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This week was the Legislature’s Spring Recess, meaning we have reached the mid-way point of the 2011 legislative session. I thought this would be a good time to review some of the legislation moving through the process, as well as some of the tasks we will be taking on in the second half of the session.
Fighting Fraud at the Polls
Senate Joint Resolution 2 and Senate Bill 3 were both approved by the Senate and are moving through the legislative process in the House. Senate Joint Resolution 2 would, upon voter approval, change Missouri’s constitution to require that voters must present valid, government-issued photo identification before casting their ballot. Senate Bill 3 is the enacting legislation that lays out the specifics of the voter ID measure, including how those without ID would be able to obtain one. I am supportive of the voter ID measures because they would work to fight fraud in our state and make sure that every vote is an honest one.
Supporting Business Growth
The Senate passed SB 19 and sent it to the House early on in the session. The bill would cap and ultimately phase-out Missouri’s Corporate Franchise Tax. This tax on a business’ assets is outdated and double taxes businesses that already pay income, sales, and property taxes. With this legislation, businesses could expand and reinvest the money they would otherwise of had to pay in taxes.
We approved Senate Bill 55 shortly before we adjourned for Spring Recess. The legislation reclassifies sawmills as agricultural properties for the purpose of tax classification. This is an important measure for sawmills that are struggling to stay in business. The change would cut the property tax rates for sawmills in the state from 32 percent to 12 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Missouri third in the nation based on economic effects of forestry, which shows how important the industry is to our state as a whole.
Extending Laws to Help Homebuilders
In 2009, the Legislature approved a measure in response to the 2009 International Residential Code, which would have mandated the installation of fire sprinklers in all newly constructed homes. The cost of this mandate would have been substantial for homebuilders, putting the struggling industry in even more of a crunch. The Legislature passed a law to make the installation of fire sprinklers an option, allowing the consumer the choice to install or decline to install fire sprinkler systems. The law is set to expire, so Senate Bill 108 would extend the current law until Dec. 31, 2019.
Protecting Dogs and the
Senate Bill 113 would make changed to Proposition B, which was passed by the voters in November 2010. The bill makes some important changes so that licensed, honest breeders can stay in business, while holding unlicensed breeders accountable. It is important that we work to protect dogs and puppies in the state, while still being fair to the dog breeding industry. For more details on the bill, click here to read my column for the week of March 7.
Passing a Balanced Budget
One of the toughest jobs still facing the Legislature this session is crafting the budget for the 2012 fiscal year. The constitutional deadline for the Legislature to pass the budget is one week before the Legislature adjourns, May 6 this year. While we are seeing signs of growth, the economic environment in Missouri is still sluggish and it will be a struggle to create a balanced budget that keeps us within our means while still providing for programs and services in the state. However, we will work to make sure that the most pressing needs of our state are being met as we work to create a fiscally responsible budget plan.