The Missouri General Assembly completed its 2016 session on May 13th after sending 139 bills to Governor Nixon’s desk. The St. Louis Regional Chamber is pleased the legislature made progress on a number of issues highlighted in our 2016 Agenda for Regional Prosperity, although work remains in a number of areas.
In particular, we congratulate the General Assembly on passing a FY2017 budget (HB 2007) containing a $2.55 million increase in core funding to the Missouri Technology Corporation, for a total of $18.41 million in core funding. MTC has been a crucial component of the rapid growth of the state’s startup ecosystem and has brought significant outside capital and new jobs to Missouri and the St. Louis region. An additional $4.5 million in funding was appropriated for legislatively-directed projects.
The Regional Chamber strongly opposed Senate Joint Resolution 39 (SJR 39), which allowed private businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals based on strongly held religious beliefs. The law could have led to significant economic damage to the state in the form of lost tourism and entertainment as well as hurting recruitment and retention efforts. The bill passed the Senate after the minority Democrats staged a 39-hour filibuster. After strong and public opposition from the business community and civic leaders, and an emotional hearing in the House Emerging Issues Committee, the bill ultimately failed to pass the House Emerging Issues Committee.
Passage of a Missouri Earned Income Tax Credit (HB 1605) made significant progress in 2016. The EITC, which reduces the state tax burden on Missouri’s working families, passed the House of Representatives 115-35. A Senate version passed its final committee in the Senate, with a vote of 6-1 in Ways and Means but did not receive a floor vote.
In addition to the progress made on these focus issues, the General Assembly also took action on other legislation supporting the Agenda for Regional Prosperity.
- Transportation: The Senate approved SB 623 that would put a 5.9-cent gas tax increase up for voter approval this November. The House Transportation and Select Committee on State and Local Government both voted to advance SB 623, however the bill did not make it beyond Fiscal Review.
- Earnings Tax: After several bills repealing St. Louis’ earnings tax failed to advance in the General Assembly, 77% of residents in the City of St. Louis voted to uphold the tax, which accounts for roughly 1/3 of the city’s revenue. The Chamber testified against SB 575 repealing the earnings tax alongside Mayor Slay of St. Louis and Mayor James of Kansas City.
- Senate Bill 5 – Part 2: SB 572 & SB 765, sponsored by Senator Eric Schmitt, were continuations of municipal court and traffic quota reforms presented in SB 5 of 2015. The Chamber testified and lobbied for both bills that were ultimately passed by the full House and Senate.
- Use of Deadly Force: The House and Senate passed an updated use of force statute and sent it to Governor Nixon via HB 2332. This issue has been a priority for the Chamber since the Ferguson unrest in 2014, and brings state law in line with federal use of force guidelines.
- MO Nondiscrimination Act & Employment Law Reform: The Chamber testified in support of SB 653 & SB 745 early in session, supporting our position on inclusive and effective employment law reform. These bills would have protected LGBT individuals against discrimination in the workplace while at the same time bringing Missouri’s tort system more in line with federal and most state standards. Unfortunately, progress on these bills faded early in the session.
- TIF Reform: The House and Senate passed new restrictions on how cities in suburban St. Louis can hand out tax-increment financing benefits to developers. The Chamber testified in favor of HB 1434.
- Meet Me in Missouri: The Chamber testified alongside the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission in support of HB 1698, the “Meet Me in Missouri Act.” This bill was passed by the House and Senate, and supports vital convention & tourism business in St. Louis.