Lawmakers Wrap 2012 Session
The gavel fell on the Second Regular Session of the 96th Missouri General Assembly at 6:00 p.m. Friday, May 18 closing out a combative year that will be remembered more for style than substance. In this election year, lawmakers focused more attention on symbolic issues, partisan debate and ideological wrangling than on major initiatives on education and jobs. The legislature did approve a $24 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year, and made some modest improvements to the state’s business climate.
The telecommunications industry held on to the legislative gains made in previous sessions but did not see passage of any major new initiatives. Two issues affecting wireless carriers that had been considered over the last several years did make it across the finish line. HCS HB 1108, known as “Kelsey’s Law”, will require telecommunications carriers to provide law enforcement agencies with caller location in certain emergency situations. The bill, which had been introduced for the last four sessions, is modeled after a Kansas law passed after the kidnapping and murder of Kelsey Smith in 2007. The legislature also approved HCS HB 1549, a measure adding wireless phone numbers to the state’s Do Not Call registry administered by the Attorney General. Lawmakers had attempted to make that change over the last five sessions.
A provision added to a larger sales tax bill will limit the penalties that cities can charge on back business license taxes owed by telecommunications providers. The bill, SCS HB 1504, requires cities to adhere to the same standards as the state on audits and penalties for back taxes.
Legislation supported by the state’s electric cooperatives and the telecommunications industry that would have capped rates charged for pole attachments and clarified easement provisions did not pass after running into late opposition from the trial attorneys. The bill, SCS HCS HB 1361, had cleared the House and a Senate committee but was hampered along the way by continuing opposition from the cable industry. A late compromise among stakeholders was nullified when Senate floor debate over landowner rights shelved the bill in the closing days of the session.
A sustained effort to pass tax incentives for the location of data storage facilities once again fell victim to the ongoing legislative debate over reforming the state’s bloated tax credit system. Stakeholders, including MTIA, several electric utility providers and the business community, will likely make another attempt on the issue in the 2013 session.
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol for a brief veto session September 12, and then stand adjourned sine die. Due to the impact of term limits and the results of the November election, the composition and leadership of the next legislature will markedly change when it convenes on January 9, 2013.
For a summary and the full text of all bills passed this year, go to Bills Truly Agreed and Finally Passed.