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Cunningham Report 5.8.2014

Final Weeks of Session Fly By

It seems that each week is busier than the one before it, especially as we near the end of this legislative session.

On Thursday, May 1, two pieces of legislation I sponsored were truly agreed and finally passed. Both Senate Bill 525 and Senate Bill 694 are now on their way to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 525 modifies current law in relation to food preparation and production for charitable purposes. This legislation allows non-profit organizations and groups to prepare food in their homes, or other private facilities, for distribution to community members at charitable fundraising dinners.

It requires that the consumer be informed by a clearly visible placard at the serving location that the food was prepared in a kitchen that is not subject to regulation and inspection by the regulatory authority.  Organizers may also notify the regulating authority of the event and provide them with the time, day, location and name of the person organizing the event. This law does not apply in Jefferson, Boone, Clay, St. Louis or St. Charles counties, nor in the City of St. Louis.

This legislation also allows cottage food production operations to be exempt from state health or food code laws.  Additionally, local health departments are not allowed to regulate production of food at a cottage food production operation, but each local health department and the Department of Health and Senior Services must maintain a record of complaints made against a cottage food production operation.

This is just common-sense legislation. It allows small in-home, food-based businesses to run their businesses, as they have been, without the oversight of the state. These businesses are doing a good job. If for any reason that changes, the state will have a record of complaints, and the business will lose customers if they neglect to maintain a high-quality product.  Accountability for the cottage food industry remains and we protect the practice of fundraising dinners for non-profits.

Senate Bill 694 would modify many aspects of the payday lending law and completely change the industry in our state. This measure would end consumers’ abilities to renew their loan or ask for an extension. EPPs (Extended Pay Plan) will be allowed to help pay off loans. Under the EPP, borrowers have up to 120 days to pay off their loan. The payment plans are based on the consumers’ pay periods and no interest or fees are charged during the EPP. There will be no early payment penalties, but the lender does have right of acceleration upon failure to pay. Only one EPP is allowed in a 12 month period.

Under Senate Bill 694, payday lending businesses would have to pay $500 for yearly fees, up from the current $300. These fees would go to the Missouri Division of Finance. The measure also states that signage must be posted in the lobby of such business and display the cost to borrow the money, per $100 borrowed. If we can provide the best information to consumers in a way that they can understand it, then we are already helping them make better financial decisions.

This week the Senate also passed the budget and we expect it to be finalized and sent to the governor next week, but first select members of the Senate and House will hold conference committee hearings to iron out the differences.  The $26 billion budget contains $46 million earmarked for core grants for Area Agencies on Aging, along with an additional $400,000 increase in funding for home-delivered meals for seniors. These two budget items alone will have an impact in every city and county in the Show-Me State. The Area Agencies on Aging help seniors sign up for health care, assist with filing taxes, support in-home medical services and help to arrange home-delivered meals. The services provided by the agency are vital. Another passing vote by the House and Senate would send the budget to the governor.

Capitol Guests

This week we had several directors from the Missouri Electric Cooperatives stop by the office. Leslie Thomas and Teresa Housholder, along with students hosted by local Rotary Clubs, also stopped by. Last week we had 25 students from the Ozark Mennonite School in Seymour come to visit.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

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