As we begin the sixth week of the 2022 legislative session, I wanted to share a few of my legislative priorities for this year. I presented these bills for consideration during committee hearings last month, and I look forward to discussing these important issues further with my fellow senators.
Senate Bill 688 reauthorizes a tax credit designed to incentivize increased research and development. If a taxpayer increases their expenses for research and development purposes over their average expenses for the last three years, they can get a tax credit to offset those increased expenses. This applies to all taxpayers, but a part of the total program is reserved for minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses to ensure there is money available for them. The goal of this tax credit is to encourage more businesses to move to Missouri, while also enhancing our state’s image in the eyes of entrepreneurs.
I believe this program would strengthen minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses, which are historically underrepresented enterprises, and help our state compete in a highly competitive market that often sees frequent disparities in prime contract distribution. These disparities are especially prevalent in the St. Louis area. According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, “over the last 10 years, minority business enterprises accounted for more than 50% of the 2 million new businesses started in the U.S. and created 4.7 million jobs,” and according to the 2020 U.S. Census, Missouri has 61,035 minority-owned businesses compared to 415,972 nonminority-owned businesses. I believe this program has the potential to make our state more attractive in the eyes of businesses and job creators, while also bringing more employment opportunities to the citizens of our state.
Senate Bill 689 modifies Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission standards by raising the minimum number of basic training hours required for licensure of peace officers to 600 hours, instead of the current minimum standard of 470 hours. Many police departments in Missouri are already reaching the 600 hour statutory cap on training hours and still need to provide further education to their officers. Establishing 600 hours as the minimum requirement gives police departments across the state the flexibility to provide additional training to help officers better serve their communities and ensure they are able to handle the wide variety of situations they encounter on the job. This legislation also adds additional grounds for discipline of peace officers by the director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety (DPS). Unfortunately, I have heard of several instances of officers who have engaged in misconduct and then moved to a new department to escape discipline. If we are to improve the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve, I believe we must have confidence that those officers who engage in misconduct will be held accountable for their actions, even if that means having their licenses revoked.
The Ticket to Work Health Assurance Program provides medical assistance through MO HealthNet to disabled individuals who are employed. In order to participate, certain income calculations must be met. Senate Bill 773 modifies this program in a number of ways:
- Excludes retirement accounts from asset limit calculations;
- Changes the income calculation from a net/gross calculation to a broader definition that would consider income for those disabled persons with incomes up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), with earned income of the disabled worker from 250 to 300% FPL disregarded and retaining the requirement that persons with incomes over 100% FPL pay a premium;
- Removes all earned income of the disabled worker from the list of disregards in income determinations; and
- Disregards the first $50,000 of earned income of a spouse from asset limit calculations.
This program has had numerous positive effects on our community, but I believe it could be improved. Currently, participants’ retirement funds are counted as a part of their income. Unfortunately, this often prevents participants from contributing too much money to their retirement out of fear of no longer being eligible for the program. In my opinion, these income limits also have the unintended consequence of keeping participants from pursuing further career opportunities and learning new job skills for fear of earning too much money and losing the crucial medical assistance they need to get ready in the morning and go to work. Another aspect of this situation is the high cost of medical care if an individual must pay for in-home care out-of-pocket. This coupled with the income limits makes it nearly impossible for some individuals to participate in this program. I believe by adjusting the income limits to 300% FPL, we are allowing more disabled individuals to bring their expertise and knowledge to the job market. Without them, we are missing out on an incredible group of talented individuals who just want to work.
Thank you for reading this week’s legislative column. If you have any questions regarding anything going on in the Missouri Senate, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 573-751-4106. It is an honor and privilege to represent each of you in the Missouri Senate.