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  • Writer's pictureAIM Team

AIM Capitol Recap February 8, 2024



The "Voice of Missouri Business" was busy promoting and defending your business in the Missouri Capitol since our last update. Here is a snapshot of our work on your behalf.


February 8, 2024 - Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) is now monitoring and/or actively engaging in 473 of the more than 2,100 bills that have been filed so far this session.


Tort Reform: Statute of Limitations

A top tort reform priority of Associated Industries of Missouri and the entire business community was heard in the House Insurance Policy Committee yesterday. HB 1964, sponsored by Representative Alex Riley, would reduce Missouri's extremely long five year statute of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits to two years. Currently, only three states (Maine, Minnesota and North Dakota) have a longer time limit for filing such lawsuits, with the vast majority requiring them to be filed within two or three years. Of Missouri's border states, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma all have a two-year limit, Kentucky and Tennessee have a one-year limit, and Arkansas has a three-year limit. The bill was supported by various business, insurance, defense lawyers, and tort reform groups and was opposed only by the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. The Committee took no action on the bill at the hearing.

 

Utility Issues: Sales Tax Exemption, CWIP, Pipelines and Reliability

AIM supported two bills that would require electric utilities to replace retiring coal plants with reliable generation. SB 757, sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Cindy O'Laughlin, and HB 1753 sponsored by Rep. Brad Pollitt, were heard in committees over the last two weeks. AIM told the committees affordable and reliable electricity is not simply a convenience but a necessity for manufacturers, hospitals, and all electricity consumers.


AIM's bill to clarify the sales tax exemption of items used in transmitting and distributing electricity and to allow uniform depreciation for pipelines for property tax purposes was amended to include language regarding solar generation facilities in the House Utilities Committee this week. HB 1746, sponsored by Rep. Michael O'Donnell, was passed by the Committee by an overwhelming vote.


AIM testified in opposition to two bills (HB 1435 sponsored by Rep. Willard Haley, and HB 1804 sponsored by Rep. John Black) that would allow costs for small modular reactors (SMR) to be included in rates prior to the devices being placed online. The prohibition, called Construction Work in Progress (CWIP), was adopted by voters while the Callaway nuclear plant was under construction. Passed by a 2-1 statewide vote in the 1970's, the current law prohibits inclusion of such costs in rates until the items are online producing electricity. The sponsors of the two bills indicated their intent to adopt AIM's requirements that would allow recovery of any costs assigned to ratepayers to be recovered with interest if the items were never placed in service, limit the size of projects for which the exemption would be provided, and the removal of renewables from the bill. When questioned about the recovery of costs with interest if SMR's were never placed in service, a representative of one utility company said they would simply not make the investment if that requirement were included. Just last week, the NuScale small modular reactor program was terminated. The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems in 2015 began the project to construct 12 reactor modules capable of a combined 600mw in generation with a target date of 2023 at a cost of $3B. The plan was modified in 2018 to increase to a combined 700mw to "lower the cost." Cost of the project went from $3B to $4.2B in 2018, $6.1B in 2020, and finally $9.3B after it was scaled back down to 462mw in 2021. If this had occurred in Missouri and these bills had been in effect without the repayment requirement, utility customers would have paid $9.3B and never received any electricity from the units.

 

Engineering Tax Credits

House and Senate committees this week heard HB 2081, sponsored by Rep. Donnie Brown, and SB 849, sponsored by Sen. Justin Brown - two bills that would establish incentives to boost the number of engineers available to Missouri employers. AIM testified that most large manufacturing plants looking to locate a new or expanded plant first evaluate available workforce, including engineers. If the workforce is not available, the companies must expand elsewhere. Incentives would be provided for both the employer and the employees obtaining their engineering degrees.

 

Childcare Incentive Package

The Missouri House passed HB 1488, sponsored by Representative Brenda Shields, today by a vote of 113-39. The bill establishes three incentives to increase childcare options in Missouri. Lack of affordable, quality child care has been identified as one of the biggest reasons some parents and caregivers are not able to enter or re-enter the workforce. Associated Industries of Missouri, the NFIB and many other groups were called upon by Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe to brainstorm solutions over the last several years. This bill is similar to a bill that was very close to passing in the last legislative session.


First, the bill would create the "Childcare Contribution Tax Credit Act". Beginning January 1, 2025, a taxpayer may claim a tax credit for verified contributions to a childcare provider in an amount equal to 75% of the contribution. The tax credit may range from $100 to a maximum of $200,000 per tax year. Employers are eligible for the credit.


The bill also establishes the “Employer Provided Childcare Assistance Tax Credit Act”. Beginning January 1, 2025, a taxpayer with two or more employees may claim a tax credit equal to 30% of the qualified childcare expenditures paid or incurred to a childcare facility. The tax credit may not exceed $200,000 per tax year.


Finally, the bill establishes the “Childcare Providers Tax Credit Act”. Beginning January 1, 2025, a childcare provider with three or more employees may claim a tax credit equal to the eligible employer withholding tax and may also claim a credit in an amount up to 30% of the capital expenditures if they exceed $1,000.


All three programs would expire December 31, 2030.


The bill enjoyed broad support from more than 30 employers, advocacy groups, service providers and local chambers of commerce, including Associated Industries of Missouri and Child Care Aware of Missouri.

 

Local Government EV Charging Station Mandates

The Missouri House today passed Rep. Jim Murphy's HB 1511. The bill would require local governments that have passed ordinances requiring installation of electric vehicle charging stations at private businesses and churches to pay the cost of installation and maintenance of the required EV charging stations. The bill also prevents any political subdivision from requiring more than five EV stations per parking lot. During bill presentation, the sponsor informed committee members the intent of the legislation is to address an ordinance that was passed in St. Louis County that requires any business, except gas stations, that renovate their parking lots, expand their building, or change occupancy to install an electric charging station at 10% of their parking spaces.


Some committee members questioned the bill's impact on local control. AIM president Ray McCarty told the committee this bill did nothing to impede local control, but if local governments want to create such a burdensome requirement, they should pay for it. McCarty pointed out to the committee that local governments supported a constitutional amendment that was adopted by voters requiring the state to provide funding for any mandates they place on local governments. McCarty said the same should be true of local governments placing unfunded mandates on private businesses and churches.

 

Brain Cancer Treatment Device Sales/Use Tax Exemption Clarification

On February 1, the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved Rep. Dr. Lisa Thomas' HB 1817, a bill to clarify the exemption of durable medical equipment from sales/use taxes.


AIM president Ray McCarty told the committee the bill would apply to devices used to control the growth of inoperable brain tumors and the intent was to make the exemption crystal clear for creative government lawyers that have refused to honor the plain language of the existing exemption statute. The Missouri Dept. of Revenue also testified in support of the bill.

 

Unemployment Indexing

The Senate Committee on General Laws gave final approval to SB 745, sponsored by Senator Mike Bernskoetter. Currently, the maximum duration for unemployment benefits is 20 weeks. The bill ties the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. The bill would allow up to 8 weeks of benefits when the unemployment rate is 3.5% or less and add an additional week for each 0.5 percentage point in unemployment rate, up to a maximum of 20 weeks if the unemployment rate is above nine percent. Associated Industries of Missouri and the state chamber supported the bill and the AFL-CIO opposed the bill in the hearing. The bill is now on the Senate calendar for consideration by the full Senate.

 

Increased Linked Deposit Cap

HB 1803, filed by Rep. Terry Thompson, would increase the amount of money the State Treasurer may invest in linked deposits through MOBUCK$, a program that provides lower interest rates on loans made to businesses. State Treasurer Vivek Malek testified in support of the bill at a hearing of the House Financial Institutions Committee. That committee approved the bill unanimously, as did the House Rules Administrative Oversight Committee. The bill would increase the current $800 million limit on linked deposits to $1.2 billion. The program allows the state to invest money at banks at lower interest rates and the bank uses those funds to provide loans at lower interest rates to certain borrowers. AIM supports the bill as it is used by many businesses, particularly smaller businesses that have difficulty obtaining affordable loans. The bill is awaiting action by the full House.

 

Regulatory Sandbox

The House passed HB 1960, the "Regulatory Sandbox Act" sponsored by Representative Alex Riley, by a vote of 131-16 today. The bill provides small businesses creating innovative products in all industries a way to waive or suspend certain regulations for two years by applying to the Regulatory Relief Office created within the Department of Economic Development. The bill also eliminates the Small Business Fairness Board because they have not had a quorum or the capability to meet over the past ten years. The sponsor stated since he introduced this legislation three years ago, three states have now passed this language including Utah, Kentucky, and Arizona. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

 

We will keep you informed as we continue our work on your behalf in the Missouri Capitol.


Thanks to Trent Watson at Watson Governmental Consulting who provided content for this article.

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