Ann Kelley's Capitol Connection
What’s Going on in the Capitol
Governor Signs 31 Bills from 2023 Legislative Session into Law
Missouri Governor Mike Parson has officially given final approval to 31 bills from this year’s legislative session by signing off on a variety of legislation ranging from tax relief for senior citizens, tax credits to attract the entertainment industry, extending post-partum coverage, empowering Missourians living with disabilities by preventing the loss of government benefits, removing financial barriers in the adoption process, combatting the opioid epidemic, simplifying our vehicle sales tax, increasing cybersecurity to protect Missourians from stalking, and ensuring Missourians are covered for life-saving exams, while also not being subjected to unauthorized medical exams.
Here's a look at some of the bills set to become law on August 28, 2023, after having passed through the Missouri General Assembly and receiving Governor Parson’s signature:
Developing Missouri’s Workforce and Encouraging Recruitment
HB 417 will help employers develop and retain skilled workers through the creation of a competitive grant program administered by the Department of Economic Development to reimburse employers who help their employees earn short-term certificates or credentials in vital areas for Missouri’s economy. Examples of short-term credentials that would be eligible for reimbursement through the program include manufacturing technology, cybersecurity, welding, certified nursing assistant and HVAC certification.
Many businesses have a hard time trying to find the workers they need, and oftentimes, those workers still need training with some of the desired skills. This new law will empower companies to grow their own workers using a program through the Department of Economic Development where they can send them to upskill their credentials.
HB 417 also creates the Intern and Apprentice Recruitment Act, which will incentivize businesses to increase the number of internship and apprenticeship opportunities in the state, allowing employers to train their workforce through paid internships and apprenticeships.
Under the act, employers would qualify for a tax credit of $1,500 for each intern or apprentice hired at a pay rate equal to or greater than minimum wage. Interns would have to work a minimum of 60 hours per month for two consecutive months to qualify. Apprentices would need to complete a minimum of 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of technical instruction. An employer could not receive more than $9,000 in tax credits in a single year and the program would have a total cap of $1 million in tax credits each year.
Missouri is already a national leader in new apprenticeships and completed apprenticeships, but the state continues to be an exporter of potential workers as Missouri is losing approximately 20,000 undergraduates to jobs outside the state each year. The end goal is to keep more of the talent produced by Missouri’s universities here in the state.
No More Texting and Driving
SB 398 deals with several provisions related to motor vehicles, but included in the legislation is language that now will require all drivers to use hands-free cell phone features while operating a motor vehicle. This prohibits drivers from physically holding a cell phone, but also includes exemptions for drivers communicating during emergencies and for-hire drivers. It also allows drivers to use the GPS navigation or music apps on their phones.
If found to be in offense of the new law, drivers will receive a first-time violation carrying a fine of up to $100. That amount can increase up to $500 if there are repeated convictions in a two-year period. If the result of using a cell phone leads to property damage, injury, or death, then additional penalties including misdemeanor or felony charges could be added. While SB 398 takes effect on August 28, 2023, the penalty provisions will not be enacted until January 1, 2025 to allow a grace period to educate the public on the new law. This new law makes Missouri the 49th state to prohibit texting while driving.
Mining Royalties to be More Proportionately Shared between Counties
SB 109, signed into law this month, will ensure that royalties received for the mining of national forests’ resources are more proportionately placed into the hands of the counties most affected by mining operations.
SB 109, which deals with several state laws relating to natural resources and mining operations, contains changes to the process as to how royalties are paid out by the U.S. for the mining of national forest reserves, allowing for a more proportionate and fair allocation of the funds received to go to the counties most affected by the mining. Under this new law, money collected in those sales by state agencies must be distributed back to the counties as follows: 85 percent of the total revenue to be distributed to the counties in which the mining of national forest reserves occurs; 15 percent to be distributed equally between counties in which mining of national forest reserves does not occur; royalties in question must be equally distributed to the counties to be used for the benefit of public schools and roads.
The House sponsor behind this legislation explained that in many scenarios, the mining operations would only take place in one or two counties, while the national forests might span several counties. As an example, lead mining occurs in the Mark Twain National Forest in Reynolds and Iron Counties, but the money is distributed across the 29 Missouri counties in which Mark Twain National Forest spans. This new law will distribute the funds in a way that proportionately reflects the costs to the county with the mining operations as opposed to those that do not.
“Some of these counties have never had mining,” the bill sponsor said. “So the counties with the mining operations are taking all of the wear-and-tear on their roads, along with the environmental effects caused by mining, yet everyone else is getting the benefits from it. The language contained within SB 109 allows us to change that formula so that our counties bearing the brunt of the mining are more appropriately compensated compared to those who are not.”
The fix will allow more funds to go to areas that are negatively impacted by industry, and help direct monies that are intended for remediation and clean up to go to those specific locations. It will have a meaningful impact on those counties that have been shortchanged in the past.
Removing Financial Barriers to Adoption
SB 24 expands Missouri’s adoption tax credit, which offers a nonrefundable tax credit for one-time adoption-related expenses such as attorney fees, up to $10,000 per child. SB 24 removes the current $6 million per year cap on that credit, making the tax credit refundable, and adjusts the per-child limit with inflation rates accordingly. With more than 2,200 Missouri children awaiting adoption, this new law will help remove financial barriers to allow more families to afford the cost of adoption.
Bringing Back Transparency for Missouri Donor Privacy Law
As part of an omnibus bill passed by the legislature this session, Missourians will once again be able to publicly view state contract information. The legislative fix to the issues stemming from the passage of the Personal Privacy Protection Act received bipartisan support this past session. Thanks to this fix, Missouri citizens will once again be able to access information on state contracts through the Office of Administration, which oversees those contracts. It also ensures that reviews and audits of tax credit programs can continue efficiently, while making sure the Act does not conflict with records requests, investigations, and other existing laws.
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