With only 3 weeks of session left, the Missouri House and Senate are churning away at a slew of legislative issues. Just this week there has been progress on transportation funding, Wayfair, broadband development, and liquor sales.
On transportation funding, the House Transportation Committee held a hearing on SB262, sponsored by Senator Dave Schatz, which would raise the gas tax by 2.5 cents per year for five years. This effort would raise more than $500 million in additional funding for Missouri’s roads and bridges, increase fees for electric vehicles, and provide a mechanism for Missourians to receive a rebate for the tax increase – negating the need for a ballot referendum on the increase. With one less hurdle in the way, this potential gas tax increase inches closer to the Governor’s desk.
For Wayfair, both the House and Senate approved similar yet competing pieces of legislation that would authorize the collection of online sales tax by local governments. The House passed HB544, sponsored by Representative J. Eggleston, while the Senate passed SB153, sponsored by Senator Andrew Koenig. In the last couple of days, both Chambers have held hearings on the other’s Wayfair bill. At this time, Senator Koenig’s SB153 appears to be the likely vehicle for any success that may occur this session. Since the House altered his bill, the two Chambers will have to conference before a final bill can be voted on. Soon, Missouri will be the only state in the nation not to have instituted a so-called Wayfair-fix after Flordia passed and signed legislation into law this week.
In addition to transportation funding and a Wayfair-fix, the legislature has also moved forward on bills affecting broadband development and the revenue streams of bars and restaurants.
SB108, sponsored by Senator Mike Cierpiot, would allow two or more contiguous municipalities to form a broadband infrastructure improvement district. Such a district would have the ability to partner with a broadband service provider to construct and improve that district’s infrastructure. A key tenant of this particular bill empowers these improvement districts to “finance the provision or expansion of broadband internet service through grants, loans, bonds, user fees, or a sales tax, not to exceed one percent.” This legislation passed out of the Senate and awaits a hearing with the House Utilities Commission scheduled for April 28th.
SB283, sponsored by Senator Denny Hoskins, would permanently allow the to-go and curbside sale of alcohol by bars and restaurants. This permission was given temporarily in 2020 due to COVID-19 related shutdowns and was instrumental in providing for the bottom line of many bars and restaurants. This legislation passed out of the Senate and has had one hearing in the House General Laws Committee and another scheduled for April 26th.
On the Local Level
Speaking of bars and restaurants, on a local level, the Columbia City Council will be discussing the possibility of reimbursing 2020 business license fees for those industries most affected by local restrictions during their Monday, May 17th regular meeting. For those interested in attending and speaking in support, council meetings are held at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall.
The Chamber is glad to see the legislature and our local government making strides to address issues important to the Columbia business community and our region. As always, Chamber staff will continue to monitor and update members on legislation impacting their businesses and the community-at-large. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Chamber.