The month of October was busy as the Special Session wrapped up in early October and candidates finished off the month campaigning for the November General Elections.  Our last update detailed the progress made by the General Assembly on two pieces of legislation dealing with a reduction of the income tax rate in Missouri, as well as the renewal of several agricultural tax credit programs. Those bills were in response to the special legislative session called by Governor Mike Parson. Lawmakers completed their work on the bills on October 4th, sending the bills to the Governor for his signature.

The agriculture bill renewed a handful of programs that had recently expired and placed a six-year sunset on the programs instead of two years in similar legislation passed during the regular session. Those programs include tax credits for modernizing or expanding meat processing facilities, incentives for biodiesel and ethanol producers and retailers, tax credits for sawmills that turn wood waste into energy, and credits for persons establishing urban farms.

The income tax legislation lowers the top tax rate for Missourians from 5.3% to 4.95% next year, followed by additional reductions to 4.5% if certain revenue benchmarks are met. Even with the benchmarks in place, some legislators as well as budget forecasters warn that the tax reductions will deplete state revenues in years ahead, leading to cuts in programs and services.

Once lawmakers approved the above bills, Parson immediately held a press conference the following day, signing both bills into law. The measures will take effect 90 days from the close of the special session. Parson had asked for an emergency clause on each bill, meaning the laws would be implemented immediately upon his signature, but House members balked at that proposal and did not approve the motion.

In other news, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem recently dismissed a lawsuit over the recently enacted photo ID law. The suit was filed by the NAACP after the General Assembly passed HB1878 last session. The NAACP along with the ACLU and others have stated they will continue to press the matter until it reaches the Missouri Supreme Court. The decision means that voters in Missouri will have to show a government issued photo ID to vote in the upcoming November election. Should they not have proper identification, voters may still cast a provisional ballot.

The General Election on November 8 is next on the political calendar.  All House seats are up for election and 17 of the 34 Senate seats are on the ballot as well. Political observers will keep a close eye on the United States Senate race between current Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Trudy Busch Valentine, along with the State Auditor’s race pitting current Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick against Alan Green. Polling data shows both Schmitt and Fitzpatrick leading in their respective races handily. Should they both win, Governor Mike Parson will appoint a new Attorney General and a new Treasurer.

Immediately following the November 8 elections, House and Senate members will be selecting new leadership in their post-election caucus meetings. We will be watching those developments, as well as all election results.  We will keep you updated on these and political happenings as they occur. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group