Public Affairs Committee Report
By Heath Clarkston
UPDATE: JEFFERSON CITY COUNCIL PASSES BUILDING CODE UPDATES
On Tuesday, July 5th the Jefferson City Council unanimously adopted several bills to update the current building codes from 2015 to the 2018 addition. The City Building Regulations Division had been working for several months to prepare these bills for introduction following the work from an ad-hoc committee of public/private individuals that reviewed the changes from the 2015 to the 2018 versions. The updated codes include several of the previously debated and agreed upon exceptions such as the requirements for fire sprinklers in single family and duplexes. All bills were passed by at 10-0 vote by the Council.
NEW FEDERAL RULE PROPOSED ON INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR CLASSIFICATION
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed a rule on which workers are independent contractors is expected to be published in the months ahead. The rules have been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Upon review, public forums will be held on the proposed rule. This will be the second attempt by the Biden Administration to revise the rule and interpretation on which workers should be classified as independent contractors or employees that are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The rule is key for employers, if any employee is under the FLSA, they are entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay and many other benefits. Independent contractors are not entitled to such benefits and generally have more flexibility to set their own schedules and may work for multiple companies. The rule promulgated under the Trump Administration is still in effect to which it simplifies and makes it much easier for employers to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees.
SPECIAL SESSION ON THE HORIZON FOR TAX CUTS AND AG EXTENDERS
Missouri’s new state fiscal year (FY2023) began on July 1, 2022. During the weeks prior, Gov. Mike Parson signed 44 bills total and vetoed line items in some of the operating budget bills and in House Bill 3020 which contains numerous projects funded by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds.
On July 1, Gov. Parson announced his vetoes of House Bill 1720, a bill establishing several new agricultural tax credit programs and re-authorizing existing ones, and House Bill 2090, a bill that would provide one-time tax rebates to some Missourians who had tax liability in 2021.
After his announcement of the vetoes, the Governor said he plans to call a Special Session of the General Assembly to pass permanent tax relief for all Missouri taxpayers and to extend the sunsets on key agricultural tax credits.
The ag tax credits in HB 1720 (Pollitt, R-Sedalia) were only re-authorized for two years. The Governor’s plan for agriculture tax credits and related priorities includes extending the sunset on agriculture tax credits included in HB 1720 for a minimum of six years rather than two; exempting certain agricultural equipment from state and local sales taxes; and, modifying the Family Farms Act to increase the number of small farmers who qualify for the program, and increasing the amount of loans available to the farmer.
Instead of the tax rebates in HB 2090 (Smith, R-Carthage), the Governor is proposing permanent tax relief for all taxpaying Missourians. His proposed tax plan includes reducing the individual income tax rate; increasing deductions and allowances for taxpayers; and further simplifying the tax code.
When the Special Session will be called is not certain but may be held during the annual Veto Session in mid-September. Another current complication is the House of Representatives’ chamber is being recarpeted and desks in the chamber have been removed. The renovations should be finished in time for the Veto Session.
STATE BEGINS ACCEPTING APPLICATION FOR RURAL BROADBAND GRANTS
|Broadband Infrastructure Grant Guidelines have been finalized, posted on July 1, and are available here: https://ded2.mo.gov/media/pdf/missouri-arpa-funded-broadband-infrastructure-grant-guidelines-final
During a recent Broadband Update, BJ Tanksley who oversees the State Broadband Office covered some of the comments received during DED’s survey about proposed guidelines. Comments were received from across the U.S., showing about 189 broadband organizations with intentions to participate in Missouri. The final guidelines will offer grant minimum of $100,000 to a grant maximum of $10 million to be requested by a company for a broadband project. Multiple projects can be submitted. Thirty eight percent of respondents to the survey said they expect to receive local matching funds. Most respondents (32%) will serve internet underserved areas, with the next most popular response being underserved and unserved areas (25%).
The guidelines on the website soon will feature additional resources, including mapping of impacted areas, FAQs, draft application, and application guidance. The Broadband Grant Program Application Period cutoff is to be moved to late August.
Another program in which Missouri will participate is the Broadband Equity Access & Deployment (BEAD) Program (offering $42.45 billion of federal funding). The BEAD program will kick off in six to 18 months from now. Missouri will be developing a five-year plan. BEAD is promising funds of almost $100 million to Missouri and each state; later, additional state funding proposals can be submitted to BEAD.
The Digital Equity Act (DEA) ($2.75 billion of federal funding) is another program for Missouri broadband expansion. Three DEA programs provide funding to promote digital inclusion and advance equity for all. They aim to ensure that all communities can access and use affordable, reliable high-speed internet to meet their needs and improve their lives. Due on July 12th is Missouri’s planning application for DEA.
The State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) is another program soon to be available for applications. Missouri has about $97 million in funding. This program was rolled out directly to state departments. And, DED will work with the Missouri Technology Corporation to distribute these funds. MTC focuses on the life sciences and technology industries, which build on Missouri’s rich history in agriculture. It is anticipated that in August 2022, the federal Treasury will approve Missouri’s SSBCI application.