GLADSTONE — The Missouri General Assembly convenes at noon, Jan. 8, 2020. Before local senators and representatives return to Jefferson City, they are meeting with constituents and other organizations to share their legislative focus for the coming session.
At the iWerx in Gladstone on Nov. 19, members of the Clay County Economic Development Council met with two senators, Dan Hegeman and Lauren Arthur; and two representatives, Noel Shull and Doug Richey.
Hegeman, of House District 12 who serves part of northern Clay County, is the Senate appropriations committee chairman. He said this role will be his most consuming in the coming legislative session, adding he thinks the Foundation Formula should be fully funded again for schools. The formula determines how much public schools receive in state funding. Factors considered include the number of students in a district, cost of living, available local revenue and the number of students with special
“If $10 million continues to maintain districts, I think we could turn toward transportation funding and busing,” he said.
needs. While the state has a $30 billion budget, a large chunk, Hegeman said, is already earmarked. There is about $3 billion not earmarked that legislators will debate how to spend.
As for legislation he plans to introduce, Hegeman share a couple thoughts.
“I want to refile a bill on improving low-income housing reform again,” he said. “I’m also looking at some judicial reform, too.” This act would place a cap on the amount of low-income housing tax credits that may be authorized in a fiscal year. Such a cap shall be the lesser of 72.5% of the amount of federal, low-income housing tax credits allocated to the state or $123 million.
This term will be Hegeman’s last as he is term limited.
Arthur, who represents Senate District 17 including Gladstone and Liberty, is looking at funding in the coming session for legislation that passed last session that will allow high school students to use A Plus funding for dual credit reimbursement while they are still in high school.
“It’s a way to explore career pathways that are good for students,” she said. “We also talk about a Missouri workforce. Let’s keep the quality in Missouri. We are working with the department of higher education.”
Arthur also plans to look at prescription drug prices.
“We need transparency to understand the costs as well as allow people to have the ability to afford their medications,” she said.
Richey, who represents parts of Kearney and Excelsior Springs in House District 38, said after completing his first session, he is still working on three ongoing priorities: relating, roles and requirements.
“I draw from my Clay County perspectives,” he said. “I listen, evaluate and make decisions. I want to be held accountable and the voters want me to be as well. I will continue to look at how to create jobs, protect the environment and make sure essential services are there.”
Richey sits on the budget committee and said focus should be paid to infrastructure.
“We have a problem at the federal level and there is significant debt there,” he said. “We need infrastructure so we can get around safely, commerce depends on it.”
In educational spending, Richey said he wants to see teachers gain funds to offset their own costs in the classroom.
“I also want to see protections from those who commit sexual misconduct in nonprofits,” he said. “We need to make sure that the volunteers can’t easily victimize others.”
Richey is also part of the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. He wants to make sure those in law enforcement have the right tools to keep communities safe for businesses.
Shull, also preparing for his last session in Jefferson City, represents House District 16. He is the representative for a majority of Liberty and Kansas City North.
“I want to see if I can get my tax credit bill across the finish line. This would give any individual who looks at loans from the (Small Business Administration) or Farm Credit Services.”
Shull said he also wants to help Claycomo through legislation that will allow the city to put a sales tax on the ballot to help with public safety needs.
“The fire department needs equipment,” he said.
Clay County EDC Executive Director T.J. Berry asked if infrastructure will be discussed in the coming session. The state gas tax failed in November 2018 so the state did a bare minimum and allocated funds from general revenues to repair bridges.
“We are seeing incredible growth in the Northland,” Berry said. “In the next 10 years, we are looking at an additional 40,000 people. It will be like adding another Liberty in Clay County.”
Arthur said while she is concerned about getting the Buck O’Neil Bridge replaced, she could see a gas tax increase in a couple years.
“Perhaps those rural voters who decided not to pass it will be in favor if some of their bridges are repaired,” she said.
Berry asked legislators if they supported the hyperloop, a proposed mode of passenger and/or freight transportation using high-speed tubes between Kansas City and St. Louis.
“While there is a connection between Kansas City and St. Louis, how will it benefit those outside of these two cities?” Richey asked. “It’s a bit premature for me to give my approval. There are challenges.”
However, Shull said he is interested and doesn’t want to pass up possible federal dollars if they are available.