FILING HAS OPENED FOR APRIL 6TH CITY COUNCIL ELECTIONS
On December 15th, the candidate filing for the April 6th municipal election opened and the filing deadline will conclude on January 19th. Five of the ten city council seats will be up for election along with the City Prosecutor and City Municipal Judge positions. As of December 28th, the following candidates have filed:
Ward 1 : David Kemna (incumbent)
Ward 2 : Laura Ward (incumbent)
Ward 3 : Mary Schatz
Ward 4 : Derrick Spicer
Ward 5 : Mark Scheiber (incumbent) and Alicia Edwards
City Prosecutor : Gaylin Carver
City Municipal Judge : Scott Evans
MISSOURI LEGISLATURE RETURNS THIS MONTH FOR SESSION
The Missouri General Assembly will return to Jefferson City on January 6th to begin their 2021 regular session that will last until May 14th. The Inauguration activities for Governor Mike Parson (R) and all elected officials is set for 11:00 AM on Monday January 11th.
Below is a list of key dates for the upcoming session:
January 6, 2021 – First day of the 2021 legislative session
January 18, 2021- Martin Luther King Jr. day observed
March 1, 2021 – Last day to file legislation
March 15-19, 2021 – Spring Break
May 7, 2021 – Constitutional deadline to pass the FY2022 State Budget
May 14, 2021 – Last day of the legislative session
BILLS PRE-FILED TO LICENSE ROOFERS AND MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS
Mechanical Contractor Licensing: One of the early bills pre-filed, Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), would establish the Missouri Statewide Mechanical Contractor Licensing Act. House Bill 500 by Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) also establishes the Act.
Under the bill, the statewide mechanical license for mechanical contractors would be regulated by the Division of Professional Registration, within the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Applicants for a statewide mechanical license must meet certain criteria set forth in the bill. A corporation, organization, or representative seeking to engage in mechanical contracting, is required to employ at least one license holder, and a statewide licensed mechanical contractor may represent only one entity at a time.
Political subdivision such as cities may establish their own local mechanical contractors’ license but shall recognize a statewide license in lieu of a local license for the purposes of performing contracting work or obtaining permits to perform work within that city. Any person operating as a mechanical contractor in a political subdivision shall not be required to possess a statewide license to operate as a mechanical contractor in such political subdivision. Any person who knowingly violates the provisions of the bill is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. Similar bills were filed in 2018, 2019 and 2020, but did not pass.
Roofing Contractors: House Bill 471, sponsored by Rep. Bill Kidd (R-Buckner), relates to registration certificates for roofing contractors, who are defined in the legislation. The Division of Professional Registration shall establish a system of registration for roofing contractors, and any person who fails to obtain a valid registration certificate prior to acting as a roofing contract shall be liable for a civil penalty as set by the legislation.
MAJOR ISSUES FOR 2021 BEFORE STATE LEGISLATURE
In anticipation of the 2021 legislative session which begins Wednesday, Jan. 6, in Jefferson City, below is a list of probable issues that will face members of the Missouri Senate and the Missouri House of Representatives.
State Budget: Approving the annual state budget is the most important duty of the Missouri General Assembly, and building the FY 2021-2022 budget, which goes into effect July 1, will be closely watched. Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed the state’s current $35 billion budget in June. The Governor immediately restricted approximately $480 million and has released about half of that amount so far this year. This year is a complicated budget cycle for several reasons. First, COVID-19 and CARES Act funding have been at the forefront. While the state has received about $2 billion in CARES Act relief, little of it can be used to fund budget holes. Second, the consensus revenue estimate (CRE) that is used as the estimate for general revenue collections has been set at $9.78 billion or a 4.1 percent decrease from FY 21. This is due to pushing the IRS tax deadline to July 15, 2020 (the number for FY 21 was $10.2 billion and is artificially high). And third, new mandatory spending for Medicaid expansion is needed and the money will have to come from somewhere. We will monitor and keep you informed as the budget is developed.
Medicaid Expansion Funding/Cost Containment: Accessibility and affordability to healthcare are a top challenge in Missouri. Missouri joined 37 states, including Washington, DC, who have adopted Medicaid expansion. In August, Missourians passed the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative by a 53.25 percent to 46.75 percent margin. Gov. Parson said he would expand Medicaid if that is what Missouri voters say they want. The ballot measure requires Missouri state government to provide Medicaid for persons less than 65 years old whose incomes are equal to or below 138 percent of the official poverty line as set forth in the Affordable Care Act. As many as 200,000 Missourians will get new coverage. The General Assembly will determine how and to what level it will be funded. The estimates are anywhere between $200-300 million dollars. The General Assembly is also considering some reform measures including use of the Federal Reimbursement Allowance, move certain programs to managed care, cut back on out-of-state patient benefits, and/or reviewing reimbursement rates.
Gaming, Video Lottery Terminals, Sports Betting: After many bills were filed last session, the General Assembly has already filed legislation dealing with lottery terminals, illegal gaming, betting on sporting events and other related issues during pre-filing. Two bills have been filed regarding illegal video gaming machines and how to resolve the ongoing issue that has resulted in at least one guilty verdict in Missouri. The current bills provide an enforcement process that would give authority to the Gaming Commission and to the Alcohol Tobacco Control to remove these machines and take action against establishments’ liquor and lottery licenses. Three bills have been filed regarding sports wagering, and while all three have different taxation rates, all three allow wagering on a casino riverboat or over the internet. The last couple of bills would allow for a pilot project to legalize video lottery terminals by number and the number of establishments they could be located in. With the revenue issues plaguing the state, this may be the year that a gaming compromise is made.
Education Issues: Education reform and K-12 public school funding generally garner the most attention every year; add in COVID-19, virtual learning, and CARES Act funding and the 2021 legislative session may be the largest K-12 legislative year in recent history. We expect many of the same issues from the 2020 session to resurface in 2021, including:
- Funding the Foundation Formula: In 2019, public school funding for K-12 education received a $60 million increase. We fully expect the formula to receive full funding this session for the Fiscal Year 2021 state operating budget. There has been some discussion around property taxes and local funding of K-12 education and the need to start to consider revisions to the Foundation Formula.
- Public Charter School Expansion: Missouri currently allows public charter schools in the metropolitan school districts of St. Louis City and Kansas City. Legislation has been filed for several years that would expand the districts eligible and create additional safeguards to close poorly performing schools.
- Empowerment Scholarship Accounts: Legislation was debated in 2019 and 2020 in the General Assembly that would allow students to attend a school of their choice through a $50 million tax-credit-funded scholarship program.
- COVID-19/Virtual Learning and Learning Loss: Bills have been introduced regarding what every school district is facing this year. This includes options for transfer if your district is doing virtual learning, attendance calculations for virtual learning, assessments, substitute teaching, and reading programs.
- The ability for school districts to share superintendents and allow children to go to multiple districts for summer school.
- Child restraint legislation is filed again this session to address concerns regarding the use of restraints and seclusion rooms.
Redistricting of Congressional and Legislative Districts: Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. All U.S. Representatives and state legislators are elected from political divisions called districts. District lines are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the U.S. census. Missouri Constitutional Amendment 3, relating to redistricting and placed on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot by legislators, became a highly controversial issue a few months ago leading up to the election. The amendment made changes in regulating the General Assembly and modified redistricting methods in Article III of the state’s constitution. The approval by voters of Amendment 3 eliminated the position of “non-partisan state demographer” whose task would have been to draw state legislative districts. Removal of the post of “non-partisan state demographer” gives all redistricting responsibility to existing commissions, renamed as the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission. Redistricting process will soon begin and is necessary to end prior to the 2022 elections for U.S. Congress and elections for seats in the Missouri General Assembly.
COVID-19 Liability Protections for Businesses: A special session of the Missouri General Assembly called by Governor Parson was expanded in November 2020, and debate began in committee on proposed legislation to provide liability protection during a declared state of emergency for health care providers, manufacturers, businesses, schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations, among others. Business protection legislation, expected to be a top priority in 2021, has been pre-filed. So far, Missouri has done nothing to help protect businesses. But that is not the case in dozens of other states. According to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, many business leaders are concerned they could be targeted in lawsuits that allege someone contracted the virus on their premises. Today, such lawsuits can move forward in Missouri regardless of whether businesses are taking proper precautions against virus transmission. While Missouri has waited, many states have acted. All but one of Missouri’s neighboring states enacted some form of COVID-19 liability protections in 2020.
Gas Tax Increase/Highway Funding: Increased funding for Missouri highways and transportation infrastructure is needed, according to many state officials and the Missouri Department of Transportation. Consequently, a proposed fuel tax increase may be on the statewide ballot in 2022. Sen. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), the Senate’s President Pro Tem, has pre-filed Senate Bill 262 and Senate Joint Resolution 21. Currently there is a statutory tax of 17 cents per gallon on motor fuel purchased in Missouri. SJR 21, the proposed constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would establish a minimum motor fuel tax of 19 cents per gallon in 2022, and would increase this minimum tax by two cents per year over a period of four additional years. When the amendment is fully implemented after five years, the minimum motor fuel tax would be 27 cents per gallon. SB 262 proposes the same fuel tax increases and includes a referendum clause, calling for a statewide vote by Missouri citizens.
Sales Tax on Internet Sales “Wayfair”: Since the Wayfair decision, Missouri is one of only two states that has not enacted either a sales tax or a use tax for online purchases. The 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case, the Wayfair decision, affirmed South Dakota’s application of its sales tax to internet retailers who sell into South Dakota but have no property or employees in the state. Taxing online purchases is expected to be a hot topic in 2021. Some of the possible legislative options include passing a “Wayfair-esque” use tax, managed by the Missouri Department of Revenue, where the use tax is approved by local voters; amending the use tax filing threshold from the current $2,000 annual purchases to $1; improving the use tax ballot language to help both state and local tax collections; and offsetting increases in use tax collections by reducing the state income tax rate with two-year adjustments for accuracy. The issue is sure to attract attention in the state capitol in 2021.
Tort Reform: The 2020 session was highlighted with major civil justice reforms passing related to punitive damage claims and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. Several tort reform measures are expected to be debated in 2021 including: statute of repose, arbitration awards, asbestos transparency, insurance reservation of rights and duty to defend modifications, and potential changes to Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan for the selection of judges.
Eminent Domain and Condemnation: Last session, legislation was debated at length and passed several times by the Missouri House that prohibited the use of eminent domain for a green energy transmission line across several northern Missouri counties. The project, named “Grain Belt Express,” has been proposed by Invergy and has faced strong opposition from several property rights groups. The wind-powered electric transmission line begins in Kansas and crosses the state of Missouri into Illinois then Indiana. We expect this legislation to return in 2021 as the opposition has not slowed. To gain momentum, the transmission line operators have offered to hang fiber along their route to provide a “middle mile” for the expansion of broadband to the rural areas along the route.
Rural Jobs Act: In past years, legislation has been introduced and heard in the Missouri House that would enable small businesses in rural areas to expand and create private-sector jobs by providing access to affordable, growth capital. This program, entitled the “Missouri Rural Jobs Act,” would create access to capital for small businesses and provide a platform for rural communities to achieve long-term and sustainable growth. This program would utilize a federal tax credit with a state tax credit match and fill the financing void that so many businesses continue to face during these difficult times.
Biodiesel: Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel manufactured domestically from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease. Biodiesel meets both the biomass-based diesel and overall advanced biofuel requirement of Renewable Fuel Standards. In 2020, legislation was passed in the Missouri House that would require that all diesel fuel sold or offered for sale in Missouri for use in internal combustion engines shall contain at least 5 percent biodiesel fuel oil by volume beginning April 2, 2022; 10 percent biodiesel fuel by volume beginning April 1, 2023; and 20 percent biodiesel fuel by volume beginning April 1, 2024. Legislation has been pre-filed for the 2021 session and is likely to mandate a 5% blend mandate and provide retailers with incentives to blend about 11%.