This week, the Missouri Senate advanced legislation aimed at increasing opportunities for Missouri’s farmers and rural businesses. Included in House Bill 1720 are a number of provisions to support and grow our state’s agricultural industry that I’ve sponsored as stand-alone legislation both this year and in the past. The Senate passed a substitute version of the bill, and that measure will now head back to the House for its approval.
The most comprehensive package of agriculture legislation before the General Assembly this session, the Senate version of HB 1720 includes the “Missouri Rural Workforce Development Act,” a measure aimed at encouraging investment in rural businesses that I sponsored separately as Senate Bill 905. The tax credits established by this program are phased-in, with investors seeing a benefit only after jobs have been created. The bill also includes incentives to spur production and use of biodiesel fuels in Missouri. This provision is similar to legislation I introduced this year as Senate Bill 805. House Bill 1720, as amended by the Senate, extends or restarts several other programs that benefit Missouri’s agricultural producers. The bill renews incentives for new-generation cooperatives, meat processing facilities and timber products producers, all measures I sponsored as part of Senate Bill 644. Also included from SB 644 is an extension of the Missouri Agriculture and Small Business Development Authority, or MASBDA. Agriculture is Missouri’s No. 1 industry, and it’s important the Legislature keep these important incentive programs in place.
Another House bill advancing this week is similar to legislation I have filed, but differs in one critical respect. I have argued for several years that Missourians should be able to legally place bets on the outcome of sporting events, and this year I filed Senate Bill 643 to legalize sports betting in our state. My bill has received a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee, but another sportsbook proposal, House Bill 2502, is further along the legislative process. My legislation imposes a 21% tax on casinos that offer sports betting. This is the same percentage they currently pay on slot machines and table games. The House bill caps the state’s tax share of sports bets at 8%. I’m sure you can guess which bill the sports betting industry is backing.
In my opinion, there’s a clear difference between my legislation and the House bill. That difference is $153 million. That’s the gap between the fiscal notes on the two pieces of legislation. The House bill is expected to generate $10 million a year in state revenue, while my bill is estimated to contribute $163 million. I put it this way: If we think casinos need to make more money, we should support the House bill. If we would rather see that money go to Missouri’s schools, we should pass my bill. There’s a strong push to bring sportsbook wagers to Missouri. I just think if we’re going to do it, the state should benefit. I hope that as these bills progress through the Legislature, we can find a compromise that tilts the outcome in favor of Missouri’s school children rather than casino operators.
With session nearing the end, and the weather turning favorable for travel, we’ve seen a steady increase in visitors to my Capitol office. This week I had the pleasure of meeting with several groups of constituents who stopped by to discuss pending legislation and issues of importance to them. Among those visiting from the district this week were Burns and McDonnell International President Michael Brown and Senior Vice President Ron Coker who came by to talk about economic development. Other visitors included Stephany Bening of Raymore who shared her concerns about distracted driving and the fatal and destructive impact it has on the citizens of Missouri. It was also my pleasure to welcome delegations representing various youth and citizen groups. Members of the Chillicothe FFA chapter were among the many young people in blue corduroy jackets who packed the halls of the Capitol as part of Farm Bureau Youth Leadership Day. Students from Carrollton R-VII School District were also in the Capitol as part of a career development conference through the Job for America’s Graduates program. Finally, I had the honor of introducing firefighters from Chillicothe in the Senate chamber. These brave first responders were here in observance of the 50th anniversary of the Missouri Division of Fire Safety.
There aren’t many weeks left to witness the Legislature in action this year. The 2022 session is scheduled to end on May 13, and the last day senators are permitted to introduce guests in the chamber is April 28. If you’re thinking about taking the drive to Jefferson City to watch the proceedings, you’ll want to do that soon. I enjoy meeting with people from the district and encourage everyone to stop by my office when they’re at the Capitol.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at email@example.com.