Capitol Connection: End of Session 2014

Lawmakers Conclude 2014 Session: The gavel fell on the second and final session of the 97th Missouri General Assembly at 6:00 p.m. Friday, May 16, closing out a year that had grown increasingly more partisan, with Democratic Governor Jay Nixon at odds with the super-majority Republican legislature. The session did see the passage of the first income tax reduction in nearly a century; one that required the legislature to quickly override the governor’s veto in order that the $620 million reduction be finally approved. Lawmakers also sent a statewide transportation sales tax to the ballot, modified the school transfer law, revised the state’s criminal code and approved $600 million in bonds to fund maintenance projects across the state. Efforts to expand Medicaid, a priority of Governor Nixon, were turned back in the House and Senate.

The telecommunications industry fared very well this session, seeing passage of a quartet of bills that reinstated many of last year’s legislative victories nullified by a circuit court decision. The four bills – Senate Bills 649, 650, 651 and 653 – reinstate most of the provisions of legislation enacted in 2013 but enjoined by the Cole County Circuit Court due to defects in their enactment in violation of the Missouri Constitution. A fifth bill, SB 652, dealing with access to certain railroad rights-of-way, died on the House calendar pending a final vote.

The bills, which were quickly approved by Governor Nixon just a few days after passage in mid-March, make needed changes in the management of public rights-of-way and utility pole access; provide for a uniform municipal approval process for the location and permitting of communications towers; and reform state regulations relating to the retail provision of telecommunications services. The new laws will provide both wireline and wireless carriers with the regulatory certainty and operational flexibility needed to encourage the further deployment of robust broadband networks in the state.

Legislation making operational changes in the administration of the Missouri One Call program was approved on the final day of the session. The bill, HB 1867, was pushed through despite opposition from the Missouri Farm Bureau. Another approved measure, HB 1190, would waive certain tax withholding requirements for out-of-state utility employees called into Missouri to aid in disaster restoration. In the closing hours of the session, lawmakers approved legislation granting sales tax breaks to several industries, including data storage centers. The bill, SB 584, was strongly criticized by Governor Nixon just minutes after the legislature adjourned, setting up a likely veto later this summer.

A perennial effort to fund 911 call centers with a tax on wireless calls moved through the House and out of Senate committee but was not added to the Senate debate calendar. The bill, HB 1573, would have allowed county voters to adopt a “parity” tax on both wireline and wireless service, and tax pre-paid wireless service.

Governor Nixon 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 this session will become effective August 28. Lawmakers will next return to Jefferson City on September 10 for the annual veto session.

The complete text and legislative history of all bills passed this session is available at this link: 2014 Session Winners

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