TIF EXPANSION APPROVED FOR FENTON LOGISTICS PARK AND NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL AGENCY
Representative Mike Leara’s bill, HB 514, expands the state TIF program’s annual cap to by $4 million to allow KP Development and the City of Fenton to develop the Fenton Logistics Park at the site of a former Chrysler assembly plant. Senator Ron Richard also amended the bill to include an additional $12 million cap increase that could be utilized if the National Geospatial Agency chooses one of three sites in Missouri for the location of their new facility. The NGA currently employs 3,100 people at a site in south St. Louis City that they have occupied since shortly after the Civil War. The NGA is currently evaluating four sites for their new facility: north St. Louis City, Mehlville, MO, the Fenton Logistics Park, and a site in Illinois adjacent to the Scott Air Force Base. Gov. Nixon has made the retention of the NGA facility a top priority, so his signature on this bill is imminent.
MUNICIPAL COURT REFORMS APPROVED BY GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Bill sponsor Sen. Eric Schmitt and Speaker John Diehl reached a compromise this week on a bill limiting the amount of revenue municipalities can collect from court fines and traffic violations. The Senate version of this bill, would have reduced the amount of annual revenue municipalities can collect from traffic fines from the current 30%, to 10%. The House version would have reduced it to 15% for cities within St. Louis County and 20% for all other cities in the state. Meeting in the middle, they agreed on 12.5% for St. Louis County and 20% everywhere else, with money in excess of these limits being distributed to local school districts. They also agreed to cap fines for traffic violations not involving an injury at $300. This bill is in response to a report by the Department of Justice in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting that found that many municipalities, such as Ferguson, were using their police departments as revenue generators. The system was creating a form of debtors prison that trapped low income residents in a downward spiral of court violations, fines, and warrants.
GAS TAX INCREASE DIES IN THE SENATE
A Senate filibuster this week ended any hopes for increased road funding this year. The bill, which received initial approval in the Senate at the beginning of the week, was filibustered on Thursday by Sens. Rob Schaaf and Ed Emery. After the bill was laid over, Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard said that the bill would not receive additional floor time this year. The bill would have raised Missouri’s tax on diesel fuel 3.5-cents and on other fuel 1.5-cents. If passed, Senate projections were that it would have raised $54.6 million a year for transportation infrastructure. Transportation officials had said that the bill would generate enough to match $160 million federal transportation dollars in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016, but additional state money would still have been needed to avoid losing federal dollars in years after that.
STATE LEGISLATURE PRE-EMPTS LOCAL CONTROL
A bill that started as a prohibition on municipal ordinances banning plastic grocery bags was expanded in the Senate to also pre-empt local minimum wage ordinances. HB 722 was initially a response to an ordinance in Columbia preventing stores from using plastic bags. The Senate, however, expanded the bill to prevent municipalities from setting a minimum or “living” wage or stipulating specific employment benefits that exceed the minimum requirements of the state or federal government.
GOV. NIXON RELEASES SOME FUNDING FOR WORKFORCE TRAINING
State Budget Director Linda Luebbering announced on Monday that 2015 fiscal year-to-date net general revenue collections increased 7.7 percent compared to 2014, from $6.70 billion last year to $7.22 billion this year. In response, Gov. Nixon released several funding items that he had withheld for the first 10 months of the current fiscal year. Gov. Nixon released $4 million in the Missouri Works Training Program. This program, administered by the Division of Workforce Development, is used to help companies train employees for highly technical jobs that are created within Missouri. The Governor has now released a total of $7.1 million for the program in the current fiscal year. The previous legislature appropriated a total of $15.2 million for the year. The Governor also released $200,000 to administer the Certified Work Ready Communities test at high schools and community colleges. This test assesses the skills of those entering the workforce so that employers may make informed decisions about locations for job creation within our state.
STUDENT TRANSFER BILL SENT TO GOVERNOR NIXON
Lawmakers have approved a plan aimed at fixing Missouri’s troubled student transfer system, and it now rests with Gov. Jay Nixon, who early on voiced support for the measure but also vetoed a proposed remedy last year. At the heart of the proposed fix is a provision to accredit schools by building, in addition to by the district. The bill would require students to first transfer to those better-performing schools in their district before other schooling options would be available to them. That could stem the outpouring of tuition dollars and keep students close to home, rather than busing them on longer commutes. The bill also expands the use of virtual schools and allows for the expansion of Charter schools. The bill was brought up in the House on Thursday, where strong opposition to the expansion of Charters was voiced. The bill barely passed, with a vote of 84-73; just two votes above the required amount. After passing out of the House it was sent to the Senate where it was promptly taken up and similar objections were raised. Jackson County senators objected to the allowance for Charter expansion in their jurisdictions. Senator Holsman, a member of the bill’s Conference Committee, voiced his objection to some of the transfer provisions. After several hours of debate, the Senate Truly Agreed and Finally Passed the bill, sending it to the Governor’s desk for review. It is unclear if the Governor will sign it or not, although the legislature accounted for transportation costs in this year’s bill, a major requirement for the Governor, he has previously objected to using public money for expanding Charter schools. Both chambers also approved the emergency clause on the bill, meaning if the Governor does sign it, the bill will immediately go in to effect, instead of the standard August effective date.