Missouri state legislators will gather in Jefferson City on Wednesday, Sept. 15, for their annual Veto Session. Each year, when a bill arrives on the Governor’s desk for consideration, the Governor can: 1. Sign the bill. 2. Veto the bill. 3. Take no action, not sign the bill, and it becomes law. Or 4. Veto line items in Appropriations bills. The House and the Senate may override the Governor’s veto by a vote of two-thirds majority in each legislative body during the Veto Session next week.
This year, Governor Mike Parson (R) vetoed line items in 12 Appropriations bills; and he vetoed House Bill 362 (DeGroot, R-Ellisville), a bill affecting government transparency; House Bill 661 (Ruth, R-Festus), a transportation bill; House Bill 685 (Chipman, R-Steelville), a bill relating to public office requirements; and Senate Bill 226 (Koenig, R-Manchester), a bill affecting taxation.
HOUSE AND SENATE HEARINGS NEXT WEEK
Several legislative committee hearings have been scheduled. They include:
House Elections and Elected Officials (discussion of voter photo identification)
Special Committee on House Redistricting (presentation by state demographer on 2020 Census data)
House Agriculture Policy (presentation from agricultural organizations regarding their 2022 legislative priorities)
Senate Economic Development Committee (emerging economic development issues related to gaming)
Senate Interim Committee on Elections (discussion of initiative petition process and voter photo identification)
House Special Interim Committee on Broadband Development (testimony regarding broadband development in Missouri)
FEMA OKAYS DISASTER DECLARATION IN MISSOURI
On Sept. 2, Governor Parson announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved Missouri’s request for a major disaster declaration. Federal assistance will be received in 21 counties in response to severe storms and flooding that occurred in late June and early July. The Governor’s request on Aug. 13, included $10 million in qualifying disaster-related expenses that had already been identified. FEMA’s approval means local governments and eligible nonprofits in Andrew, Audrain, Boone, Buchanan, Caldwell, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Clinton, Cooper, Daviess, Grundy, Holt, Howard, Lincoln, Livingston, Moniteau, Montgomery, Ralls, Ray, and Saline counties will receive reimbursements for emergency response costs and repairs to roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure.
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES $400 MILLION FUNDING PLAN FOR BROADBAND
Governor Parson has announced plans to deploy more than $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to increase broadband internet access, adoption, and assistance statewide. The plan, announced Aug. 19, was developed through a multi-agency effort designed to address a diverse range of broadband connectivity challenges and is expected to impact hundreds of thousands of Missouri families. The plan will be presented to the Missouri General Assembly in January for appropriation. Also, the Missouri Department of Economic Development submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration Broadband Infrastructure Program, requesting an additional $56 million for broadband deployment. If approved, this funding could support up to 19 projects, connecting more than 17,000 households, businesses, and other institutions. According to the Federal Communications Commission, more than 147,000 households or almost 400,000 Missourians do not have access to high-speed internet, the majority of those citizens residing in rural communities.
JOINT COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE HOLDS ANNUAL MEETING
On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the Joint Committee on Agriculture held its annual meeting to discuss the economic impact of Missouri’s agriculture on the state, environmental stewardship, incentives to encourage members of the agriculture industry to adopt best practices towards Missouri’s carbon footprint, views on agricultural issues, and future policy considerations. The Joint Committee is required to hold a public hearing and file a report annually due to a provision included in Senate Bill 391 that passed in 2019. Rep. Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill) presided at the meeting as committee co-chair with Sen. Justin Brown (R-Rolla).
The committee received public testimony from several groups including the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Forest Products Association, Missouri Renewable Fuels Association, Missouri Department of Agriculture, and Missouri Department of Revenue.
The presentations included proposals to renew the expired tax credit programs for wood energy; new generation cooperative incentive; meat processing facility investment; and agricultural products utilization contributor. The committee discussed the importance of rural broadband expansion and incentives and received a presentation from the Missouri Farm Bureau on what other states are doing to connect rural communities.
The committee discussed the need to further study and look for ways to stop the misuse of eminent domain and referred to the “grain belt express” energy transmission line being constructed across northern Missouri.
Significant discussion and support were raised to create a new tax incentive program for the retail sale of biodiesel products, and the legislation from 2021 was discussed. The Missouri Soybean Association is planning to push for a new program that provides a retailer tax credit of 2 cents for every gallon of B5-B10 sold and 5 cents for every gallon of B11 and higher sold. It was noted that the 2021 bill was originally filed as a biodiesel sale mandate on retailers, and the entire industry has shifted focus to passing an incentive package.
Missouri Corn Growers also stated they will be pursing legislation in 2022 that provides a retail dealer with 5 cents for every gallon of fuel sold at blends of E15 or higher. The ethanol incentive bill will have a $4 million annual cap and be non-transferrable. The Missouri Renewable Fuels Association and POET Bio also testified in support of the ethanol incentives.
Rep. Brad Pollitt (R-Sedalia) announced he will be pursuing legislation to allow for the state of Missouri to purchase 400 acres of land adjacent to the Missouri State Fair Grounds. Rep. Pollitt noted the state fair continues to grow in popularity and has outgrown the current footprint, and this land acquisition will allow the state opportunities for future expansion.
Rep. Barry Hovis (R-Cape Girardeau) said he plans to refile his legislation relating to farm equipment manufacturers and their allowed use of parts and service manuals for persons to repair machinery outside the licensed equipment manufacturers designated as service providers. This legislation is often referred to as “right to repair” and has been very controversial during the past few legislative sessions in Missouri.
Lastly, the committee discussed the need for legislation to expand existing laws to further regulate the purchase of agricultural land by foreigners. Several groups noted their support and belief that this issue must be addressed. The Rural Farm Crisis Network testified at length on the topic.
Committee members adjourned and plan to file a report by the end of the year as required by statute.
MISSOURI HIGHWAYS AND TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION MEETS IN SPRINGFIELD, CONSIDERS BIDS AND APPROPRIATIONS REQUESTS
On Thursday morning, Sept. 9, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission opened its meeting, this month gathering in Springfield.
Early in the meeting, the commission offered its thanks to the General Assembly for passage of a fuel tax increase in Senate Bill 262. The first 2.5 cent increase in the Missouri fuel tax begins on Oct. 1. The legislation includes four additional annual 2.5 cent increases in the fuel tax.
The commission also gave its approval for MoDOT to seek and support legislation in 2022 to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones by all drivers in the state, not just young drivers. MoDOT seeks to protect members of the traveling public and MoDOT employees from distracted drivers.
As an action item, the commission unanimously approved monthly bids for transportation improvements. Travis Koestner, MoDOT state design engineer, offered the following: Aug. 20 bid openings, including 11 calls for bids, 36 bids on those 11 projects, and the commission awarded all those calls to the lowest and most responsive bidders, except for one bid in the northeast district that was rejected for excessive bid.
Koestner updated the commission on MoDOT’s Focus On Bridges program. So far, the repair/replacement program has begun or completed work on 199 bridges. The program is on budget. Overall, about $262.4 million has been spent this year on bridges. Koestner said upcoming bid lettings are scheduled on projects of $102 million, $100 million, then another bid letting for $230+ million.
In a final action item, Todd Grosvenor, MoDOT financial services director, offered the following proposed requests which were unanimously approved by the commission: Approved MoDOT’s proposed FY23 appropriations request totaling $4.1 billion; and approved MoDOT’s proposed FY22 supplemental appropriations request totaling $74 million.
The $1.4 billion request in FY23 is $340 million more than MoDOT’s FY22 budget. Included in the budget request is an additional $45 million for increasing MoDOT employee salaries, wages, and benefits; $13.3 million for additional staffing because of increased state and federal funding heading to MoDOT; $5.2 million for increased costs of roadway materials due to inflation; and $4.2 million for highway rest area improvements.