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Julie Schwartz on August 6, 2009 - 3:34pm
The Missouri legislature adjourned after delivering approximately 160 bills to Governor Nixon.
Budget: The Missouri legislature passed a $23 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, plus a two-year $600 million capital improvements budget that includes various projects funded with federal stimulus money. Governor Nixon used the line-item veto to cut $22.8 million from the operating budget and $82.2 million from the capital improvement budget. For specific initiatives vetoed click here. The Governor also placed on hold an additional $325 million of expenditures since the state faces declining revenues.
Stimulus: Missouri is set to receive over $10 billion in federal stimulus funds, with $1.3 billion being used to fill key holes in depleted state coffers and to increase spending on education over last year despite a 7% overall budget cut. The ARRA funding includes:
- $525 million to the state Dept. of Transportation. Because of the state's ability to quickly disperse funds, local construction jobs are already seeing an upwards turn.
- $229.3 million in stimulus funds from the Department of Energy (DOE). According to the DOE, more than $128 million went to weatherization to help low-income families with energy costs, more than $57 million went to Missouri’s energy program and the state got nearly $44 million from the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant Program.
- $40.3 million for law enforcement from the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, which provides funds to hire police officers, and drug and gang task forces.
- Other funds will be used to build new capital projects in the University of Missouri system, update technology in public schools, and open a regional jobs transition center for displaced workers.
Tax: On a positive note the Senate did not pass HJR 36, a proposed constitutional amendment that, if enacted and ratified by Missouri voters, would have replaced the state’s individual and corporate income taxes and the state's sales and use tax, with a flat tax on sales of goods and services, shifting the tax burden onto low-income and working families. The Senate also rejected a separate set of House bills to lower the top income tax rate and expand deductions benefiting richer taxpayers.
Jobs: The legislature enacted H.B. 191, a bipartisan jobs bill that was one of Governor Nixon’s top legislative priorities. The legislation expands the Quality Jobs Program, expands the Missouri BUILD (Business Use Incentives for Large-Scale Development), and provides funding for pre-employment training activities under the state's Job-Training Program. The bill also eliminates the franchise tax for more than 16,500 Missouri small businesses, or 82 percent of all businesses that owed or paid this tax last year.
Environment: The 2009 legislative session was a mixed bag for environmental issues.
- H.B. 734 establishes the Joint Committee on Missouri's Energy Future. The committee will prepare and submit a report to the General Assembly on Missouri's energy needs and methods to reduce energy costs over the next 25 years. The legislation also requires any appliance purchased with state funds to have earned an Energy Star rating.
- S.B. 376, a compromise bill, allows utilities to recover the cost of energy-savings programs, thereby making energy efficiency programs more financially attractive investments. Specifically the legislation permits utilities to recoup their costs for energy efficiency programs, listing them as separate line-items on electric bills. The programs must be pre-approved by the PSC, benefit customers, and show energy savings before costs can be recovered. The bills also includes provisions to assist low-income households.
- H.B. 661 ended up as the carrier for a majority of legislation that the Department of Natural Resources was trying to pass this session. Among other provisions, the bill allows the state to distribute economic stimulus funds for public drinking water and water pollution control projects and creates the Energy Futures Fund. For a list of some the provisions that passed in H.B. 661 click here.
On a positive note S.B. 228 failed. This bill would have repealed the Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) ban. The CWIP law currently prevents utilities from passing on the costs of construction of major power plants (including nuclear plants) to ratepayers during the construction phase. In addition, H.B. 647, which also was not passed, would have permitted companies that self-report environmental spills and other incidents to receive immunity from prosecution. It would also have kept these incidents out of the public records. Unfortunately, legislators failed to pass S.B. 430, an omnibus green energy bill, that if enacted would have created and modified provisions pertaining to environmentally sustainable practices. The following is a list of some of the issues introduced in the legislation:
- Any state building built or substantially renovated must be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council as meeting the silver rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system, or must meet at least a three globes rating under the Green Globes building rating system. Public colleges and universities are exempt from the state green building requirement.
- The act creates an income tax deduction for the purchase of qualified hybrid motor vehicles.
- The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should provide grants to public school districts to assist schools' compliance with the state green building requirement for new building construction or substantial renovations.
The Complete Streets legislation, H.B. 642, which also was not enacted, would have required the Department of Transportation to consider non-motorized and transit users in transportation projects.
Labor: H.B. 1075 will allow Missourians to take advantage of a provision in the federal economic stimulus act extending the period for which people can receive jobless benefits. The National Employment Law Project estimates the bill could allow Missourians to receive an additional $150 million of unemployment benefits through the end of 2009. Also included in the bill are unemployment law changes that could let Missouri tap into an additional $133 million in federal stimulus money.
HJR 37 an anti-Employee Free Choice Act resolution, which would have forced the public to vote on an constitutional amendment to restrict the right for workers to choose union representation by majority sign-up, was not enacted.
Immigration: Unfortunately, Missouri passed H.B. 390, which prohibits undocumented students in colleges and universities from receiving financial aid, provides for verification of lawful presence, and specifies which public benefits pertain and do not pertain to undocumented immigrants. It also requires state contractors to provide affidavits attesting to participation in a federal work authorization program; and requires state contractor employees on public works projects to complete a construction safety program.
Access to Health Care: S.B. 306, the Show Me Health Plan, a cost containment and access bill, was not enacted. According to the League of Women Voters of Missouri, this legislation was a serious effort to accommodate the health care needs of low income, uninsured workers and families. For a detailed analysis of the legislation click here. Lawmakers also failed to pass S.B. 167. This bill would have required health insurance coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
In a positive, albeit small step, lawmakers enacted H.B. 218. This legislation will maintain eligibility for the state high risk pool for people whose private premiums are greater than 200% of the average premium in the state. If the legislation had not been passed, the eligibility level would have risen to premiums 300% higher than the average, which is grossly unaffordable. H.B. 231, which applies federal COBRA insurance continuation standards to group health insurance policies sold to employers, was also enacted.
Education: S.B. 291 is a lengthy bill dealing with a number of issues relative to elementary and secondary education. The bill established the Teacher Choice Compensation Package for the St. Louis City School District. This will allow for teachers to choose performance-based salary stipends instead of tenure. Some of the other provisions in the legislation include:
- Establishing the P-20 Council as a private, not-for-profit entity on behalf of the state with the purpose of creating a more efficient and effective education system to better prepare students for entering the workforce.
- Establishing the School Flex Program to allow eligible students to pursue a timely graduation from high school.
- Creating the Persistence to Graduation Fund and establishing a procedure for school districts to apply for grants to implement drop-out prevention strategies.
- Requiring DESE to post free electronic records of all meeting notices and results, providing greater transparency.
- Establishing the "Foster Care Education Bill of Rights." Each school district must designate a staff person to be an educational liaison for foster care children. This liaison would assist with proper educational placements, transferring between schools, ensuring transfer of grades and credits, requesting school records, and submitting school records that have been requested.
- Requiring public schools to develop teaching standards by June 30, 2010.
- Granting local school boards control of school week format, which allows for the possibility of four-day school weeks. This option is desired by many rural districts that seek more flexibility, lower transportation costs and the ability to implement innovative ideas.
One piece of higher education legislation that was not enacted but caused some passionate discourse was S.B. 390. The legislation would have changed how state scholarship money is distributed through the Access Missouri program. Under the current system, eligible students who go to private universities can receive as much as $4,600 a year. Meanwhile, students attending public four-year universities can receive $2,150. The proposed bills would set the maximum award at $2,850 a year for both private and public university students.
Democracy: Two constitutional amendments that would have harmed democracy in Missouri were thwarted this legislative session. HJR 10, a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way appellate judges are chosen, passed the House but not the Senate. Had the Senate approved the legislation it would have appeared on the November 2010 ballot. Many worried that this legislation would inject politics into Missouri's judicial selection process, which is a national model for impartial selection of judges. HJR 9, another proposed constitutional amendment, which would have required voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls before they could cast a ballot, did not pass either the House or Senate. Unfortunately, S.B. 59 which would have allowed any eligible voter to cast a ballot at a central voting location in his or her district, with the advance voting period beginning the third Wednesday before an election, was killed by proponents of voter ID who were willing to block widely popular electoral improvements because their divisive legislation failed.
Housing: H.B. 382 should provide some protection from predatory mortgage lending practices. Beginning July 31st of next year, mortgage brokers must register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry, which will issue the broker a unique identifier that must be clearly displayed on all official paperwork. Renters will be provided increased protection when their landlords enter forclosure thanks to the enactment of H.B. 836. Under the new law, tenants of a residential property must be given written notice when the property has been foreclosed. If the new owner plans to seek possession of the property, the current tenants must be given at least 10 days from the date of notice to vacate the premises.
- This legislative session Missouri became the 13th state to prohibit implementation of the REAL ID national identification system. H.B. 361 states, “[t]he department of revenue shall not amend procedures for applying for a driver’s license or identification card in order to comply with the goals or standards of the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, any rules or regulations promulgated under the authority granted in such act, or any requirements adopted by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators for furtherance of the act.” This is a huge departure for Missouri. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security gave “$17 million to Missouri to lead the development of the verification hub.”
- Lawmakers enacted H.B. 62, a wide-ranging crime bill that, among other provisions, will place new restrictions on sex offenders, ban text messaging while driving and adds penalties for owners of dangerous dogs. For bill specifics click here.
- S.B. 37, which would have established maximum caseload standards for state public defenders and procedures to follow when maximum case levels were met, was vetoed by the Governor.
- Enacted H.B. 152 expands the Missouri DNA profiling system by requiring any person 17 years of age or older who is arrested for first degree burglary, second degree burglary or certain felonies to submit a DNA sample (currently a sample is collected at the point of conviction). However, if the state highway patrol crime laboratory receives notice that the charges have been withdrawn, the case has been dismissed or there is a finding that the necessary probable cause does not exist, the lab must expunge the DNA sample and DNA profile of the arrestee within 30 days. The Eastern Missouri affiliate of the ACLU stated that this legislation, "violates the right to privacy [by forcing] someone who is innocent until proven guilty to reveal so much about their biological makeup, and could lead to pretextual arrests merely to obtain this information."
- In May, the Senate passed a measure that would require an abortion provider to give a woman having an abortion after 21 weeks of pregnancy medically accurate materials developed by the statethat include information on fetal pain and anesthesia. The bill, which also contains provisions regarding abortion counseling, hospital requirements and ultrasound, was adopted by the House in March. The measure died in a conference committee when the legislature adjourned.