Senators Return to Their Home Districts With Good News to Report
JEFFERSON CITY – As Missouri State Senators return to their districts for the legislative spring break, good news will accompany them. The Senate has spent the first half of the legislative session focusing on legislation to improve the state’s business climate, and the economic outlook of the state is bright.
Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said Missouri has more manufacturing jobs across the state than a year ago, and additional jobs are on their way.
“We are building lots of momentum in the Show-Me State,” said Richard. “Just last week, we learned 450 jobs are coming to Southeast Missouri as the aluminum smelter prepares to reopen. These jobs will be a life-changer for many people who have been out of work for a long time. The work we are doing in Jefferson City is trickling down to our communities and it’s just the beginning.”
One way to continue economic growth across the state is by improving Missouri’s skilled workforce. Having a trained workforce is one of the top priorities for companies looking to come to or stay in Missouri. Senate Bill 549, advanced by the Senate, reauthorizes the Missouri Works Training Program and Missouri Works programs until 2030. Missouri Works is the state’s No. 1 economic development tool for business attraction and retention. These programs allow Missouri to stay competitive.
A second measure, Senate Bills 894 & 921, establishes a statewide STEM career awareness program. These bills incentivize more Missouri high school students to take computer science courses by allowing the courses to count toward graduation. Computer science careers are growing at a rate faster than most fields. The state currently has about 10,000 open computer science jobs. By improving computer science education in Missouri, we can better prepare students for the workforce.
Also important to economic development is investing in the state’s infrastructure. Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said Missouri’s energy policy is outdated and inefficient, and the rates in the state have gone up four times faster than the national average over the past decade.
“Missourians need energy that is smart, secure and stable,” said Kehoe. “Future jobs depend on reliable low cost energy. If we don’t act now, not only will our rates continue to rise among the fastest in the nation, but it will become harder to retain existing businesses and attract new firms to the state.”
Senate Bill 564, passed by the Senate, caps electricity rates and makes it possible for utility companies to modernize the energy grid. Missouri consumers will save money and receive a better, more reliable product. Price stability and predictability allows both businesses and consumers to plan ahead. Long term viability also helps keep costs down. Forty-six other states have reformed their energy regulations, and this measure will bring stability, predictability and security to our energy grid while keeping intact strict regulatory oversight and consumer protections.
Other bills passed by the Senate include Senate Bill 882, which modifies provisions of the Missouri Higher Education Savings Program. Thanks to changes in the federal tax code, families can now transfer money between 529 savings accounts without a tax penalty. Those accounts include MO ABLE and educational savings accounts. MO ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) is a tax-free disability savings account for families of individuals with disabilities.
“Our goal is, and has always been, making sure we are putting more of your own hard-earned money back into your pockets while ensuring we take care of the necessities and the most vulnerable,” said Kehoe. “Allowing MO ABLE accounts to qualify for transfers without tax penalty will give families of individuals with disabilities greater financial flexibility.”
Also advanced this session is Senate Bill 793, which requires children under the age of 18 to be prosecuted for most criminal offenses in juvenile courts unless the child is certified as an adult. Currently, Missouri is one of only five states that prosecutes all 17-year-olds as adults, even if the offense is minor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states by keeping 17-year-olds in the juvenile system, we can reduce the chance for re-offenders by up to 34 percent. By allowing young offenders to go through the juvenile system, they can receive therapy and rehabilitation and become income-producing citizens.
“The states that have raised the age have shrunk their juvenile justice system and lowered both short-term and long-term costs,” said Richard. “If Missouri raises the age, we can make our streets safer, save taxpayer’s money and get better resources to promote more positive outcomes for our vulnerable young people.”
The Senate still has eight weeks remaining once lawmakers return from the legislative spring break. Richard said while the work is not done, the Senate has the right energy necessary to have a successful end to the 2018 legislative session.
“Today, Missouri’s economic outlook is the best in the Midwest, and we intend to maintain this momentum. We will continue to create an environment that is an investment in our future and for our Missouri families,” said Richard.
The Senate will reconvene on Monday, March 26, 2018. For more on these measures and others, visit www.senate.mo.gov.