Capitol staffers have been busy this month as legislative pre-filing has begun in preparation of the next legislative session which begins on January 8 at noon. Legislators began the bill prefiling process on December 1 with nearly 850 bills and resolutions having been filed as of the writing of this newsletter. Senate and House members will continue filing bills until midway through the session where nearly 2,000 bills are expected to be filed once the deadline for filing closes.

Several bills have already been filed that would raise the state fuel tax in order to fund road and bridge construction. In addition, there is a proposed constitutional amendment filed which would allow MoDOT to establish toll roads in the state. Another proposal would put a portion of increased motor vehicle registration fees into the state road fund. These initiatives have a tough road ahead of them and only time will tell whether they land on the governor’s desk. Similar legislation has been met with stiff opposition from many conservative legislators in recent years and they have signaled their intent to block any proposed tax increases once again this session.

The Senate Interim Committee on Tax Credit Efficiency and Reform has held four hearings since late summer to examine the many tax credit programs in the state. Many view the tax credits as a necessary trigger for economic development, construction, and job creation, while others say the process is inefficient and lacks accountability. The committee was slated to wrap-up their review of the many programs in early December, but it was recently announced they will continue to hold hearings throughout the legislative session. Senator Cindy O’Laughlin, chairwoman of the committee, said she wants the committee to continue their work looking into how tax credits are processed and how their value is determined.

In other political news, a recent report by State Auditor Nicole Galloway has found that the Black Mountain Community Improvement District (CID) violated state law with their expenditure of $296,937 of taxpayer money. The CID funds were intended to be spent on infrastructure, storm water controls and related construction. The audit showed several violations of state law, but the most glaring was an expense of more than $100,000 for equipment purchases, repairs and operational expenses to a convenience store owned by three members of the CID board. Restrooms were remodeled, new fuel pumps were purchased, and a new walk-in beer cave was installed at the store. Six months after the work was completed, the convenience store was sold to new owners. The taxpayer dollars used for the work were not reimbursed. Current board members are working with law enforcement on the findings of the audit. The Black Mountain CID is near Van Buren, in Carter County, Missouri.

Repairs and renovations on the exterior of the state Capitol continue to progress with an anticipated completion date near the end of 2020. However, the refurbished statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, whose likeness sat atop the Capitol for 94 years is causing some controversy. The statue was removed last year and sent to Chicago for repairs and is now back in Jefferson City where it is slated to be placed on top of the dome once again. Representative Mike Moon didn’t want to see Ceres returned to the dome due to religious reasons and has asked Governor Mike Parson to intervene. Moon sent a letter to the governor calling the statue a “pagan god” and wanted Parson to direct the Capitol Commission to not return the statue to the dome. Despite Rep. Moon’s request Ceres was returned to the dome of the Capitol on December 17.

As mentioned earlier, the legislative session is slated to begin on Wednesday, January 8 and will run through May 15. Once the legislative session starts and legislation begins to move, weekly legislative updates will be sent to the ASA members updating you weekly on ASA’s legislative priorities.

Nikki R. Strong