Lawmakers Wrap 2013 Session: The gavel fell on the first session of the 97th Missouri General Assembly at 6:00 p.m. Friday, May 17, closing out a year that grew increasingly combative as legislators advanced an agenda contrary to Governor Jay Nixon’s ideology. The state’s business community praised lawmakers for finally approving needed changes to the Second Injury Fund and workers compensation laws. The legislature also passed a $24.8 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Other bills, however, including a $700 million tax cut for businesses and individuals, nullification of federal gun laws, and restrictions on paycheck deductions for union activities, could draw the Governor’s veto pen. Several high-profile issues did not get across the finish line, including bills to allow electric utilities to assess an infrastructure surcharge, expand the state’s Medicaid coverage, and raise the state sales tax to fund highways.
Missouri telecommunications carriers fared very well this session with the passage of several bills addressing industry concerns. SB 237, signed into law by Governor Nixon, allows Windstream and Spectra (a CenturyLink operating company) to take advantage of the same pricing waivers approved for all other ILECs under a 2008 law.
SS HB 331, passed and sent to the Governor, enacts needed changes in right-of-way administration, creates a uniform method for municipal regulation of communication towers, and expands regulatory reform of retail telecommunications services. In addition, the bill establishes caps on crossing fees and outlines conditions of use for railroad rights-of-way owned by certain land management companies. A related bill, SS SCS HCS HB 345, regulates the fees and outlines conditions of use that municipal utilities must follow when telecommunications carriers or other communications providers seek to make pole attachments.
Legislation tightening how scrap metal dealers accept and sell copper and other materials also gained final passage. The bill, CCS HCS SCS SB 157&102, prohibits dealers from accepting metal identified as belonging to a telecommunications, cable or wireless provider.
An ongoing effort by several stakeholders to pass tax incentives for the location of data storage centers once again fell victim to a House-Senate battle on reforming state tax credit programs. This widely-supported idea has now died near the finish line five times in recent years, caught up and swept under by larger tax debates. The perennial effort to tax wireless service to fund local 911 call centers, although clearing the House by a surprising margin, did not get taken up for consideration by the Senate and so failed passage once again.
The governor has until July 14 to sign or veto all legislation passed this year. Unless a bill contains an emergency clause or a specific effective date, legislation approved in this session becomes effective August 28.
Lawmakers return to the Capitol for a brief session September 11 to consider bills vetoed by the Governor. Given the number of potential bills that could be spiked by the executive branch, this veto session will likely be more significant than usual as lawmakers could initiate several efforts to overturn the “red pen”.