Ann Kelley’s Capitol Connection

September 11, 2023

What’s Going on in the Capitol

Stars and Stripes Showcasing Missouri’s Monuments

SB 139 also establishes the "Stars and Stripes Historic Region of Missouri". Under this bill, the Missouri Department of Transportation will be able to place markings and informational signs within the region along the I-55 corridor in eastern and southeastern Missouri to honor the military newspaper with the costs to be paid by private donation. This is designed to increase tourism in communities across the I-55 corridor while honoring the Stars and Stripes military newspaper that has been in publication since the Civil War. The Stars and Stripes first printing was in southeast Missouri’s Bloomfield on November 9, 1861, when Union soldiers in Stoddard County started the newspaper for soldiers, by soldiers. A prime example of one sign to be established is a visual reminder along I-55 to remind people of the Vietnam Memorial in Perryville just off I-55.

Honoring Missouri’s Fallen Heroes and Paying Our Dues

SB 139 also carries language creating the "FA Paul Akers Jr and LCPL Jared Schmitz Memorial Sign Funding Act". Under this act, all of the costs associated with the designation of bridges or highways to honor our deceased veterans, servicemen and women, law enforcement officers or first responders who died in the line of duty, shall be paid by the Missouri Department of Transportation, as of August 28, 2023.

When Missouri’s legislators found out that the families of these heroic men and women were asked to pay for the memorial signs to honor their loved ones, sometimes to the tune of $3,000, the Missouri General Assembly rose to the task. We fought to ensure that we are not only giving these heroes the honor they deserve, but also making sure that their families are not left holding the bill as they grieve the loss of their loved ones. We, as a state, should be proud to offer to cover these costs in remembrance of their sacrifice. It is the least we can do for these families.

Combating the Opioid Epidemic

SB 186, SB 24, and HB 402 would allow Missourians to have an easily accessible means to ensure their medications are not contaminated with the highly dangerous opioid, fentanyl. The Missouri General Assembly continues to look for ways to fight this war on drugs in Missouri, and this year, we added yet another tool in the toolbox.

Legislation signed into law this summer will now allow people to obtain and use fentanyl-testing strips, which could help curb overdose deaths linked to the powerful painkiller. The strips are one way of helping prevent drug overdoses by detecting if there is fentanyl present in medications and other drugs.

Previously, the strips were classified as drug paraphernalia, which made it a crime to possess or distribute them. Missouri now joins at least 20 other states by changing this in an effort to combat the ongoing abuse of opioids.

In Missouri, the Department of Health and Senior Services reported that about 70% of the 2,000 drug-related deaths in 2021 involved a synthetic opioid. By legalizing the use of these strips, we can drive that number down and help keep people alive long enough to get them the help they need in fighting their addictions.

Giving a Boost to Missouri agriculture

SB 138 is a legislative package aimed at addressing matters relating to our state’s agriculture industry. Under this new law, Missouri will boost the limit for tax credits used to sell and produce ethanol and biodiesel fuels from $4 million to $5.5 million. In addition to that, SB 138 also creates a tax credit for farmers who sell, lease, or participate in a crop-share arrangement with a future or beginning farmer.

The measure includes an opportunity to help prevent future floods from causing such devastation. The Flood Resiliency Program is designed to increase flood resiliency along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries, in addition to improving statewide flood forecasting and monitoring.

The new law also includes a provision that would increase the maximum weight requirements for log trucks from 52 tons to 54 tons, repeals the provisions that related to the regulation of industrial hemp, and establishes the Missouri Hardwood Product Promotion Fund to promote Missouri’s hardwood forest products. The new law also will forgive up to $30,000 worth of student loans for as many as 12 Missouri large animal vets.

Expanding Access to Physical Therapy - HB 115 promotes individual choice in health care decisions through the elimination of unnecessary and burdensome regulations to allow patients to have direct access to physical therapy. The legislation would allow physical therapists with a doctorate of physical therapy or five years of clinical experience to evaluate and initiate treatment on a patient without a prescription or referral from an approved health care provider. The bill also states physical therapists must refer to an approved health care provider patients with certain conditions, including those with conditions beyond the scope of practice of physical therapy, as well as any patient who does not demonstrate measurable or functional improvement within ten visits or 30 days, whichever occurs first.

This new law allows Missourians to have direct access to physical therapists, negating the need for patients to visit a physician before they can make an appointment with a physical therapist. This costs the patient additional money and delays them from returning to their life before the injury.

No More Texting and Driving

As the new laws roll into effect, here is a reminder that under the provisions of SB 398, all drivers are required 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.

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.

New Special Committee Formed to Look Into Earnings Tax

The Missouri House of Representatives will have a new committee aimed at reviewing and evaluating earnings taxes in the state of Missouri. Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher announced the creation of the new Special Interim Committee on the Earnings Tax on August 28, which will be tasked at looking into the earnings tax across the state, with a primary focus placed on St. Louis’ earnings tax and its effect on the outlook for the region.

The Earnings tax is one percent tax on salaries, wages, commissions, tips and other compensation paid to a person that lives or works in a designated city, such as St. Louis or Kansas City.

“The work of this committee will be invaluable as we continue to look at how our citizens are being taxed in this state,” Plocher, R-St. Louis, said. “As costs rise and more Missourians are facing financial difficulties, it’s more important than ever to look at the data and have a meaningful discussion about these taxes, and see just how they are affecting Missourians as well as employment and economic growth in our state. The Missouri House has made a commitment to ensure that the overall tax burden on our citizens does not force families into making tough decisions, and I know that this committee will put in the work to find out the best way to ensure that our taxes are low, fair, and effective.”

Veto Session Arrives on September 13th

Just as a reminder, the Missouri Legislature is scheduled to meet this month on September 13 for the annual veto session. This is the time in which the legislature has the option to attempt to override a governor’s veto, which requires a two-thirds majority vote by both the House and the Senate. This year, Governor Mike Parson vetoed 201 line-item vetoes to the FY 2024 operating budget, to the tune of $555.3 million, as well as one veto used on a legislative package dealing with crime prevention and public safety.

Taking Care of YOU

Resolutions: My office offers Courtesy Resolutions for birthdays, deceased loved ones, Eagle Scouts, Girl Scouts, Glory Awards, Marriage, Retirement, Sports, Wedding Anniversary’s, and Veterans. To request one, please call my office at (573) 751-2165.

Flags: Are you in need of a new flag? I offer new Missouri State and United States flags upon request. If you need a flag for a special circumstance, we can even fly it over the capitol for you. These flags are available for any non-profit organizations and groups.

Scheduling a Capitol Trip: If your school is traveling to Jefferson City, contact my capitol office to set up tours times for the Capitol, Supreme Court, and Missouri State Penitentiary. These tours fill up fast in a first come first serve basis. Please give us a months’ notice in order to ensure you get tours of everything.

I am always in your service,

State Representative

Ann Kelley

Proudly Serving District 127