You would not believe how things are picking up at the Capitol.
Here are a few highlights of what went on this week.
Tax Cut Discussion Intensifies
Last week as I talked about the income tax cut approved by the House and Senate I did so with the warning that the governor had already expressed concerns with the bill. This week the governor went into full-on attack mode as he claimed to have found a “fatal flaw” in the bill that would likely require a veto.
The bill we passed was meant to cut the income tax for Missouri families and businesses by $620 million annually when fully implemented. According to the governor’s claims, the bill contains a drafting error that would actually eliminate the top income tax bracket entirely and result in a tax cut of $4.8 billion. His opinion is based on the analysis of his own legal team as well as a Washington University Law School professor.
The leadership teams of the House and Senate immediately countered the governor’s claims with their own analysis that affirms the tax cut would be implemented as intended. Backing their assertion is former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price, Jr. who clearly stated that the court would not side with the governor’s interpretation. Price’s memo on the subject states, “Based upon the plain language of full Senate Bill 509, it is my opinion Missouri courts would find that, after full implementation of the reduction, the 5.5% tax rate would apply to all income over $8,000 (as adjusted for C.P.I.).” Price’s finding also has been reaffirmed by the Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants, which analyzed the bill’s language and found it to be crafted properly.
Criminal Code Revision Receives Final Passage (SB 491)
Checking in at more than 1,000 pages in length, the criminal code revision bill passed by the House this week represents a mammoth undertaking but also one that is desperately needed to bring consistency to our laws. It has been more than 35 years since the criminal code was comprehensively revised and during that time the legislature has passed bills in a piecemeal approach that has made the code inconsistent in many areas and confusing to even those with expertise in the law.
The bill we approved would create a new classification of misdemeanor and a new classification of felony to better allow the punishment to appropriately fit increasing levels of severity of criminal activity. The bill also greatly increases the punishments for individuals who sexually abuse children and for assault crimes in general. In addition, it deals much more harshly with habitual drunk drivers who endanger others on the road, and creates a stair-step approach for drug-related crimes that would give additional flexibility to prosecutors, defense attorneys and courts in the disposition of drug-related cases.
The overall impact of the bill would be to create a code that represents a consistent, cohesive approach to dealing with crime in our state. It is a change our prosecutors, defense attorneys and everyone involved in the law enforcement community has called for us to pass. Shortly after we passed the bill in the House, it moved back to the Senate where it was approved as well. The bill now moves to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. It is important to note that even with the governor’s signature the changes in the bill would not go into effect until 2017.
Well, I must run along for now. Got people to see, places to go and things to do. Till then, check in next week.