Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Source: US State of Missouri
Back to Work
With just three weeks remaining before the scheduled conclusion of the 2020 legislative session, we returned to Jefferson City this week to finish drafting the 2021 budget and move a handful of priority bills forward. The Senate missed five weeks of session, and there’s much to do before session ends.
This week, I offered an amendment that will exempt the $1,200 stimulus payments many Missourians received from state income taxes. The payments, which were authorized by the federal coronavirus relief bill, are already exempt from federal taxes. My legislation addresses a quirk in Missouri law that treats federal tax credits as income on the state level. My amendment was approved in the Senate and by a committee in the House. I hope the measure will pass, so Missourians won’t have to pay any taxes on the stimulus money they received.
One of my top priorities for the 2020 session has been passage of comprehensive legislation to reduce violent crime in Missouri. Senate Bill 600, which combines several important reforms to Missouri’s criminal code, was approved by a committee in the House of Representatives. It will now go to the full House for a vote. I was also able to add all of the provisions of my crime legislation to a separate House bill that passed the full Senate this week. The bill now heads back to the House where it could receive final passage and be sent to the governor’s desk. The measure passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, with a vote of 27-2.
Prompted by the alarming rate of violent crime in Missouri’s metro areas, my crime legislation requires persons convicted of second-degree murder and other violent crimes to serve prison time, closing the revolving door that releases dangerous offenders on probation. The measure also increases the penalty for armed criminal action and requires sentences for that offense to be served consecutive to any sentence for related offenses. Penalties for felons in possession of a firearm are increased, as well. In addition, the legislation provides greater flexibility for prosecutors to bring charges against gang members.
Another one of my priority bills has also moved to the House. Senate Bill 676 ensures that Missouri property owners will always have adequate time to appeal increases in their personal property tax assessment and provides other protections to homeowners against abusive assessments. The measure was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee and now awaits a vote by the full House. This legislation was prompted by calls to my office from constituents who were blindsided by dramatic property assessment increases last summer. Many of the callers reported receiving their assessment notices on a Saturday, only to learn the deadline for appealing the increase fell on the following Monday. My legislation establishes new deadlines for assessment notices and appeals, ensuring that property owners always have adequate time to respond.
This has been an extraordinary year in the General Assembly. The statewide stay-at-home order related to the COVID-19 crisis interrupted the legislative process at a critical moment. The spring recess normally marks a time when each legislative chamber begins to focus on legislation originating in the other body. That’s where we are now, but without the benefit of a month’s worth of deliberations.
When the 100th General Assembly adjourns in a few weeks, we will mark 200 years of legislative proceedings in Missouri. No one could have imagined this milestone session would finish in such a remarkable and unexpected manner.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of Platte and Buchanan counties in the Missouri Senate. Please contact my office at (573) 751-2183, or visit www.senate.mo.gov/mem34.