This is an editorial: An editorial, like news reporting, is based on objective facts, but shares an opinion. The conclusions and opinions here have been derived by the guest contributor and are not associated with the news staff.
As the 2023 legislative session wrapped up Friday afternoon, lawmakers from both chambers left Jefferson City with a long list of accomplishments. During the session that began in January, House and Senate members worked on numerous policy proposals ranging from tax relief for seniors to improved access to health care to enhanced support for Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. In total, the legislature gave final approval to more than 60 pieces of legislation.
The General Assembly officially adjourned on Friday, May 12, which concluded the portion of the legislative session when bills can be passed. The governor will now have the opportunity to act on the various bills sent to him. He has the option to sign bills into law or veto legislation he finds problematic. The legislature will return in September for an annual Veto Session in which members could potentially override any vetoes made by the governor.
Bills of Interest Passed During the 2023 Session Include:
Providing Tax Relief to Seniors – SB 190 will provide substantive tax relief to Missouri’s older population. The legislation will eliminate the state income tax on social security benefits. It will allow all seniors regardless of their adjusted gross income or filing status to deduct 100% of their social security benefits.
The House handler of the bill said, “Missouri is one of only 11 states in the country that still taxes social security. With the rising cost of consumer goods, it’s more important now than ever to put money back in the pockets of Missouri’s seniors, particularly those on fixed incomes. It’s time for Missouri to join the other 39 states that have already eliminated the tax on social security.”
Saving Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act - SBs 49, 236 & 164 is legislation supporters say will protect Missouri’s children from unnecessary and harmful sex change drugs and surgeries. The SAFE Act would prohibit health care providers from performing gender transition surgery on young people under the age of 18. Until August 28, 2027, it would also prohibit a health care provider from prescribing or administering cross-sex hormones or puberty-blocking drugs to a minor for a gender transition, unless the minor was receiving such treatment prior to August 28, 2023. A violation of the provisions would be considered unprofessional conduct and would result in the revocation of the health care provider's professional license.
One supporter of the bill said, “This is not against transgender people. This is just to make sure that children do not make decisions that could affect the rest of their lives, that they may not have all the information, that all of us may not have all of the information, and we want to make sure that they get that information.”
Promoting Fairness for Female Student Athletes – SB 39 is meant to promote fairness in competition and opportunity for female student athletes. The bill would prohibit a private school, public school district, public charter school, or public or private institution of postsecondary education from allowing any student to compete in an athletics competition designated for the opposite sex, as determined by the student's official birth certificate. The bill clarifies that biological sex is only correctly stated on birth certificates if it was entered at or near the time of birth or modified to correct scrivener's error. The bill also makes it clear a female student may be allowed to compete in an athletics competition designated for male students if there is no such athletics competition for female students offered.
The bill’s handler said the legislation is important because, “Biological males are bigger, they are stronger, and they are faster. The majority of women simply cannot compete. Years of competing against biological males will wipe out female sports as we know it. We must protect the gains women have made in the last 50 years.”
Developing Missouri’s Workforce - HB 417 will help employers develop and retain skilled workers. The bill creates a competitive grant program that will be administered by the Department of Economic Development to reimburse employers who help their employees earn short-term certificates or credentials in vital areas for Missouri’s economy. Examples of short-term credentials that would be eligible for reimbursement through the program include manufacturing technology, cybersecurity, welding, certified nursing assistant and HVAC certification.
The sponsor said, “It gives businesses the chance to grow their own workers.” He noted that many businesses are having a hard time finding the workers they need and the workers they do have may not have the skills a business would like. The bill would give companies the opportunity to “grow their own by using a program through the Department of Economic Development where they can send them to upskill their credentials.”
Encouraging Businesses to Recruit and Train Interns and Apprentices – HB 417 will encourage employers to train the workers of the future by offering paid internships and apprenticeships. The bill would create the Intern and Apprentice Recruitment Act to incentivize businesses to increase the number of internships and internship opportunities in the state.
Under the act, employers would qualify for a tax credit of $1,500 for each intern or apprentice hired at a pay rate equal to or greater than minimum wage. Interns would have to work a minimum of 60 hours per month for two consecutive months to qualify. Apprentices would need to complete a minimum of 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of technical instruction. An employer could not receive more than $9,000 in tax credits in a single year and the program would have a total cap of $1 million in tax credits each year.
The House sponsor of the provision noted Missouri is already a national leader in new apprenticeships and completed apprenticeships. However, the state continues to be an exporter of potential workers as Missouri loses approximately 20,000 undergraduates to jobs outside the state each year. He said the legislation will further promote a job training system that will help keep more of the talent produced by Missouri’s universities in the state.
Attracting Economic Activity to Missouri - SB 94 would help attract revenue-generating film and entertainment projects to the state. Dubbed the “Show MO Act,” the legislation would establish tax credits for film projects starting at 20 percent of specified costs, with opportunities for additional credits as other criteria are met. The bill would allow film productions additional credits when at least half of filming is done in Missouri; at least 15% takes place in rural or blighted areas; at least three of a project’s departments hire a Missourian ready to advance in their field; or the project positively portrays the state or something in it. The film tax incentives would expire at the end of 2029 unless the legislature votes to extend them.
The House handler said that because Missouri currently lacks incentives to attract film and television projects, “there is great business leaving this state.” He said that by passing the bill, “We’re going to be an economic driver. There’s going to be a bunch of money coming into this state, and I believe [this bill] is a long time coming and we’re going to join the club of growth and economic opportunity.”
Bringing Music Industry Dollars to the State - SB 94 aims to bring more music industry dollars to the state by authorizing credits for rehearsal and tour expenses for live tours and associated rehearsals. The credits would be for 30% of tour or rehearsal expenses, capped at $1 million if expenses are less than $4 million. No taxpayer could get a credit greater than $2 million for expenses between $4 and $8 million; nor greater than $3 million for expenses exceeding $8 million. Combined credits are limited to $8 million per fiscal year. The tour and rehearsal credits would expire at the end of 2030 unless extended.
The House handler explained, “There must be at least $1 million spent with Missouri music vendors, they’ve got to rehearse in a qualified facility for a minimum of ten days, they also have to then do two concerts within the State of Missouri.”
Expanding Access to Physical Therapy - HBs 115 & 99 and SB 51 promote individual choice in health care decisions through the elimination of unnecessary and burdensome regulations to allow patients to have direct access to physical therapy. The legislation would allow physical therapists with a doctorate of physical therapy or five years of clinical experience to evaluate and initiate treatment on a patient without a prescription or referral from an approved health care provider. The bills also state physical therapists must refer to an approved health care provider patients with certain conditions, including those with conditions beyond the scope of practice of physical therapy, as well as any patient who does not demonstrate measurable or functional improvement within ten visits or 30 days, whichever occurs first.
The House sponsor of the provision said, “This legislation allows Missourians to have direct access to physical therapists. Currently, patients must visit a physician before they can make an appointment with a physical therapist. This costs the patient additional money and delays them from returning to their life before the injury.”
Helping People off of State Assistance - SB 106 and SBs 45 & 90 authorize a transitional program meant to help people get off of state assistance gradually as their income increases. Supporters say the state’s assistance programs for low-income Missourians trap people in poverty because if they accept a raise that puts them above a program’s limits, they could lose more in state benefits than they gain from a raise.
One supporter of the measure said it will let people incrementally transition off of state assistance. He said, “Trying to create this transitional system that encouraged people to work, that encouraged people to take those raises and to start to work their way up the income ladder and to hopefully, once this goes into effect, actually reduce the number of people receiving benefits in the state.”
Empowering Missourians with Disabilities - SB 106 and SBs 45 & 90 could allow individuals with disabilities to finally be able to advance in their careers without worry of losing state assistance. The bills authorize changes to the state’s Ticket to Work health insurance program that would increase the limit to how much a person can earn before they lose benefits, and would not count up to $50,000 of a spouse’s income toward that limit. The legislation would also direct state agencies to have policies to recruit and keep employees with disabilities and create competitive ways to integrate them into workforces.
“These are people who are actually begging us to work, who want to work, who want to get promotions, who want to seek new jobs,” said one of the measure’s supporters. She went on to say the provision addresses “the fiscal cliff, making sure that you don’t have to do quite as much of a tap dance that too many people in our state are doing, where you’re allowed to make so much money but only to a certain point.”
Extending Post-Partum Care Coverage – SB 106 and SBs 45 & 90 would extend post-partum coverage under MO HealthNet or Show-Me Healthy Babies from 60 days to a year. MO HealthNet coverage for low-income women in the program will include full Medicaid benefits for the duration of the pregnancy and for one year following the end of the pregnancy.
The sponsor of the provision said, “In 2019, 75-percent of pregnancy-related deaths in Missouri were determined to be preventable; those deaths that were attributed to things like embolism, hemorrhage, infections, concerns with cardiovascular health, chronic health conditions, and there’s one common denominator that can save these women’s lives, and that’s healthcare access.”
Ensuring Access to Life-Saving Exams – SB 106 ensures coverage for diagnostic breast examinations and supplemental exams will not have a copay or deductible in an effort to ensure women have access to these life-saving exams. The bill specifies that any health carrier or health benefit plan that offers or issues health benefit plans that provide coverage for diagnostic breast examinations, coverage for supplemental breast examinations, low-dose mammography screenings, breast magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasounds, or any combination of such coverages cannot impose any deductible, coinsurance, co-payment, or similar out-of-pocket expense with respect to such coverage.
“If we do not offer diagnostic testing without a copay, we will not receive the benefits of early cancer diagnosis. Diagnosing breast cancer early benefits us all. First and foremost it saves the lives of women that we care about and the mothers of our children. It reduces overall cost of healthcare,” said the House sponsor of the provision, who noted a study found the national cost savings with early diagnosis would be $26 billion each year.
Protecting Missourians from Unauthorized Medical Exams - SB 106 and HB 402 and SBs 45 & 90 would ensure Missouri patients are not subjected to invasive medical examinations performed while they’re unconscious and without prior knowledge or consent. Legislators were told that medical students and residents have been allowed and even directed to perform anal, prostate, or pelvic examinations on unconscious patients as part of their instruction, sometimes without those patients’ consent. The legislation would specify that such exams on unconscious patients may only be conducted when that patient or their authorized representative has given consent; the examination is necessary for medical purposes; or when such an exam is necessary to gather evidence of a sexual assault.
Removing Financial Barriers to Adoption - SB 24 would expand Missouri’s adoption tax credit, which offers a nonrefundable tax credit for one-time adoption-related expenses such as attorney fees, up to $10,000 per child. That credit is capped at $6-million a year. SB 24 would remove that cap, makes the tax credit refundable, and would have the per-child limit adjust with inflation.
Supporters say more than 2,200 Missouri children are awaiting adoption and the bill will help remove financial barriers to allow more families to afford the cost of adoption.
The House handler of the bill said, “We’re just saying, ‘Hey, we’re here to make sure that we invest in these kids and these families, help get them across the line, get them out of the system, get them building their futures together as a family.’”
Combating the Opioid Epidemic – SB 189, SB 186, SB 24, and HB 402 would allow Missourians to have an easily accessible means to ensure their medications aren’t contaminated with the highly dangerous opioid, fentanyl. Currently in Missouri, fentanyl test strips are not legally available to test drugs or pills for the deadly substance. The legislation will allow the test strips to be legally available as they are in many other states. Supporters say the state has seen an increase in the number of overdose deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, more than 2,000 drug-related overdoses occurred in the state in 2021, with approximately 70% of those involving a synthetic opioid.
Improving Protections Against Cyberstalking - SB 189 would create the Cyber Crimes Task Force with the intent of strengthening state law to better protect Missourians who are targeted and stalked online. The task force would be made up of law enforcement, victim advocates, victims of stalking, and forensics experts. The group will work to develop best practices regarding the treatment of victims of cyberstalking or harassment and actions to stop cyberstalking and harassment when it occurs.
Cracking Down on Distracted Driving - SB 398 creates the "Siddens Bening Hands Free Law" to prohibit a number of uses of electronic communication devices while operating motor vehicles. Current Missouri law bans texting while driving for anyone under the age of 21. SB 398 would prohibit individuals over 21 from texting while driving. The bill would also prohibit drivers from holding an electronic communication device, making any communication on the device, using the device to search online, or using the device to watch a video or movie. The penalty for violating the ban would be a fine, but a driver could be charged with a felony if they kill someone while driving and improperly using a cell phone. Drivers would still be able to use their voice-activated or hands-free functions on their devices. The bill specifies that law enforcement cannot stop a driver solely for using their phone.
Simplifying Vehicle Sales Tax - SB 398 simply states that licensed motor vehicle dealers would collect and remit sales tax on all motor vehicles sold. The sponsor of the bill noted that vehicle sales tax is the only sales tax not collected at the point of sale. He said his legislation would put Missouri in line with the other 47 states who require dealerships to collect the vehicle sales tax.
The sponsor said, “The way the process will work is that you will go into the dealership, you’ll do all of your paperwork. You will leave with a temp tag, but that will start the ball rolling for the Department of Revenue to issue your plates and you will receive them in the mail.”
In closing I would like to encourage my readers to continue to be involved in the affairs of government. Thomas Jefferson once stated that liberty is best preserved by the people themselves stating that they are the “only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty”. I whole heartedly agree with Thomas Jefferson on this issue. It is always my intent to keep my constituents informed and to retain open transparency. If you have any questions or concerns please contact my office at any time. You can reach my office by calling 573-751-1487 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave a Reply.
Grain Valley News
Grain Valley News is a free community news source published weekly online.
PO Box 2972
Grain Valley MO 64029