Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Senate Advances Supplemental Funding Bill

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate today passed a supplemental budget bill that will now move back to the House. Each session the Legislature considers funding needs that arise during the middle of the budget year and makes adjustments accordingly through an all-encompassing supplemental budget bill. House Bill 2014 allocates additional funding to various state departments, agencies and programs for fiscal year 2008.

One program scheduled to receive funding through HB 2014 is the Foundation Formula. This formula appropriates funding divided among schools based on student need, not property value, and ensures that schools receive adequate financial support for their students. Public schools in Missouri received a $132.6 million increase in FY2008 for this phased-in formula and HB 2014 assigns an additional $29.2 million to the program.

Additional funding of $1.5 million for the Sheltered Workshop program is also part of the supplemental budget bill. The workshops provide employment within the private sector for people who have disabilities. A bill passed last year increased the funding for the program and will continue to increase funds until 2011 when the workshops will receive $95 per week and $19 per day per employee.

A bill approved by the General Assembly last year (HB 952) that requires all long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, to have a functional sprinkler system will receive funding through HB 2014. The additional funds will allow the state to hire a person to implement the law.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mid-Session Report: Senate Sends 50+ Bills to the House

JEFFERSON CITY — As of this week’s mid-session recess, the Missouri Senate has given final approval to 54 bills that have now moved to the House for similar consideration. Six others have received preliminary approval and will be sent to the House pending a second vote by the Senate.

Of the 578 Senate bills introduced this legislative session, 149 have been passed by their respective Senate committees and still await discussion by the full body.

Bills of note passed by the Senate so far this session include:

* Senate Bill 711 (Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood): Protects Missouri taxpayers from property tax increases caused by reassessment. The bill closes tax increase loopholes, requires earlier notice and more information regarding reassessment be sent to taxpayers, and expands tax credit eligibility for seniors and the disabled.


* Senate Bill 720 (Sen. Maida Coleman, R-St. Louis): Creates a hot-weather rule by prohibiting electric or natural gas companies from shutting off service to past due customers on days when the temperature is forecasted to rise above 95 degrees or the heat index above 105 degrees.


* Senate Bill 732 (Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield): Anti-meth legislation that strengthens record-keeping procedures of pseudoephedrine products (the key ingredient in meth) and mandates that pharmacies switch to an electronic, rather than written, log. The real-time log would include the signature of the buyer, the name of the product, and the date and time of the purchase.


* Senate Bill 747 (Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville): Attempts to deter underage drinking in Missouri by placing tougher restrictions on minors and those who provide them alcohol. The act also prohibits the possession or use of alcoholic beverage vaporizers, devices that allow alcohol to move more quickly through the bloodstream and cause a faster rate of intoxication.


* Senate Bill 762 (Sen. Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City): Expands the definition of “bullying” as it is used in school districts’ anti-bullying policies to include cyberbullying and electronic communications.


* Senate Bill 935 (Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington): Increases deputy sheriffs’ salaries through a new $10 fee to be collected for serving civil summonses and other court documents. The additional revenue would bolster the salaries of county sheriff deputies statewide, who currently make an average salary of $22,000 per year.


* Senate Bill 1038 (Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph): Repeals Missouri’s campaign contribution limits, allowing individuals to contribute as much as they would like to a political campaign. The bill only affects state candidates; federal donation limits for presidential and congressional candidates would remain the same.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Omnibus Agriculture Bill Receives First-Round Approval from Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate today gave first-round approval to an omnibus ag bill designed to further promote and expand the state’s largest industry. A second Senate vote moves the bill to the House for similar consideration.

Senate Bill 898, sponsored by Sen. Dan Clemens (R-Marshfield), covers a wide-range of topics, including:

* Creation of a tax credit for farming operations participating in odor reduction

activities.

* A tax credit for the costs of constructing alternative fuel vehicle refueling centers.

* A tax deduction for buyers of hybrid vehicles and a tax credit on E-85 gasoline

and biodiesel purchases.

* A sales tax exemption for the purchase of fuel and fencing materials for

agricultural purposes.

* Expanding an ethanol production grant to include producers using biomass.

* Exempting farm machinery used in conjunction with forestry from state and local

sales tax.

* Lowering the cost of certain dairy-related loans and enacting dairy planning

grants.

* Creation of a mentoring program aimed at helping young people plan and begin

sustainable farming enterprises.

Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence) introduced an amendment to SB 898 during floor debate that was later adopted. The amendment adds school buses to the list of items exempt from motor fuel tax.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Copper Theft Prevention Bill Receives Initial Approval by Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — Today the Missouri Senate gave first-round approval to a bill that would help curb valuable metal theft in Missouri. Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) sponsored the legislation, which requires more detailed record-keeping by scrap metal dealers as well as makes it a felony to steal or unlawfully sell copper or aluminum. A second vote moves the measure to the House for similar consideration.

Senate Bill 1034 addresses a fast-growing theft problem that is affecting many Missourians, from consumers and farmers to business owners and utilities. With certain metal prices at all-time highs, the idea of fast cash proves too enticing for thieves who are stealing items such as telephone cable, copper piping and farming equipment — and creating a significant public safety risk. The legislation requires scrap dealers to obtain driver’s license and vehicle information from the people who sell them copper. Records would include date, time and place of transaction and must be kept for two years after the date of purchase. They would also be made available for inspection by any law enforcement officer.

Certain scrap metal transactions would be exempt from record-keeping when the total is less than $50, or when copper or aluminum is a minor part of the transaction, with exceptions. Payments of more than $100 would be made only by check or another traceable payment method, except for aluminum beverage can purchases. Other provisions include barring scrap metal dealers from purchasing or possessing metal beer kegs for converting to scrap, unless the keg is purchased from a brewer or brewer’s representative. Scrap yards would also be prohibited from purchasing cast iron manhole covers without proof of ownership.

Scrap dealers who violate record-keeping requirements would face a Class A misdemeanor charge and thieves who steal copper and aluminum would be charged with a Class D felony.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.