Members of House Leadership Call for the Resignation of Governor Greitens
After the release of a report made by the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, and with new information that Attorney General Josh Hawley has evidence to support another felony charge on an unrelated matter, the members of the House leadership team this week called for the governor to step down.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo issued the following joint statement calling for the governor’s resignation:
“At the outset of this process, we said the governor needed to be forthright and accountable for his actions. After thoughtful consideration of the findings in the House committee’s report and today’s news that the attorney general has evidence to support another felony charge, we believe the governor needs to take responsibility for his actions.
Leaders at all levels of government are entrusted with an incredible responsibility to the Missourians we represent. When leaders lose the ability to effectively lead our state, the right thing to do is step aside. In our view, the time has come for the governor to resign.”
House Leadership was joined by Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, who also called for the governor to resign. The governor responded by saying he will not resign his position. Legislative leaders will wait for the investigative committee to complete its work. The House Speaker has said the legislature should call itself back for a special session to consider any recommendations the committee has for action against the governor. The Speaker has said his goal is for the legislature to remain focused specifically on the tasks Missourians count on its lawmakers to complete.
House Gives Final Approval to Tax Reform and Infrastructure Act (HB 2540)
The House this week sent the Senate a comprehensive tax reform and infrastructure plan that would cut the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates and transform Missouri’s tax system to the most competitive in the nation, while also making substantive reforms to generate much-needed funding to repair and improve Missouri’s aging transportation infrastructure.
The sponsor of the bill said he has four goals he wants to accomplish with the legislation:
• To make Missouri one of the top 10 most competitive states in income tax;
• To make Missouri one of the top 10 most competitive states in business tax;
• To develop a long-term, sustainable solution to funding our infrastructure; and
• To accomplish these things in a fiscally responsible way.
The sponsor told his colleagues the bill accomplishes his goals while adding, “Our goal in this is to provide a better tax policy framework for the state of Missouri going forward. This is not a one-year problem or a two-year problem. It is a ten, fifty, and a hundred-year problem. We’re trying to create a system that can be sustainable for 21st century Missouri.”
In an effort to ease the tax burden on Missouri families, the bill would reduce the state’s highest personal income tax rate from 5.9 percent to 5.0 percent. The change would place Missouri in the top 10 states for lowest personal income tax. The bill would also help Missouri’s business climate by cutting the corporate income tax from 6.25 percent to 5.0 percent. This reduction would also put Missouri in the top 10 states for the lowest corporate income tax.
Additionally, the bill would generate much-needed revenues for the state’s roads and bridges. It would put Missouri in line with many other states by indexing vehicle user fees to the cost of inflation. The state’s current vehicle license and registration fees were put in statute in 1984, and have not changed in more than 30 years. The tax reform bill would update fees from their 1984 value to present day value. The increase is a key component to the effort to generate nearly $2 billion in additional funding for transportation infrastructure over the next decade. The idea was recommended by both the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force and the House Policy Development Caucus.
Additionally, to maintain financial stability to the state tax code, the bill would make a number of other reforms including:
• Joining the Streamlined Sales Tax agreement so that Missouri collects sales tax on online purchases so that Missouri brick and mortar businesses are on equal footing with online competitors;
• Phasing out the federal income tax deduction on state returns for individuals and corporations with over $150,000 in income;
• Reducing waste in state government by consolidating maintenance between certain government agencies;
• Eliminating deductions and closing loopholes; and
• Implementing other necessary reforms that would eliminate government inefficiencies.
The reforms are critical components to keep the bill fiscally responsible and as close to revenue neutral as possible.
A committee amendment added on the House floor would delay implementation of many of the provisions of the bill by a year. Legislators said their goal with the change is to accommodate the current Fiscal Year 2019 budget plan the House and Senate are working to pass.
The Senate, which has sent its own version of tax reform legislation to the House, will now have the remaining weeks of session to act on the bill.
House Bills Moving to the Senate
HB 1261 would require all state and local licensing boards or entities to waive, for a two-year period, any fees charged to obtain or renew occupational licenses for military families and low-income individuals who request such a waiver. Supporters say the bill would remove barriers and prevent government agencies from profiting off the people who protect America. Supporters believe licensing has gone beyond the original purpose of protecting the general welfare.
HB 2286 would change the definition of “local log truck” and “local log truck tractor” to allow the trucks to pull a trailer that has up to three axles. Supporters say the bill would allow better dispersion of weight on three axles and ensure that trucks cause less road damage. They say modern log trucks generally need three axles and the bill would help with lumber transportation in Missouri.
HB 2360 would add several professions, including air ambulance pilots, air ambulance registered professional nurses, air ambulance registered respiratory therapists, uniformed employees of the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and specified emergency medical technicians, and their children and spouses, to the list of those eligible to receive a public safety officer or employee survivor grant from the Coordinating Board for Higher Education within the Department of Higher Education. Supporters say the bill would grant availability to emergency personnel who are often young and need the help. Emergency professionals who die in service are typically young and often leave behind young families who need help.
HB 2117 states that the administration of eye drops to a newborn infant would not be required if a parent or legal guardian objects to the treatment because it is against the religious beliefs of the parent or guardian. Supporters say the statute hasn’t been revised since 1939 and it needs to be updated. The statute currently requires that healthcare providers fill out paperwork after administering the eye drops. Supporters say the paperwork serves no purpose other than to create extra work for hospital staff. Supporters also say that hospitals regularly encounter parents who are opposed to the eye drops and want the law to clarify under what circumstances the parents have a right to object to the treatment.
HB 1591 would modify provisions relating to the operation of watercraft. The bill is aimed at reducing damage to residential docks and enhancing water safety.
HB 1264 would modify the definition of a “passenger car” from a motor vehicle designed to carry 10 persons or less to a motor vehicle designed to carry 15 persons or less. The bill would modify the law to allow evidence of the failure to use a properly adjusted seatbelt to be used for any purpose, including assessment of comparative fault and evidence of failure to mitigate damages, in a products liability action involving a passenger car. Supporters say the bill would bring fairness to cases alleging the defective design or manufacture of passenger cars. Evidence of failure to use a seatbelt would be admissible so that the jury may accurately assess the fault, if any, of all parties.
HB 1249 would allow a court to order credit for time served when an individual has been held in custody for a show cause order pertaining to any matter related to a minor traffic violation. The bill would further require any summons, notice to appear, or citation for a minor traffic violation to include the date and time a defendant is to appear in court when the defendant is first provided the summons, notice to appear, or citation. Supporters say the bill would correct some of the unintended consequences of SB 5 from 2015.
HB 2129 would require that beginning in school year 2019-20 students in public or charter high schools shall receive 30 minutes of instruction providing information on decisions about organ, eye, and tissue donation before graduation. Supporters say families need information about organ donation and a potential donor’s wishes long before they are put in the position of making a donation decision due to the unexpected death of a potential donor. The bill would help ensure more people learn about organ donation.
HB 1611 would provide that a person who is injured by a product has 10 years after the sale or lease of the product to bring a suit for damages. Supporters say that by requiring certain claims to be brought within 10 years, the bill would promote fairness and the efficient use of the judicial system, and reduce frivolous litigation. In addition, they say it can be unfair to certain parties to find documents and witnesses from the period the product was designed and manufactured.
HB 2119 would provide that punitive damages shall not be awarded except upon proof by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally caused harm or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others. Supporters say the bill would return the state to the original standard for the assessment of punitive damages by requiring a knowledge element. They say it would facilitate settlement discussions between parties without an unsupported threat of punitive damages in the pleadings.
HB 2140 would allow state offices, departments, boards, commissions, bureaus, political subdivisions, agencies, and other institutions to purchase supplies under a cooperative purchasing agreement from certain authorized General Services Administration vendors without regard to competitive bid limits. Supporters say the bill would save the state money and allow more efficient purchasing of supplies. They say that federal agencies carefully screen vendors so that Missourians can have confidence that they are reputable.
HB 2336 would specify that a child taken into the custody of the state or a child under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court shall not be reunited with a parent or placed in a home in which a parent or any person residing in the home has been found guilty of sexual trafficking of a child in the first degree. Supporters say the bill would fix something that was missed in the 2014 criminal code revision. It would simply prohibit someone who has been convicted of sex trafficking from getting custody of a child. If the child ends up in a home where a spouse was convicted of such offense, there is usually a backup plan to ensure the child is never left alone with the individual.
HBs 2523 & 2524 would modify provisions of the sunshine law and create the transparency division within the attorney general’s office to monitor sunshine law violations by state agencies. Supporters say the bill is intended to strengthen the Missouri Sunshine Law, and it will enhance transparency and enforcement. They say the attorney general needs this subpoena power to seriously investigate violations of the sunshine law. Currently the office has to rely on the cooperation of the entity they are investigating.
HB 1542 would prohibit a pharmacy benefits manager from charging a copayment for a prescription or pharmacy service that exceeds the amount retained by the pharmacy from all payment sources for filling that prescription or providing that service. It would also prohibit a pharmacy benefits manager from prohibiting a pharmacy from informing a person of the difference between his or her co-payment and the amount he or she would pay if a health benefit plan was not used to cover the cost. Supporters say pharmacy benefits managers prohibit a pharmacy from informing a person of the difference in costs. The bill would allow pharmacies to discuss this with their customers and help them get the best product for them at the cheapest price.
HB 1915 would change the penalty provisions for knowingly violating the law relating to the no-call list. Supporters say that the bill would encourage individuals to report violations relating to the no-call list and hopefully lead to a decrease in the number of violations.
HB 2155 would allow wholesalers to employ persons 18 years of age to unload delivery vehicles and transfer liquor into retail premises with supervision. Supporters say that employees between the ages of 18 and 20 can already ride in the delivery truck but they can’t physically wheel the product into the retail premise.
Senate Bills Sent Back to the Senate with Changes
SB 623 would change statute so that any surplus proceeds from a foreclosure sale of real estate are first distributed to any recorded lien holders prior to being distributed to the owner. If after three years any funds have not been distributed such funds would become a permanent school fund for the county. Supporters say the bill would fix an issue where tax sale proceeds are improperly distributed to the wrong party. Currently, the owner of a home could improperly receive the proceeds of a tax sale, instead of the proceeds going to the lien holder on the home.
SB 569 would specify that when a directed trust, as defined in the bill, grants investment decisions to a person or advisory or investment committee then the trustee shall not be liable for any loss resulting from the investment decisions made. Supporters say making Missouri trust companies more competitive keeps jobs in the state and currently Missouri is losing jobs to other states that have passed similar legislation.
SB 573 would allow members of the National Guard or reserve components of the Armed Forces of the United States to deduct such military income from his or her Missouri adjusted gross income to determine such taxpayer’s Missouri taxable income. The percentage of such income that may be deducted would be phased in between tax years 2020 and 2024 in 20 percent increments. Supporters say the current deductions do not apply to activated National Guardsmen serving within the state. This bill would provide an extra benefit and show support for the military installations and operations in the state when the federal government is looking at reducing or expanding military missions.
I want to make sure that you know that my door is always open to you if you have any questions, concerns or comments. You are always welcome to visit, call or email me. My office telephone number is 573-751-1456 or you can email me at Rebecca.Roeber@house.mo.gov. My office address is MO House of Representatives 201 West Capitol Avenue Room 201 CA. To sign up for my capitol report please email me.