Representative Ed Lewis's Capitol Report
Governor Signs 31 Bills from 2023 Legislative Session into Law
Missouri Governor Mike Parson has officially given final approval to 31 bills from this year’s legislative session by signing off on a variety of legislation ranging from tax relief for senior citizens, tax credits to attract the entertainment industry, extending post-partum coverage, empowering Missourians living with disabilities by preventing the loss of government benefits, removing financial barriers in the adoption process, and other legislation.
Here's a look at some of the bills set to become law on August 28, 2023, after having passed through the Missouri General Assembly and receiving Governor Parson’s signature:
SB 190: Tax Relief for Missouri’s Senior Citizens
One of the more notable successes of the 2023 legislative session was the passage and signing of SB 190, a significant tax package created to provide relief to senior citizens and aid them in keeping their homes.
SB 190 will help Missouri’s elderly population by eliminating the state income tax on Social Security benefits, and allowing all seniors, regardless of their adjusted gross income or filing status, to deduct 100% of their social security benefits beginning in 2024.
Until the passage of this new law, Missouri was one of only 11 states in the country that still taxed social security. As consumer goods continue to see rising costs, this new law will allow Missouri’s senior citizens to keep more of their hard-earned dollars in their own pockets, especially those living on fixed incomes. When this law takes effect on August 28, 2023, Missouri will join the other 39 states that have already eliminated the tax on social security.
SB 190 also carries a provision that will help keep our senior citizens in their homes by effectively freezing the property tax on the home of elderly Missourians. Under the language of the new law, eligible taxpayers are residents who:
1) are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits;
2) are the owner of record or have a legal or equitable interest in a homestead; and
3) are liable for the payment of real property taxes on such homestead.
This law will allow counties to adopt an ordinance that authorizes a property tax credit for these eligible senior homeowners, and would in effect ensure seniors do not pay more in property tax on their property than they did for the same property when they became eligible for Social Security.
To utilize this property tax credit, counties will decide whether to grant these credits through an ordinance or public referendum to be approved by the county’s voters. If approved, the county would calculate the credit for eligible seniors, which would be noted on tax bills sent by the county collector.
For most Missourians, their homes are their largest assets, and often, their homes are the result of a lifetime of work, not just in monetary value but also in memories. Our senior citizens have worked hard for their homes, and by freezing their property taxes and implementing this tax credit, we can ensure that our elderly population are not taxed out of their homes after a lifetime of work and paying their taxes.
Developing Missouri’s Workforce and Encouraging Recruitment
HB 417 will help employers develop and retain skilled workers through the creation of a competitive grant program 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.
HB 417 also creates the Intern and Apprentice Recruitment Act, which will incentivize businesses to increase the number of internship and apprenticeship opportunities in the state, allowing employers to train their workforce through paid internships and apprenticeships.
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.
Missouri is already a national leader in new apprenticeships and completed apprenticeships, but the state continues to be an exporter of potential workers as Missouri is losing approximately 20,000 undergraduates to jobs outside the state each year. The end goal is to keep more of the talent produced by Missouri’s universities here in the state.
No More Texting and Driving
SB 398 deals with several provisions related to motor vehicles, but included in the legislation is language that now will require all drivers to use hands-free cell phone features while operating a motor vehicle. This prohibits drivers from physically holding a cell phone, but also includes exemptions for drivers communicating during emergencies and for-hire drivers. It also allows drivers to use the GPS navigation or music apps on their phones.
If found to be in offense of the new law, drivers will receive a first-time violation carrying a fine of up to $100. That amount can increase up to $500 if there are repeated convictions in a two-year period. If the result of using a cell phone leads to property damage, injury, or death, then additional penalties including misdemeanor or felony charges could be added. While SB 398 takes effect on August 28, 2023, the penalty provisions will not be enacted until January 1, 2025 to allow a grace period to educate the public on the new law. This new law makes Missouri the 49th state to prohibit texting while driving.
Removing Financial Barriers to Adoption
SB 24 expands 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. SB 24 removes the current $6 million per year cap on that credit, making the tax credit refundable, and adjusts the per-child limit with inflation rates accordingly. With more than 2,200 Missouri children awaiting adoption, this new law will help remove financial barriers to allow more families to afford the cost of adoption.
New Marijuana Regulations Taking Effect
New regulations have just taken effect when it comes to the state’s cannabis industry, and one of these changes could mean harsher penalties if the organizers of a marijuana facility host an event that fails to ensure the regulations are followed. As of Sunday, July 30th, officials will now have the power to fine, suspend operations, or even revoke the licenses of marijuana facilities if unlawful activities occur at events they host.
Another new rule being implemented will give the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) the power to issue subpoenas directly to the licensed marijuana facility and third parties. In effect, the department can skip the step of going to a judge to get a subpoena to obtain records and information, which is meant to help DHSS in situations where a third party is involved, and refusing to comply with the licensees which the department has authority over.
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