Capitol Connection: End of Session 2017

Legislature Adjourns 2017 Session:  State lawmakers concluded the 2017 regular session at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 12; closing out a year marked by the passage of a record number of pro-business  bills, but marred by bitter in-fighting in the Senate.  Although the total number of bills seeing final passage is way down this year — only 56 bills (not including the budget) out of the nearly 1,800 introduced – the winners’  list includes several big-ticket items.

Leading the pro-business agenda was  the early approval of “right to work” legislation, followed by several key tort reform  measures, changes in labor laws,  workers compensation revisions, and approval of rules allowing transportation network companies such as Uber to operate in the state.  Despite the Republican super-majority in both legislative chambers and the Governor’s office, some high-profile issues stumbled, including ethics reform and transportation funding.

The telecom industry played a good defensive game this year, but little of the pro-telecom agenda made it through the process.  A key measure to re-instate the industry’s manufacturing sales tax exemption, called into question by  a Missouri Supreme Court ruling last year, never gained much traction.  This was due primarily to the change in the Governor’s office, and new leadership at the Missouri Department of Revenue that needed time to understand the issue and formulate a position.  An amendment added to SB 49 and SB 128 in the closing days of the session, however, provided another year’s reprieve on the court’s ruling.  This tactic gives stakeholders additional time to solidify a plan to shore up the telecom tax policy.

Another late-session amendment  (tacked onto SB 8 and SB 222) added utility companies  to the state’s “Move Over” law, giving telecom industry employees and their contractors added protection on roadside work sites.  Legislation to clarify that delivery charges are exempt from sales and use taxes (SB 16) made it across the finish line.  And, although the perennial effort to approve a parity tax to fund 911 call centers once again failed, legislation was passed to call for a study of how to consolidate locals PSAPS.  This study required by SB 503  could lead to more focus  on and support for expanding the tax base.

Efforts to allow telecom carriers to use a straight-line depreciation schedule for personal property tax assessment; and a measure to approve uniform local regulation and permitting for small cell networks, died on the Senate calendar after gaining late passage in the House.  Legislation that would have prohibited municipalities from subsidizing broadband service in competition with  private carriers failed to get debate time on the Senate floor.  Although receiving good legislative support in both chambers, bills that would have reduced telecom’s share of the PSC operating assessment will wait until next year for further consideration.

Governor Greitens 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 signed into law this year will become effective August 28.  Lawmakers will next return to Jefferson City September 13 for the annual veto session; unless the Governor makes good on his comments last week that he may call the legislature back in special session to handle some unfinished business.

PLEASE NOTE:  For detailed information on this year’s legislation, visit the Missouri Senate website at Truly Agreed & Finally Passed.

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