HBA Public Affairs Report
By Heath Clarkston
MISSOURI LEGISLATURE IS BACK IN SESSION FOR 2023
The 102nd General Assembly of Missouri opened its 2023 session at noon on Jan. 4TH in Jefferson City. President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) and Speaker of the House Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis County), leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively, were elected by their colleagues and sworn into office.
The afternoon in both chambers included introductions of many relatives and friends of the 34 state senators and 163 state representatives, and the lively gathering proceeded into the evening with the Inaugural Ball, held every two years to honor Missouri elected officials.
To date, senators have introduced 524 bills and 38 senate joint resolutions (proposed changes to the state’s constitution). House members have introduced 902 bills and 51 house joint resolutions, along with 20 bills for the FY 2023-24 state budget.
FITZPATRICK SWORN INTO OFFICE AS MISSOURI STATE AUDITOR
On Monday, Jan. 9, Republican Scott Fitzpatrick was sworn in as Missouri’s 39th State Auditor. He previously served as Missouri’s State Treasurer and the Missouri House Budget Chairman. He replaces Democrat Nicole Galloway, who chose not to seek re-election. Fitzpatrick has stated auditing Missouri’s K-12 public schools will be one of his top priorities. According to Fitzpatrick, he is the youngest statewide officeholder in America. Fitzpatrick elected to resign as State Treasurer mid-term to run and win his position as State Auditor.
VIVEK MALEK SWORN IN AS STATE TREASURER
On Tuesday, January 17th, Vivek Malek was sworn in as the 48th Missouri State Treasurer. The ceremony took place in the House Chamber where he pledged a fiscally conservative approach to protecting tax dollars, providing opportunities for growth, and promoting success for all Missourians. Treasurer Malek, 45, of Wildwood, is the first person of Indian descent and the first person of color to hold statewide office in Missouri. He was appointed on December 20, 2022 by Governor Mike Parson to succeed Scott Fitzpatrick, who was elected as Missouri State Auditor during the November 2022 General Election.
GOVERNOR PARSON DELIVERS 2023 STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS
On Wednesday, January 18th, before a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Gov. Mike Parson’s delivered his state of the state address for 2023. Governor Parson highlighted his speech with a proposed $859 million plan to widen Interstate 70 east of Kansas City, west of St. Louis, and in the Columbia area. In addition to highway widening, Gov. Parson’s budget proposal includes a total of $51.6 billion with priorities including broadband internet expansion, childcare funding, and education programs to increase teacher pay. The Governor’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2024 will now be reviewed by the House Budget Committee and its subcommittees and by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The state fiscal year 2024 budget begins on July 1.
The governor’s executive budget asks for a record setting $50,532,767,022 (this breaks down into roughly $14 billion in general revenue, $12.2 billion in other funds, and $24.2 billion in federal funds). The two state departments with the highest amount of spending include the Department of Elementary and
Secondary Education at $10.1 billion (20%) and the Department of Social Services at $16.4 billion (33%).
SENATE BILL HEARD THAT WOULD PHASE OUT PERSONAL PROPERTY TAXES
The Senate Economic Development and Tax Policy Committee convened on Tuesday, January 17th to discuss SB 8, sponsored by Senator Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles). The bill would eliminate personal property taxes from Missouri by annually reducing the amount taxed by political subdivisions until it is completely phased out in 2073. Within the bill’s provisions, trigger provisions are established to require certain revenue levels before a reduction in property taxes may occur. The bill also allows for reimbursements for revenue levels to certain political subdivisions by the state, subject to appropriations. During committee discussion, committee members expressed concerns the provisions would eventually cut essential services to citizens and expressed doubts other revenue streams would offset the cuts to property taxes. Americans for Prosperity and several private citizens provided supporting testimony and stated their assessments have increased dramatically over the last few years and many are on fixed incomes and cannot afford the increases. The Missouri Municipal League, Callaway County, Missouri Association of Counties, County Commissioners Association of Missouri, a disability advocate, Ambulance District Association of Missouri, Cottleville Fire District, O’Fallon Fire District, Developmental Disabilities Resource Board of St. Charles County, Missouri Association of County Developmental Disabilities Services, Missouri Ambulance Association, St. Charles County Ambulance District, Missouri Disability Empowerment Foundation, Missouri NEA and several private citizens provided opposing testimony. Opponents expressed they are concerned decreasing property taxes would decrease revenue streams available for essential and critical services provided by political subdivisions. There was also concern expressed this would prevent political subdivision’s ability to adjust to the cost of inflation and could also hinder the ability to repay debt services. The State Tax Commission provided informational testimony regarding the assessment and property tax process.
JEFFERSON CITY COUNCIL ELECTION SET FOR APRIL 4TH
Candidate filing closed at 5:00 pm on December 27th, 2022 for upcoming City Elections. Councilman Ron Fitzwater was the only person filed for Mayor and thus will be elected as Jefferson City’s next mayor on Tuesday April 4th. In addition to Fitzwater, Fourth ward councilman Derrick Spicer, Municipal Judge Scott Evans, and City Prosecutor Gaylin Carver will all be elected as they are unopposed for the upcoming election.
Contested Council races include:
First Ward: David Kemna (incumbent); Randy Hoselton; and Jeff Ahlers
Second Ward: Aaron Mealy; and Edith Vogel
Third Ward: Scott Spencer (incumbent); and Treaka Young
Fifth Ward: Alicia Edwards; and Mark Schwartz