The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 20, 2012

Susan Redden: Missouri Legislature session ends, along with some bills’ prospects

JOPLIN, Mo. — There’s always next year.

That must be what Missouri legislators — including those from the Joplin area — are saying after this year’s session of the General Assembly ended Friday with so many proposed bills left on the House and Senate floors.

Some legislation was passed, including measures that authorized a $24 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Some of the other measures on their way to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon would:

• Allow cellphone numbers to be added to the state’s no-call list for telemarketers. The list now contains only residential land-line telephones.

• Allow employers to refuse to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization or abortion.

• Submit to voters a proposal that would give governors more power in nominating appellate court judges.

• Specify that a county commission must appoint an interim county clerk, collector or assessor until the vacancy can be filled by the governor.

• Allow some billboards along state roads to be converted to digital.

• Allocate much of the state’s casino fees to nursing homes for veterans.

• Expand a program to aid families with financial needs because the primary wage earner is deployed in the military.

Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, vice chairman of the House Veterans Committee, was the sponsor of the military aid bill. He also sponsored a measure aimed at ensuring the child custody rights of veterans if a spouse seeks a divorce while a veteran is deployed. That measure was not approved.

Also approved was a measure sponsored by Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, that requires program evaluations of state agencies by the Oversight Division of the Committee on Legislative Research.

It appears that the Legislature will have to wait for another year on other proposed legislation favored by local lawmakers, including bills that would authorize tax credits to attract more amateur sporting events to the state, downsize government, subsidize the construction of storm shelters, and provide a tax amnesty program that would boost state revenues. Flanigan has sponsored the tax amnesty proposal for the past three sessions.

There is a potential financial impact for local cities and counties from one measure that passed but has attracted criticism from Nixon.

The Missouri Supreme Court earlier in the year ruled that cities and counties cannot collect sales tax on out-of-state vehicle purchase unless they also collect a local use tax. Car purchasers for years have paid the tax, and the Legislature passed a bill to reinstate the assessments.

But supporters are concerned about a possible veto because Nixon has said the measure would translate to a sales tax imposed without voter approval. He said voters should decide if the tax should be reinstated. A bill to put the question before voters was drafted, but it did not come to a vote by the end of the session.

City and county officials have expressed concern about a cut in sales tax revenues when local governments are just bouncing back from a slow economy. Missouri Department of Revenue estimates put the tax loss at $431,000 per year for the city of Joplin, $74,500 for Webb City, $69,500 for Neosho, $63,000 for Carthage, $354,000 for Jasper County and $177,000 for Newton County.

Lawmakers heard predictions that the shift would drive car purchasers to other states, particularly if they live in border counties.

Susan Redden is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at sredden@joplinglobe.com or 417-623-3480, ext. 7258.

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