Legislative Column for the Week of Feb. 16, 2015

Senate Focuses on Student Transfer Legislation

Legislative News

Since Monday’s session was cancelled due to inclement weather, the Missouri Senate wasted no time getting down to business on Tuesday. We spent the majority of this week debating key student transfer legislation, an issue that my colleagues and I are committed to resolving this year for the thousands of students and families who remain affected. We also approved data storage center legislation that will make Missouri more attractive to technology businesses.

Last year, one of the top priorities for the Missouri General Assembly was addressing the serious problems some of Missouri’s school districts were facing as a result of students transferring out of unaccredited school districts. The result of that effort was a bipartisan piece of legislation that required many hours of debate and a lot of compromise from members on both sides of the aisle. The measure passed both chambers, but was unfortunately vetoed by the governor due to language on private, non-sectarian schools. With that language removed this year, the governor has conveyed his willingness to work with legislators on reaching a compromise, and we are hopeful that Senate Bill 1 will be passed into law.     

In many ways, SB 1, which is actually comprised of several separate pieces of proposed education legislation, builds upon some of the same great ideas from last year’s transfer bill. This has given us a great foundation to build upon, instead of having to start from scratch. One of the primary differences of this year’s effort is that we have shifted away from the concept of solely accrediting schools by district, to accrediting individual school buildings within a district as well. This means that any high-performing schools will not automatically lose their accreditation simply because they’re part of a larger, unaccredited school district. We are hopeful this will allow students to receive their education closer to home, instead of having to travel an hour away to a school in another district.

Senate Bill 1 also provides for the expansion of charter schools and virtual schools, so that Missouri’s students will have more educational avenues open to them. In addition, the measure addresses transient student ratios and student scores; parent notification of unaccredited status and home visits; reading, personalized learning plans and student retention; and online tutoring services through public libraries.

In other legislative news, we’re continuing to look at bills this session that create jobs, expand our economy and let Missourians keep more of their hard-earned money. One of those measures is Senate Bill 115. Under current law, there is a three-year statute of limitations on claiming a credit or refund for overpayment of income taxes, despite the fact there is no such statute of limitations on how far back the government can collect owed taxes, even if it’s discovered years after the original tax filing. Senate Bill 115 creates parity for Missourians by allowing them to seek a refund after the statute of limitations has passed if they amend their federal return.

Currently, in determining what portion of a corporation's income is taxable in Missouri, the business may use a method whereby the ratio of in-state sales to total sales is multiplied by the net income. A method for determining whether sales of tangible property are to be considered in-state is already established in current law. Senate Bill 19 specifies a process for all other sales, including sales of real property or rentals of tangible personal property; rentals of licenses of intangible property; and sales of intangible property.

I’m pleased to say that on Tuesday (2-17), Senate Bill 149 was third read and passed by the Senate. The measure creates state and local sales and use tax exemptions for data storage centers, and allows municipalities to enter into loan agreements, or sell, lease or mortgage municipal property for a technology business facility project. It was designed to make Missouri more attractive to technology businesses and data storage center facilities by offering similar incentives to the ones our neighboring states have been using for years in order to lure these lucrative business opportunities to their areas.

Shown above, board and staff members from Voyce Volunteer Ombudsmen withSen. Ron Richard in the Senate Chamber on Feb. 11.

Finally, I was very honored to meet with some of the Voyce Volunteer Ombudsmen board and staff, who were visiting the Capitol for the 5th Annual Advocacy Day with the Missouri Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsman, representing long-term care residents.



Helpful Consumer Financial Information

This week, the Missouri Credit Union Association offers educational information about ATM skimming scams. Although the vast majority of ATM transactions are conducted safely and securely, ATM fraud can and does happen. One such ATM fraud to be aware of is a scheme called ATM skimming—where thieves attach electronic devices on or near ATMs in an attempt to capture your card number and/or personal identification number (PIN).

To help prevent falling victim to ATM skimming, look for the following:

  • Skimming devices – gadgets are often placed over or into the card slot. When an individual slides a card into a compromised card slot, the reader can scan and store the information from the card's magnetic strip. Be especially cautious if the ATM has an unusual-looking attachment, odd markings, scratches or tape residue. The same goes if anything on the front of the machine looks crooked, loose or damaged, which may be a sign of tampering.
  • Keypad overlays – devices placed over the ATM's keypad can capture PINs as they're entered. Overlays may flatten or pull the surface of the keys out.
  • Tiny cameras – a small video recording device or camera on or near the ATM, perhaps near the speaker, near the overhead lighting or on the sides of a recessed ATM. A more recent scam involves thieves taking thermal photos of the ATM or POS keypad after you've entered your PIN. The heat scan shows the numbers and the order in which you pressed them, since the most recently pressed keys are the "hottest" ones. Resting your other fingers on the numbers of a nonmetal keypad helps ensure that these cameras don't reveal your code.
  • Low-tech spying – crooks may be lurking with binoculars to watch you enter your PIN, so shield the keypad with your body or hand. And watch out for anyone looking over your shoulder or offering to "help" you use the ATM.

What you can do:
When looking for an ATM to use, choose one located in a well-lit area such as a store or lobby, and avoid standalone or unusual-looking machines. Before beginning your transaction, inspect the ATM for any signs of tampering. If something seems suspicious, particularly with the machine's keyboard or card slot, cancel your transaction and notify the owner of the ATM.

Stand directly in front of the ATM as you begin your transaction and shield the keyboard with your hand as you enter your PIN.  Be aware of your surroundings and watch for anyone standing too close. When your transaction is complete, if your card is not returned from the ATM, notify the ATM owner immediately. If you suspect a skimming device has been installed on an ATM, do not try to remove the device. Instead, notify the owner of the ATM immediately.