Let me share some of the bills moving through the State Legislature.
With Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican lawmakers at odds over how much revenue will be available for the upcoming state budget, House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, on March 5 proposed an unorthodox approach to funding public education during the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Nixon’s proposed budget is based on 5.2 percent general revenue growth next year, while Stream and his Senate counterpart expect more modest growth of 4.2 percent.
Because of the differing revenue projections, Stream has said Nixon’s recommended $278 million increase in state funding for local public school districts is unrealistic.
Under Stream’s proposal, K-12 schools would be guaranteed a $122 million increase in state funding.
If general revenue collections exceed legislative expectations during the course of FY 2015, local schools could receive up to $156 million in additional funding, thus reaching the governor’s recommendation.
This approach is unusual because Missouri lawmakers typically appropriate only funding they expect will be available and don’t include pre-emptive appropriations of revenue they don’t anticipate the state collecting.
Since it will be late in the fiscal year before the state has a clear picture of whether any of the additional $156 million in education funds will be available, local school districts won’t be able to count on the money when crafting their budgets for the 2014-2015 school year.
For the next topic, changes are coming for the first time in twenty years on taxes on farms.
Productivity values for agricultural and horticultural land will increase on Jan. 1, 2015, after the General Assembly took no action to block recommendations made last year by the State Tax Commission from taking effect.
Since property taxes on farmland are based on productivity values, an increase in values will result in an increase in taxes owed.
Farmland is divided into eight grades, with Grade 1 being of the highest quality and Grade 8 the lowest.
Productivity values for Grade 1 will go from $985 to $1,035 per acre.
Grade 8 values will go from $30 to $31 an acre.
The average increase across all eight grades is 5 percent.
Even with the increases, the new values of all grades except Grade 8 will still be lower than they were for the 1985 and 1986 tax years.
House Republican leadership never gave us a chance to vote on this issue.
We did vote on two pro-life bills which I supported.
The House of Representatives on March 5 voted 115-37 to grant first-round approval to legislation requiring a woman to wait 72 hours after an initial doctor’s visit before having an abortion.
While many states, including Missouri, already impose 24-hour waiting periods, South Dakota and Utah are the only states that currently require a three-day wait.
Supporters of the bill say some women could reconsider their decision to have an abortion if required to take more time to think about it.
Opponents say the legislation marks yet another government intrusion into what should be a personal decision.
A second vote was taken on March 11 to send the bill, HB 1307, to the Senate.
Another abortion bill approved by the House was HB 1192 which requires both custodial parents, or the guardian, of a minor to be notified prior to the performance of an abortion on their minor child and specifies that the constitutions and laws of the United States and Missouri must protect the rights of an alternatives-to-abortion agency and its officers to freely engage in activities without interference.
Gov. Jay Nixon on Feb. 28 released the spending restriction he had imposed on $132.5 million in capital spending for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The spending authority includes $28.5 million for renovations and repairs to the state Capitol; $12.5 million for improvements to the state parks system; $38 million for a potential new state office building; and $53 million for various maintenance and repairs at existing state facilities.
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You may also check legislation at www.house.mo.gov.