COLUMBIA — Twenty-eight bills prefiled in the General Assembly have captured the attention of Columbia officials and the Missouri Municipal League, and representatives of both plan a February conference to talk with legislators about the proposals.
The prefiled bills run the gamut, addressing issues such as red-light cameras, sales tax exemptions, the proposal for a new statewide "mega tax" and the way property values are assessed.
Here's a list of the 28 bills the Missouri Municipal League and city governments across the state have flagged as ones they will be monitoring during the 2011 legislative session. The list also includes the name(s) of the lawmaker(s) sponsoring each bill.
S.B. 1 Right to Work (Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-District 17): Would bar employers from requiring employees to become or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization.
S.B. 2 Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (Ridgeway): Would require that the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan offer high deductable/lower premium plans to public entities.
S.B. 8 Workers Comp (Sen. Jack Goodman, R-District 29): Would ensure that co-employees will not be held liable for negligence when performing the nondelegable duty of an employer.
S.B. 11 Texting While Driving (Sen. William McKenna, R-District 22): Would prohibit all drivers texting while driving.
S.B. 16 Red Light Cameras (Sen. Jim Lembke, R-District 1): Would prohibit political subdivisions from using automated photo red-light enforcement systems to enforce red-light violations.
S.B. 23 St. Louis Police (Keaveny): Would allow the City of St. Louis to control its police force without state intervention.
S.B. 24 Seat Belts (Keaveny): Would increase the fine for a seat-belt violation from $10 to $50.
S. B. 46 Jury Duty (Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-District 5): Would allow elected officials to be excused from jury duty during their term of office.
S.B. 49 Transportation Development Districts (Wright-Jones): Would explicitly include public mass transportation systems as transportation development district projects.
S.B. 52 Property Assessments (Sen. Jane Cunningham, D-District 7): Would require that county assessors consider foreclosures, bank sales and the average time homes remain on the market when establishing the value of real property for property tax purposes.
S.J.R. 1 “Mega Sales Tax” (Ridgeway): Would replace all taxes on income with a sales and use tax.
H.B. 26 Earnings Tax (Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-District 63): Would change voter reauthorization period on city earnings taxes from five years to 20 years.
H.B. 38 Escape from Detention (Rep. Sharon Pace, D-District 70): Would require a municipality to notify the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES) of an escape of a person being held for a “dangerous” felony.
H.B. 30 Pawn Brokers (Rep. David Sater, R-District 68): Would allow law enforcement officers to request that certain property used to secure personal credit loans from pawnbrokers not to be sold within 10 days of the request.
H.B. 36 Sales Tax Exemption (Sater): Would exempt all-terrain vehicles used for agriculture purposes from local and state sales taxes.
H.B. 46 Residential Sprinkler Systems (Rep. John Diehl, R-District 87): Would repeal a conflicting statute regarding the installation of fire sprinkler systems and remove the Dec. 31, 2011, expiration date for Section 67.281 of Missouri statutes. That law requires that builders of certain dwellings offer to purchasers the option of installing sprinkler systems.
H.B. 48 Gas Tax Exemption (Rep. Steve Cookson, R-District 153): Would exempt fuel used to operate school buses from state’s motor fuel tax.
H.B. 51 Court Fee for Law Enforcement and Fire Safety Training (Rep. Sylvester Taylor, D-District 80): Would require the collection of a $2 surcharge in cases involving a violation of state traffic laws, including infractions.
H.B. 52 Streamline Sales Tax (Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-District 72, St. Louis): Would implement the provisions of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.
H.B. 53 Speed Cameras (Rep. Tim Meadows, D-District 101): Would prohibit the use of automated speed enforcement systems to enforce speeding violations, except in school, construction or work zones.
H.B. 55 Sales Tax for Over the Counter Drugs (Sater): Would exempt purchases of over-the-counter drugs from state and local sales taxes.
H.B. 60 Homestead Tax Relief for Seniors (Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-District 33): Would limit the increase in assessed valuation of residential property by the percentage of increase in Social Security benefits for the elderly and people with disabilities who own and live in their principal residence.
H.B. 64 Unclaimed Payroll Checks (Rep. Shalonn Curls, D-District 41): Would change the unclaimed property abandonment period for payroll checks from five years to one year.
H.B. 68 Misuse of Emergency Telephone Service (Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-District 93): Would prohibit a political subdivision from imposing a fine or penalty on the owner of a pay telephone, or on the owner of any property upon which a pay telephone is located, for calls to an emergency telephone service from the pay telephone.
H.B. 71 City of St. Louis Police Department (Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-District 60): Would place control of the St. Louis Police Department under the mayor and board of aldermen instead of a state-appointed Board of Police Commissioners.
H.B. 81 Sales Tax Exemption for Automobiles (Nolte): Would exempt automobiles assembled and sold in Missouri on or after Jan. 1 from state sales and use taxes.
H.B. 89 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Fees: (Rep. Darrell Pollock, R-District 146): Extends the permit fee, which expired on August 20, to 2013.
H.B. 90 Residential Sprinkler (Scharnhorst): Would prohibit the adoption of ordinances, rules or codes requiring mandatory installation of residential sprinkler systems.
Senate Bill 16 is one that has the attention of Columbia city government. It would prohibit the use of automated red-light cameras. The Missouri Department of Transportation on Oct. 15 temporarily suspended the installation of red-light cameras on state highways, but cameras already in place may continue to operate.
The city has five red-light cameras in place. If the bill becomes law, it could thwart city plans to install more of the devices. It also could cost the city a bit of money; in fiscal 2010, the five cameras already installed generated $18,047 in revenue from citations.
Safety is the major issue, not the revenue generated from the cameras, Assistant City Manager Paula Hertwig Hopkins said.
“Data has shown that there is some correlation between the traffic cameras and safer intersections,” Hopkins said.
City statistics show the number of accidents at intersections with red-light cameras decreased by a total of 10.6 percent, from 157 in to 142 accidents during comparable time periods in 2009 and last year.
State Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, has proposed the camera ban in each of the past four legislative sessions. For Lembke, red-light cameras represent an affront to the constitutional protections for citizens.
“I believe the cameras are unconstitutional, and I believe they run in direct conflict with the state statute,” Lembke said. “The cameras shift the burden of proof to the individual, not the state.”
On Feb. 16, the Missouri Municipal League will convene a conference in Jefferson City to allow local government officials and legislators to discuss red-light cameras and other issues that affect local municipalities the most.
Other bills the league has pinpointed include House bills 36 and 81, which propose sales tax exemptions for all-terrain vehicles used for agricultural purposes and for automobiles assembled and sold in Missouri after Jan. 1.
“Our staff goes over the bills that affect local governments and discuss how they impact local cities,” said Richard Sheets, deputy director of the Missouri Municipal League.
An important consideration for the conference will be sales tax exemptions and how they deplete important municipal revenue, Sheets said.
Hopkins worries as well about the “dwindling amount of local revenue.”
“You want to be sympathetic to people’s concerns, but you also have a city to run as well,” Hopkins said.
Also on the radar is Senate Joint Resolution 1, which proposes a "mega sales tax" on consumption that would replace the state income tax.
“We are very concerned with what it will do to local communities,” Sheets said. “If the sales tax goes up high, it could force people to do business online or in the bordering eight states, instead of locally.”
Sales taxes will continue to be a significant issue within the state as it tries to pull itself out of this economic downturn.
“Our system is not broken, but we’ve never had a deliberate and thoughtful discussion of the state tax structure,” Sheets said.