by experts in their field. Skills the girls will learn through activities include: water safety, canoeing, rifle shooting, geocaching, archery, wildlife conservation, safety trail, firearm skills, camp cooking, wildlife ID and game care, fish ID, tree stand safety, fishing and campfire building. At the completion of camp, the girls will become Hunter Education Certified so they may continue using their newly learned skills.

This camp will be at YMCA Camp Wakonda in Lawrence County. The girls will arrive by 9 a.m. on Aug. 5 to check in, and will be picked up by 2 p.m. Aug. 7.

For more information and applications, contact Conservation Agent Kearby Bridges at (417) 251-3693, or Conservation Agent Mark Creed at (417) 830-8266. Applications are due by June 1.  The first 50 applicants will be accepted. After 40 girls are registered, MDC will maintain a waiting list in case cancellations occur.

As we approach May, countless senior high school students across the state are preparing to attend college this fall. The Missouri Credit Union Association has offered the following tips to students and parents as they financially prepare themselves:

  • Check if Your Credit Union Offers Scholarships

    Many credit unions offer scholarships to graduating high school seniors who are members of the credit union.  In 2013 alone, credit unions in Missouri provided nearly $210,000 in scholarships to graduates planning to pursue higher education.  Contact your credit union today to ask about its scholarship program. 

  • Search Online for Grants and Scholarships

    In today’s technological world, it’s never been easier to search and apply for state and local grants and scholarships.  Take full advantage of these potential sources of tuition assistance.  It’s possible to be eligible for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and this money could be the difference between taking out a student loan or not.  

    Don’t forget to contact the school you plan to attend to find out scholarship options.  Many high school guidance counselors have information for frequently attended schools.

  • Attend a Community College First

    Save thousands in tuition and fees by completing core courses at a local community college.  Attending a community college may seem less prestigious than attending a university – but what really matters is where your bachelor’s degree is from.  However, be sure to check the credit transfer policy of the university you want to attend after community college.  If classes don’t transfer – it could waste your time and money.
  • Cut Costs and Work Part-time

    Consider living with roommates off-campus.  This will help cut living expenses, and can free up money to pay for the incidental costs of attending college – books, fees, food, gas, etc.  There’s also the option of working part-time while attending school, possibly through a Federal Work-Study program.
  • As a Last Option, Apply for Student Loans

    If student loans are necessary, compare options carefully to find the student loan that best suits your needs.  The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website provides good information for potential borrowers.