The 2020 legislative session concluded on May 15. By the time the gavel fell, signaling the end of the session, we passed 50 pieces of legislation, including the 19 budget bills. I’m pleased to report two of my legislative priorities were among those measures sent to the governor’s desk.
My Senate Bill 600 contained several provisions aimed at combating violent crime. Last year, I served on an interim committee that studied public safety in Missouri. As we examined the reasons why our state ranks among the most violent in America – with our three largest metropolitan areas making the Top 25 Most Dangerous Cities list – we learned that a relatively small number of criminals are responsible for much of the violent crimes committed in our cities. My legislation seeks to hold these repeat offenders responsible for their actions and keep them behind bars where they belong.
My legislation increases penalties for armed criminal action and for felons in possession of a firearm. The bill also prohibits probation for individuals convicted of second-degree murder and other violent offenses. Another provision establishes the “Missouri Criminal Street Gangs Prevention Act,” which strengthens existing laws regarding criminal gangs and provides prosecutors greater flexibility in charging individuals engaged in organized crime.
Another measure I sponsored this year, Senate Bill 676, began as a proposal to address runaway property tax assessments. Following the COVID-19 crisis, I amended the legislation to exempt federal coronavirus stimulus payments from state income taxes. Missourians who received a $1,200 COVID-19 payment will not have to report that income on their state income taxes now that my legislation is headed to the governor’s desk.
Beyond shielding stimulus money from taxation, SB 676 will prevent a repeat of the panic and frustration many property owners in my district experienced last summer when notices of increased property assessments arrived literally hours before the deadline for appealing a tax hike. My legislation establishes new timelines for assessment notices and ensures taxpayers have sufficient time to appeal increases. The bill also requires a physical inspection of property before assessments can increase beyond a certain threshold and shifts the burden of establishing higher property values to assessors.
In my opinion, we accomplished a lot this year, despite the shortened schedule. In just three weeks after returning to the Capitol after it shut down due to COVID-19, we rewrote the state budget to address the impact of COVID-19. We were able to produce a balanced state budget that provides assistance to small businesses, schools, hospitals, first responders and seniors. The $35 billion budget we sent to the governor fully funds K-12 education. On the policy front, we streamlined professional registration for military spouses, passed significant pro-business reform legislation, established mechanisms to ensure justice for survivors of sexual assault and enacted a number of programs to benefit veterans.
From my perspective, the 100th General Assembly will be remembered for more than just a milestone anniversary. We overcame unprecedented challenges and came together in the final weeks to fulfill our constitutional budgetary obligations, while still advancing significant policy initiatives for our citizens.