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Missouri lawmakers conclude 2020 legislative session


When the 2020 legislative session ended on May 15, it marked the end of one of the more unique years in the history of the Missouri General Assembly.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted both the function and the focus of lawmakers, as they lost about five weeks of work time due to the pandemic. However, once returning, they focused on passing a balanced budget and both COVID-19 related and pre-pandemic legislative priorities.

A number of the Chamber's member-driven priorities successfully passed both chambers of the legislature and now await Governor Mike Parson's approval.

Enabling legislation for tourism
With just two hours left in session, the legislature passed HB 1854, which included enabling legislation language for tourism projects. This will allow Springfield voters to consider an increase to the hotel-motel tax by up to 2.5 percent, for a total of 7.5 percent, in order to fund tourism projects such as a convention center or tournament-grade sports complex. The bill stipulates that the earliest the voters could consider this proposal would be the 2022 general election.

The passage of this bill was accomplished because of the work of many partners, including Senator Lincoln Hough, Speaker Elijah Haahr, Representative Craig Fishel and House Minority Leader Crystal Quade.

Enabling legislation for early childhood
HB 1854 also included a provision allowing Springfield (and any city within Greene County) the opportunity to ask voters to consider a sales tax increase of no more than .25 percent to fund early childhood education in the county or city.

Enabling legislation for early childhood funding has been a Chamber priority for many years, and we are grateful for the leadership of Sen. Hough and Rep. Quade on this bill.

TIME Zone legislation
One additional provision in HB 1854 creates the Targeted Industrial Manufacturing Enhancement Zones Act. This program will allow cities or counties to redirect withholding taxes generated by the creation of new jobs to be used to fund public infrastructure associated with the attraction of those jobs. Sen. Hough proposed this program in an effort to create economic development incentive equity for the Springfield region with the rest of the state.

Workforce development
Two major workforce bills made it across the finish line this session. HB 2046, sponsored by Rep. Derek Grier, will allow for expanded licensing reciprocity in the state, and HB 1511, sponsored by Rep. Steve Lynch, will grant reciprocity for military spouses. The bill also included a provision that will promote licensure for apprenticeships, making it easier for applicants to get a license if they have completed an apprenticeship and meet certain education requirements.

This type of innovative workforce approach will help recruit talent from other states to fill in-demand jobs.

Tort reform
Lawmakers worked to improve the state’s legal climate by passing SB 591. This bill will restrict punitive damage awards in personal injury cases and modify Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) provisions related to unlawful merchandising practices to limit frivolous lawsuits in those cases.

Broadband Internet grants
The legislature extended the sunset provision of the Broadband Internet Grant program from 2021 to 2027. This program provides grants to local internet service providers to extend broadband to unserved and underserved areas - which are mostly located in rural parts of the state. This has been a significant issue for rural communities, especially in the face of COVID-19, as the pandemic has forced education, business and telemedicine to be conducted virtually.

Continued priorities
Two key business community priorities of the 2020 legislative session failed to pass this year:

  • Internet sales tax (Wayfair) – Negotiations continued until the last day of session over the implementation of a mechanism to collect online sales tax. Missouri and Florida remain the only states without a provision to collect online sales tax. Brick-and-mortar businesses have been put at a further disadvantage since many have been forced to comply with stay-at-home orders and consumers are utilizing online sales even more. The state and local municipalities are losing out on revenue that should be collected from these online purchases.
    The Chamber will continue to advocate for the passage of an internet sales tax without an accompanying tax cut to level the playing field for Missouri businesses.
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) – After eight years of trying, the creation of a statewide PDMP remains unaccomplished. Both the House and Senate passed different versions of the legislation at different points during the legislative session, but they could not reach an agreement on specifics within the final bill.

Governor Parson has withheld roughly $227 million to date from the FY2020 budget, and has publicly stated that more withholds are coming.

In the final $35 billion FY 2021 budget passed by the legislature, provisions included:

  • Restored funding for higher education, including the previously proposed 10 percent cut to four-year institutions and community colleges (funding for four-year institutions is dependent on the availability of federal funding)
  • $7 million cut from the Fast Track Scholarship program from $10 million to $3 million
  • $8.6 million cut from Missouri One Start
  • Full cut in state funding for the state’s rural broadband grant program, though federal CARES Act aid was appropriated to assist with this initiative
  • Fully funded formula for K-12 education, including $500,000 for K-12 virtual education programs
  • $30 million in federal funds for small business grants to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by the pandemic
  • $18.5 million for tourism
  • $8 million for county jail reimbursement
  • $50 million for the transportation cost share program, with $25 million dependent on available federal funds
  • An increase of $750,000 for the Missouri Partnership, the state’s public-private economic development partnership
  • $1 million for the Missouri Technology Corporation, which directly impacts the efactory
  • Cuts to school transportation funding

The Chamber is grateful for multiple bills passed this session, especially in the face of the ongoing pandemic, and appreciates the work of many lawmakers in our local delegation.

We would also like to thank members of our Springfield and regional delegation who will not be returning to their current legislative roles next session due to term limits, including Speaker Elijah Haahr, Rep. Sonya Anderson, Rep. Jeff Messenger, Rep. Lynn Morris, Sen. Mike Cunningham and Sen. David Sater.

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