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Everything is on a fast track here at the State Capitol now.

House sessions are getting longer and more legislation is being deliberated. I’m honored to represent the district and its constituents as important bills are discussed.

As each bill is brought up for debate, I have read and researched the language in that bill and then apply it to the needs of our district. As these bills come forward, I appreciate hearing from you regarding your stance on the issues. I will continue to keep you informed as legislation moves forward.

HB 4

House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith unveiled a spending plan this week that makes a significant investment in state transportation infrastructure without raising taxes or incurring new debt for the state. Smith rolled out the committee substitutes for the appropriations bills that make up the Fiscal Year 2020 state spending plan, which includes a $100 million appropriation to pay for road and bridge improvements.

The $100 million in general revenue will be dedicated to the State Road Fund for bridge projects in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which sets the transportation projects the Missouri Department of Transportation will undertake. It is important to craft a plan that provides adequate funding for Missouri’s transportation needs without putting the state further into debt.

Our state transportation department has paid more than $700 million in debt payments in just the last two years. The solution to fix our roads isn’t to go further into debt, but instead to invest wisely and responsibly in our transportation network with the funds we have available. The department’s 5-year average debt payment is $313 million per year.

Missourians need and deserve roads and bridges that are safe and reliable, and it’s our duty as the crafters of our state budget to provide a plan that doesn’t raise their taxes or force them to make payments on debt we didn’t need to incur. This $100 million investment is the most fiscally responsible solution for Missouri taxpayers.

The funding allocation for transportation infrastructure is contained in House Bill 4, which is one of the 13 appropriations bills that make up the Fiscal Year 2020 state operating budget. The House Budget Committee will work through the bills next week and consider potential amendments. The House will then take up the bills on the floor at the end of March.

HB 192

The Missouri House this week approved legislation to keep judges from putting people back in jail for failing to pay for the cost of previous stays in jail.

The bill would keep a person’s failure to pay a jail for housing from resulting in more jail time that would result in additional housing costs. Instead, a local sheriff could attempt to collect such costs owed through civil proceedings, or a judge could waive those costs.

The bill had broad, bipartisan support, as members of both parties agreed that being jailed for failing to pay so-called “board bills” only created a cycle of debt that some Missourians have been trapped in for years. Individuals who have stolen items like makeup or candy, and years later owed tens of thousands of dollars to the local jails that had housed them.

When somebody gets thrown in jail, their time is their punishment. That’s the point of it … but the money that’s accrued for your care – for your food, your clothing, the shelter over your head that the county’s providing – that’s money owed for a service provided incidental to your punishment.

The bill would do away with hearings in which the court requires a defendant to show why he or she shouldn’t be jailed for failing to pay board bills. Defendants are often required to appear monthly for such hearings and a warrant is issued for them if they fail to appear.

The bill is now under consideration in the Missouri Senate.

HB 469

House members approved a bill that allows the Missouri Department of Economic Development to consolidate three work force training programs into the Missouri One Start program.

Consolidation of the programs will allow for more flexibility and efficiency, and will allow more businesses to take advantage of the program. Changes will be possible without the need for additional funding.

Currently, the program allows administrative expenses of 15 percent of total training costs. The bill approved by the House limits such expenses to a reasonable amount determined by the Department of Economic Development. In creating rules and regulations governing the Missouri One Start Training Program, the bill requires the department to consider such factors as the potential number of new jobs to be created, the amount of new capital investment in new facilities and equipment, the significance of state benefits to the qualified company's decision to locate or expand in Missouri, the economic need of the affected community, and the importance of the qualified company to the economic development of the state.

The bill also allows the department to require a qualified business to repay all benefits if such business fails to maintain the new or retained jobs within five years of approval of benefits or if such business leaves the state within five years of approval of benefits.

Missourians received good news this week as the Missouri Department of Revenue announced that it is on schedule to offer REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and nondriver identification on March 25. The REAL ID-compliant forms of identification will be necessary effective Oct. 1, 2020 for residents to fly domestically.

Bills of Interest

HB 114 requires a dangerous sex offender when changing residence to turn over his or her driver license to the law enforcement official with whom the offender was last registered. The offender would then have three days to register with the law enforcement official in the new area of residence, which would result in the driver license being returned. Failure to re-register would result in a felony offense. It would also cause the offender’s driver license to be suspended, and the individual would be required to be electronically monitored for two years. Supporters say the state loses track of offenders when they move, so this is just a mechanism to keep track of them while they are relocating and hopefully it incentivizes them to re-register.

HBs 161 & 401 prohibits local school districts from setting an opening date for the school term that is more than 14 calendar days prior to the first Monday in September. Supporters say that as school start dates have become earlier, students who participate in fall sports and agricultural education have had to choose between the two activities. It has hurt more than just those students participating in agricultural education events; it has hurt the tourism industry as well.

HB 220 specifies that any real or tangible personal property associated with a project which uses wind energy directly to generate electricity shall be valued and taxed by any state and local authorities having jurisdiction. Supporters say the bill would allow the tax revenue generated by the wind energy project to stay in the local jurisdiction. Local governments used tax incentive programs to attract wind generation projects knowing that the project would bring additional tax revenues to the area. Without this bill, that additional tax revenue would be spread across the state, with little to no revenue remaining in the local jurisdiction.

HCR 18 urges public schools to institute JROTC in their schools. Supporters say very few schools in the state currently offer the program which includes many skills that would help a participant gain employment.

I have an online survey set up on my House of Representatives webpage. Please click on the link and then the Online Survey Button beside the District Map. https://www.house.mo.gov/MemberDetails.aspx?year=2019&code=R&district=116

If you have any questions regarding any state matters or legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact email me at dale.wright@house.mo.gov or call 573-751-3455.

It is an honor to serve as your State Representative.

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