Representative Ed Lewis's Capitol Report

April 25, 2022

House Approves Tax Relief Package for Missouri Taxpayers (HB 3021)

Missourians who pay income tax are one step closer to receiving some relief from their state income tax burden. The Missouri House of Representatives this week approved legislation to create a one-time economic recovery tax credit for Missouri residents who paid personal income tax in the state for 2021.

The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Cody Smith, who sponsors the bill, told his colleagues the plan came into being when he looked at the numbers following the House giving approval to the state budget. Despite the fact the House approved the largest budget in the state’s history, the state still had billions of dollars left in its coffers.

The sponsor told his colleagues, “This is an attempt to offset some of the tax burden for those state income taxpayers at a time where I think that they could use the money much better than the state government can.” He added, “It’s a simple notion. We’re going to create a tax credit that would send a billion dollars back to taxpayers and offset their state income tax liability.”

HB 3021 will appropriate $1 billion from the state’s General Revenue Fund to fund a one-time economic recovery non-refundable tax credit. Under the plan, anyone filing an individual Missouri personal income tax return would receive a credit equal to their tax liability up to $500. Married couples filing jointly would receive up to a $1,000 credit. The credit is limited to individuals who were a Missouri resident for the entire tax year.

The vice-chairman of the House Budget Committee spoke in support of the proposal. He noted the budget plan approved by the House provides an immense amount of support for low-income Missourians, but said, “you know who we haven’t so much talked about, but here we’re talking about them here today in House Bill 3021, is that working Missourian – that man or woman working two, three jobs. There’s not been a lot of relief for them and here it is today. That’s why I’m so excited to support it.”

The chairman of the Budget Committee, Representative Dirk Deaton, agreed that the budget approved by the House is “addressing the needs of low-income Missourians on a scale that we have never done before. It’s an unprecedented scale.” In reference to HB 3021, he said “This is a bill that would essentially give state revenues back to those that paid state income tax into the state treasury. We are in a situation where we have excess revenues in the state treasury, and to me that means it’s time to give some of those dollars back to those that paid it in, especially when they are facing challenges due to inflation and various economic factors.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. It must receive approval from both chambers by Friday, May 6, which is the deadline for all appropriations bills.

House Moves to Protect Missourians from Unapproved Vaccines (HB 1709)

The members of the Missouri House took action last week in an effort to protect Missourians from being forced to take vaccinations that have yet to receive full authorization.

HB 1709 provides it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for any government entity in the state to require any person to receive a medication, vaccination, or injection that has not been fully authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is allowed under an emergency use authorization, or is undergoing safety trials.

The bill’s sponsor, who also works in the health care field, told her colleagues she has personal experience with a workplace mandate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. She said, “I’ll never forget the day that I received an email, it was actually on my birthday, stating that I had to get the vaccination or else I would lose my job. My issues with that was that it wasn’t fully FDA-approved.” She added, “There’s a lot of people that are scared when you’re told you have to get a vaccination. I am in no way, shape, or form against the COVID vaccination. I did personally receive the vaccination, but I waited until the Pfizer was FDA-approved before I went ahead and got it.”

The sponsor said her experience “really got me thinking about what happens in the future if something like this happens again and we’re forced to have to take a vaccination and it doesn’t make it across the finish line before my deadline.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Parents’ Bill of Rights Heads to Senate (HB 1858)

Legislation is now on its way to the Senate that would create the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2022.

The bill’s sponsor said his legislation is “really about transparency in public education. It’s about recognition of the fact that parents are the ultimate authority when it comes to the direction of the education of their children.”

He added, “This bill is for every parent who might have been ignored at a school board meeting and not listened to, and purposefully relegated to sit in silence as business was done. This is about those who have concerns about the content of the classroom, and classroom materials; what is being put in front of their child in the classroom.”

The bill will provide a list of rights that parents may require school districts to follow. Some of the parental rights outlined in the bill include the right to review curricula, books and instructional materials; the right to visit school during school hours with restrictions; and the right to have sufficient accountability and transparency regarding school boards. Additionally, it would require school board meetings dealing with curricula or general safety to take place in public and allow for public comments.

Additionally, the bill specifies that no school or school employee can compel a teacher or student to personally adopt or affirm ideas in violation of Title IV or Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This would include ideas such as individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior; or that individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, ethnicity, color, or national origin.

“We need to teach kids how to think, not what to think. We need to encourage parent involvement, not discourage it. This is about protecting our kids in schools,” said the bill’s sponsor.

Other Bills of Interest Passed Last Week from the House and Sent to the Senate

HB 2152 provides a definition for "school innovation team" and for "school innovation waiver" and allows school innovation teams to submit a plan to the State Board of Education (SBE) for a state innovation waiver for a variety of purposes as outlined in the bill. Supporters say the bill provides an opportunity for schools to innovate without fear of repercussions in the accreditation process. Schools that use these waivers might pilot new programs that will benefit their students and provide additional flexibility to explore opportunities in education that will address student's needs.

HB 2625 allows certain individuals holding a valid current professional license in another state or territory of the United States to practice such profession in Missouri, without obtaining a Missouri license, as part of a partnership with the federal Innovative Readiness Training program within the United States Department of Defense. Such individuals must be active duty or reserve members of the Armed Forces of the United States, members of the National Guard, civilian employees of the United States Department of Defense, or professionals otherwise authorized by the United States Department of Defense and their practice of the profession in Missouri must be required by the federal Innovative Readiness Training program under military orders. Supporters say that with a partnership through the US Department of Defense (DOD), the Delta Regional Authority supports the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program that would bring medical, dental and vision care to Delta residents in southeast Missouri at no cost. The DOD needs legislation to allow the members of the military to practice in Missouri with their credentialing orders, to provide the health care services in underserved areas.

HB 2574 requires scrap metal dealers and others regulated under state law to require proof that the seller of a detached catalytic converter is a bona fide automobile repair shop or sign an affidavit that the converter was lawfully acquired. The make, model, year, and vehicle identification number of the vehicle from which the converter originated will be required and maintained for four years. The bill adds that a person commits the offense of stealing if they retain or dispose of the property of another while they reasonably should have suspected that such property has been stolen. Supporters say catalytic converter theft is a serious problem with the theft of catalytic converters on the rise in the state. These thefts are hurting a number of different businesses related to automobiles. This bill will help in reducing the amount of catalytic converter thefts and fraud.

HB 2493 expands on the criteria for career ladder admission and stage achievement. Additional responsibilities and volunteer efforts outside of compensated hours may include uncompensated coaching, supervising, and organizing extracurricular activities, serving as a mentor or tutor to students, additional teacher training or certification, or assisting students with college or career preparation. The bill increases the state percentage of funding for salary supplements for career ladder from 40% to 60% and lowers the number of years before a teacher is eligible from five to two years. Supporters say the bill rewards teachers for taking extra time working with students, fostering community engagement and professional development of students. It would increase interaction time between parents and teachers filling the gap of learning loss that is being experienced currently. The bill also provides bankruptcy protection for the Missouri Education Savings Program and the Missouri Higher Education Deposit Program also known commonly as 529 education savings accounts.

HB 2325 establishes the "Workforce Diploma Program" to assist students in obtaining a high school diploma and develop employability and career technical skills. Supporters say the bill improves job prospects to enable the students to get higher and better paying jobs. Over 445,000 adults in Missouri don't have a diploma. Several other states have adopted the program. There is a need to upskill Missourians and this program will help train the workforce. The bill also establishes the "Extended Learning Opportunities Act" and allows synchronous instruction connecting students to a live classroom in a Missouri adult high school to be treated the same as in-person learning.

HB 1683 requires public institutions of higher learning to adopt and implement policies, as outlined in the bill, that will give undergraduate course credit to entering freshman students for each advanced placement (AP) examination upon which such student achieves a score of three or higher. Supporters say there are several bordering states that have a policy for acceptance of AP scores 3 and above and this attracts Missouri students to those universities. This would provide assurance to students taking these very difficult exams that they would receive university credit.

Other Budget Bills sent to the Senate for Approval

HB 3017 re-appropriates approximately $438 million for ongoing projects around the state that have already been undertaken. Projects range from renovation and improvements of vocational technical schools to new facilities on college campuses to projects at veterans’ homes and cemeteries.

HB 3018 appropriates approximately $477 million for maintenance and repair of statewide facilities.

HB 3019 appropriates approximately $469 million to fund capital improvement projects around the state. The bill includes $65.5 million for National Guard facilities, $22.7 million for various parks and historic sites, $15 million for improvements for various conservation sites and facilities, $10 million for charter school deferred maintenance, and $300 million for the Missouri State Capitol Commission Capitol Preservation Fund.

Oldham Monument