Governor Mike Parson is calling legislators back to Jefferson City in two weeks for a special legislative session to address a number of proposals to support the state’s farmers.
The governor in July vetoed a bill that included the extension or creation of tax credits benefitting urban and family farms, biodiesel producers, retailers of biodiesel and higher ethanol blends, meat processors and others. The governor said the two-year expiration proposed by the legislature for those credits wasn’t long enough, especially given that the legislature passed and he signed incentive programs with six-year sunsets for non-ag interests.
At least one of the tax credits that HB 1720 would have extended, for the Missouri Agricultural Small Business Development Authority, has already lapsed, and Pollitt said it does need an extension of more than 2 years.
The governor also called on the legislature to pass a plan to reduce income taxes for Missourians. Pollitt is supportive of that as well. All in all he believes this special session will be doing the work citizens want their legislature to do.
House members are concerned about the mental health of veterans in Missouri, and by how many of the state’s veterans have committed suicide. The House Interim Committee on Veterans’ Mental Health and Suicide held Wednesday its first of four scheduled hearings, this one focused on what is already available and what is being done to offer help to veterans.
The committee’s chairman, Representative Dave Griffith (R-Jefferson City), is a former U.S. Army 8th Special Forces Group Green Beret. He said part of his goal with the committee is to generate awareness of the issues veterans are facing and how they can be helped.
In discussing how serious is this issue in Missouri, the Department of Mental Health’s Veterans Services Director, Jon Sabala, told the committee that in 2019 the national veteran suicide rate was 31.6. Missouri’s rate was 43.4.
In talking about what various agencies are doing to offer help, Kirchoff said the Commission launched in 2021 the Veteran’s Portal, which lists hundreds of available resources for veterans and their families.
Devin Norton is the director of the veteran treatment program at Signature Psychiatric Hospital in Kansas City. She told the committee that current or former military personnel seeking help often find barriers that prevent or delay treatment.
Norton said this individual successfully entered treatment because he was persistent, but said many veterans don’t know how to advocate for themselves and don’t trust the system with which they must deal.
The committee closed Wednesday’s session with testimony from the family of Lieutenant Colonel Matt Brown. Brown was a loved and well known husband and father of three. He served in the Army National Guard which included a 14-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, and was about to take command of the 203rd Engineer Battalion. He took his own life in November of last year.
Brown’s wife, Kelly, spoke to the committee in the hope of using her family’s experience to break the stigma associated with mental health and to play a role in preventing more such tragedies.
A tax break for most Missourians and a restructuring of the state’s income tax brackets will likely be considered by legislators in a special session that Governor Mike Parson (R) is expected to soon call.
That’s according to House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage), who says he’s looking forward to seeing what the Governor outlines in a plan to be aimed at helping Missourians facing high prices and high inflation. The top Democrat on the Budget Committee, Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis), says he wants a plan that goes beyond changing income taxes, so that all Missourians would be helped; not only those who pay that.
Governor Parson earlier this month vetoed a proposed $500-million tax rebate plan sent to him by legislators in May, saying he prefers a permanent tax cut. He has said he will call for a special session of the legislature to consider that cut.
Smith, who spearheaded that tax rebate plan as the best proposal thought possible at the time, said he would also prefer a permanent cut. He spoke to Parson on Tuesday to get a better idea of what the governor might propose.
Merideth thinks permanently cutting the income tax right now is not a good idea. He said the state is in a great position with revenue right now, but the next time there’s a downturn, cuts made now could put the state in a bad position.
The governor has expressed confidence that Missouri’s good fortune will continue, and Smith agrees.
Smith said while the state is enjoying increased revenues and never-before-seen surpluses, Missourians are dealing with high inflation, high gas prices, and other factors that are causing many to struggle. He said this is the right time for the legislature to do something to help.
Merideth said he and other Democrats would also like to see the legislature talk about things besides the income tax, such as eliminating taxes on groceries and other essentials.
The governor has said he is also planning to have the legislature consider six-year extensions to tax credits under the Missouri Agriculture and Small Business Development Authority. He vetoed a bill that would have extended them by two years.
A new state law could lead to more prosecutions in Missouri of human traffickers.
Governor Mike Parson (R) recently signed into law House Bill 1472 to change in state law definitions related to currency and money laundering. That might not sound like trafficking legislation, but advocates say it is.
Dr. Rostami says prosecutors are often left with no evidence aside from the testimony of victims, and victims often refuse to testify. This can be for many reasons stemming from their experience, including traumas they suffered or because trafficking organizations may still have leverage over them such as threats against their families or even holding family members hostage.
She offered examples, including that of a victim who was kidnapped as a child and is now an adult. Over the course of her experience she was raped more than 24,000 times.
HB 1472 adds to state law definitions for “cryptocurrency,” “financial transaction,” and “transaction;” and replaces the definition for “currency” with one for “monetary instruments.” It was sponsored by Representative Patricia Pike (R-Adrian), who has worked on several trafficking issues during her 8 years in the House. She said those continue to be important in Missouri because its location makes it important for trafficking.
Missouri legislators passed a package of measures intended to protect victims of sexual and domestic violence and trafficking before the 2022 regular session drew to a close on May 13. Senate Bill 775 contained language sponsored by several House members, and now awaits action by Governor Mike Parson (R).
Kelly said of particular importance to her, personally, in SB 775 is the language that establishes the “Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights.” This seeks to make sure victims know their rights regarding the gathering of evidence and related medical exams; access to incident reports; and protections from intimidation and harassment by an attacker.
SB 775 also clarifies definitions in Missouri law regarding “sexual contact” and “sexual conduct.” Representative David Evans (R-West Plains) said he dealt with at least one case, during his 28 years as a judge, in which unclear definitions regarding contact with minor victims hindered prosecution.
SB 775 would specify that no persons younger than 18 will be prosecuted for prostitution, and if located by law enforcement while engaged in commercial sexual acts, they will be considered a victim of abuse and referred to the Children’s Division and juvenile officers to receive help. It also eliminates the requirement that a person under 18 and charged with prostitution must prove they were coerced to avoid conviction.
These were provisions found in legislation sponsored by Representative Ed Lewis (R-Moberly), who said the laws regarding these individuals needs to be focused on getting them help.
Other related sections deal with prosecuting those who attempted to engage in sexual acts or pornography-related offenses with individuals under 18.
The bill also contains language sponsored by Representative Lane Roberts (R-Joplin) dealing with orders of protection. It would state that a person with an order of protection against them cannot skip a court date regarding that order and then plead ignorance to knowing it was still in effect. He and Carter Dochler say this defense has often been successful for abusers who would violate an order and then say they didn’t know it was in place because they didn’t attend a hearing.
Roberts has often said that this and other proposals he has filed stem from his time in law enforcement – including as Joplin’s police chief and the director of the Department of Public Safety – and times in his career when he couldn’t help a victim because of how the law was written.
Along that same line, Roberts said a provision in SB 775 that is important to him is one that allows victims to testify via video rather than have to appear in court for a domestic violence proceeding.
Roberts says too often, a victim is afraid to proceed with prosecution for fear or retribution by their abuser. This provision addresses that fear; specifically that requiring a victim to appear in court creates an instance in which their abuser will know where and when to find them.
With all these issues, legislators have to craft language that protects victims but also allows for due process for those who are accused. Evans believes with SB 775, Missouri gets closer to finding the right balance between those considerations, “and again that’s one thing I really enjoy doing, is balancing the rights of those that are charged but making it absolutely clear to protect the victims of the crimes as well. I think we’re getting there.”
SB 775 includes several other provisions, including those that would make it a crime for any coach of minors to abuse a minor, whereas currently law speaks only to high school coaches; extends protections against the release of a victim’s personal information to include their personal email address, birth date, health status, or any information from a forensic testing report; and further restricts when the prior sexual conduct of a witness or victim in a sexual offense case may be inquired about in a legal proceeding.
The House and Senate passed legislation that would exempt tickets to the 2026 World Cup from sales taxes if it is held in Kansas City, which is one of 22 cities among 16 potential host sites vying for the event.
Patterson, who has spearheaded the effort in the House to get this legislation passed, said FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football) stipulated that whatever state hosts the World Cup not charge sales tax on their tickets. He said Missouri would be the first state to meet that requirement, assuming Governor Mike Parson (R) signs into law House Bill 1606 and/or Senate Bill 652, both of which were sent to him last week.
Legislators say the measure is a priority for the governor.