Senator Cunningham – Final Year of Serving the Missouri General Assembly

The Second Regular Session of the 100th General Assembly got underway on Jan. 8. Perhaps because it was the second year of a two-year legislative cycle, the return of the Legislature to Jefferson City happened with little fanfare or ceremony. Lawmakers came into the Senate chamber, shook hands or hugged their colleagues and got down to business. There was no mention of the historic nature of the 100th session or the fact that the bicentennial of the state of Missouri is just one year away.

The beginning of this session brought mixed emotions for me. Due to term limits, this is my final year serving in the Missouri General Assembly. I was a member of the House of Representatives for 8 years and am now completing my second term as a state senator. Prior to serving in the House, I was the city administrator in Marshfield. I’m proud of my record of public service, but I’m ready to conclude my career in the Legislature. I celebrated my 73rd birthday on the first day of the 2020 session. It’s time for me to retire and spend time with my family and enjoy my farm and horses.

That does not mean I’m done, though. There’s another legislative session ahead and I’m determined to get things done. There are a number of important issues I’d like to see move forward before the 100th General Assembly adjourns.

I’ve been in discussion with the governor’s office about legislation that would better prepare Missouri’s students for the workforce. Our governor has made workforce development a priority for the state of Missouri and we’ve seen great strides already. I’m proud to be involved with this effort and hope that we can continue to make Missouri a more attractive place for businesses, with good-paying jobs for our citizens.

Another measure I’ve introduced addresses the disadvantage Missouri businesses face competing against online merchants. In Missouri, Internet-based sales are only taxed if the seller has a physical presence in the state. The result is local communities miss out on tax revenue that pays for schools, fire districts and other services. It also means local brick-and-mortar retailers are at a competitive disadvantage because they have to collect sales tax, while their online competition does not.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states could collect sales tax, even if a seller does not have a physical presence in the state. The decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair reversed a previous ruling that a physical “nexus” was required for taxation. The court recognized taxing some sales and not others hurts local communities and forces customers who only shop on Main Street to subsidize those who shop online.

This year, we may see Missouri join 35 states that tax Internet sales. My legislation mirrors the Wayfair decision. It only applies to large online venders who do a significant volume of business in the state. My hope is this measure will bring some relief to hometown businesses who struggle to compete with the online giants and help local communities overcome the loss of sales tax revenue they’ve experienced in recent years.

I’m also concerned about all the “grey box” gaming machines we’re seeing pop up at gas stations and truck stops. These devices are essentially slot machines and they’re illegal in Missouri. The state receives no revenue from them. Local schools don’t get a dime. And yet, they seem to be everywhere. I really don’t think Missourians want this kind of activity in places where our kids can see it. I’ve sponsored legislation to increase penalties for these illegal devices. A gas station, bar or other business caught with an illegal gaming device will lose their liquor license and forfeit their ability to sell state lottery tickets.

Other legislation I’m sponsoring will address the huge shortfalls in state funding for school transportation costs and reimbursement for jail costs. The state of Missouri has obligations to support local communities and we need to live up to them – without raising taxes, of course.

There’s a lot that needs to be accomplished in the next four and half months, before the Legislature adjourns on May 15. I will be here engaged, and doing my best to make Missouri a better place to live and work.

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.