Business-Friendly and Job Creation Bills Receive Top Priority
JEFFERSON CITY – As the Second Regular Session of the 99th General Assembly came to a close today at 6 p.m., Senators returned home to their districts knowing the bills they passed this session will fundamentally change the way Missouri does business. From labor reform to tax reform, the measures passed over the last five months will boost economic growth and build stronger communities across the state.
Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said this is the most successful legislative session he has experienced, noting the remarkable legislative cooperation that took place as well as the economic development policies that passed.
“My No. 1 goal for the last 16 years has been to encourage economic development across the state,” said Richard. “I’m proud to announce, nearly every piece of legislation we passed this year helps Missouri set the framework for economic growth,” said Richard. “The top factors businesses look for before investing in a state include: a trained workforce, fair and competitive labor laws, strong, reliable infrastructure and a simplified tax code. We have addressed each one of these issues. All of these factors will eventually lead to a better quality of life for all Missourians.”
One of the biggest accomplishments of the session was passing two major labor reform bills. House Bill 1729 modifies the state’s prevailing wage laws on public works projects. Under current practice, rural schools, fire departments and others pay prevailing wage standards for Kansas City and St. Louis. House Bill 1729 will save Missouri taxpayers money while rewarding and attracting good contractors and employees.
House Bill 1413 contains a number of pro-worker provisions to make public unions more accountable to their members. The pro-worker bill includes a paycheck protection provision and adds transparency to government labor unions.
“These are some of the most important labor reforms we can pass to support economic development,” said Richard. “The Government Worker Protection Act ensures employees are in control of their hard-earned paychecks. Missourians should know how government unions spend their money. By reforming the state’s labor laws, we can become a national model for economic growth.”
Another important factor in attracting new business into the state is having a trained workforce. House Bill 1415, approved by the General Assembly, 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 third component to strengthening economic development is having a simplified state tax code. House Bill 2540 will reduce the tax burden on Missourians, giving relief to small businesses and families. Missouri’s income tax is already set to lower to 5.5 percent if certain revenue targets are met. This bill will lower the top tax rate even further by 0.4 percent, until eventually it will be at 5.1 percent. The measure also phases out the amount of federal taxes an individual may claim based on their federal taxable income.
“Balance is key. This bill will help drive economic growth and generate revenue,” said Richard. “By lowering individual state income taxes and reforming the tax code, we can make the state more competitive.”
Senate Bill 884 lowers the corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 4 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2020. The measure also closes a loophole that allowed an affiliated group of corporations to have 50 percent or more of its income derived from sources within Missouri to file a consolidated return. Senate Bill 884 also requires all corporations to use a single-sales factor income allocation method, which means Missouri’s corporate taxable income will be based exclusively on the percentage of sales made in Missouri, not on the location of property or employees.
“Missouri’s corporate income tax code is complex and outdated. A lower, simpler corporate tax code gives relief to small businesses, which will trickle down to Missouri families. This measure lowers Missouri’s corporate tax rate to one of the lowest in the country and also broadens the overall tax base, which creates an appropriate balance in our budget. This is a sustainable approach to tax reform,” said Richard.
The fourth leg of an effective economic development plan includes having strong, reliable infrastructure across the state. This session, the Legislature approved a measure that will create a smart, secure and safe energy grid.
Senate Bill 564 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.
Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said 46 other states have already reformed their energy regulations, and future jobs in Missouri depend on low energy costs.
“By modernizing the grid, we can bring stability, predictability and security to our energy grid while maintaining regulatory oversight and consumer protections,” said Kehoe.
Another measure passed by the General Assembly is the Uniform Small Wireless Facility Deployment Act. As technology continues to advance, it’s imperative Missouri stay competitive. Current wireless infrastructure rules do not incentivize economic growth. House Bill 1991 gives wireless companies the ability to place small wireless facilities (i.e. small radio equipment and small antennas) on existing poles in the right-of-way and to place new poles for these small cells where existing poles are not available. This bill will help incent a $2 billion investment in small cell infrastructure. It will create thousands of jobs, and it will form the framework for the next generation of wireless technology.
“By passing House Bill 1991, we are enabling the deployment of 5G technology in our communities. This economic development bill is good for consumers, good for business, and a good investment for the future of Missouri,” said Kehoe.
Other highlights of this session include passing a $28 billion operating budget that spends taxpayers’ money effectively and efficiently while still taking care of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. The budget included restoring cuts the governor made to higher education as well as increasing funding to K-12 education by $98 million and increasing funding for school transportation. For the second year in a row, the General Assembly fully funded the Foundation Formula.
The budget also includes pay increases for the more than 50,000 Missouri state employees. The Legislature approved a $61.2 million increase in the amount the state pays for the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHCP), the state employee benefits plan, which will help keep employee premiums low.
“For years, Missouri state employees have been the lowest paid state employees in the nation,” said Kehoe. “If Missouri wants to attract and retain qualified employees, we must have the flexibility for better compensation and offer competitive incentives.”
Other bills advanced by the General Assembly this session include:
- Interpleader Action: House Bill 1513 – Provides that an insurer who deposits the limits of coverage amount with the court shall not be liable for an amount in excess of such limits in an interpleader action.
- Protecting Businesses from Liability for Unpreventable Criminal Acts: Senate Bill 608 – Modifies provisions regarding the liability of property owners when criminal conduct occurs on their property.
- STEM and Computer Science Programs: Senate Bills 894 & 921 – Establishes a statewide STEM career awareness program and enacts new provisions of law related to computer science.
- Historic Preservation Tax Credits: Senate Bill 590 – Modifies the Historic Preservation Tax Credit.
- Water Rate Proceedings: Senate Bill 705 – Modifies provisions relating to rate adjustments outside of general rate proceedings for certain public utilities.
- Rural Broadband Grant: House Bill 1872 – Establishes a grant program for the installation of broadband internet service.
- Investing in Roads and Bridges: House Bill 1460 – Modifies provisions relating to taxation.
- Industrial Hemp: House Bill 2034 – Modifies provisions relating to industrial hemp.
- Raise the Age: Senate Bill 793 – 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.
- Justice Reinvestment Act: House Bill 1355 – Modifies provisions relating to the administration of the criminal justice system.
- Protecting Patients: Senate Bill 982 – This act modifies provisions relating to payments for health care services.
- Chiropractors: House Bill 1516 – Specifies that licensed chiropractic physicians may treat and be reimbursed for conditions currently reimbursed under MO HealthNet
- Human Trafficking: House Bill 1246 – Requires the Department of Public Safety to develop human trafficking hotline posters.
- Course Access and Virtual Education: House Bill 1606 – Modifies provisions relating to elementary and secondary education.
“The Senate worked better together this session than I have ever seen before,” said Richard. “There were issues we didn’t all agree on, but we continued communicating with each other to find reasonable solutions. I’m pleased and proud of the work we have accomplished and the positive relationship we have created this session.”
“These reforms send a clear message that Missouri is open for business,” said Kehoe.
The Senate is next scheduled to convene during the annual veto session held in mid-September.
To see a complete list of the bills passed by the General Assembly during the 2018 legislative session, visit www.senate.mo.gov and click on the “Truly Agreed Bills” link under the “Legislation” tab.