We have sure experienced some things these last few months that I never dreamed I would ever see in my lifetime. The governor has announced that Missouri fully reopened and entered into Phase 2 on June 16. During Phase 2, there will be no statewide health order. All statewide restrictions are lifted, though local officials will still have the authority to put further rules, regulations or ordinances in place. I don’t know about you, but I for one am ready to get back to a little more normalcy. We all need to still make sure we are using sanitary precautions to help stay healthy, but if this virus is going to be around, we need to learn how to live with it. Some of the other issues addressed by the General Assembly this year include: • Local Government Transparency (HB 1854) — Legislation that received final approval from the General Assembly is meant to improve transparency by providing public access to local government expenditure data. The bill would create a database that allows taxpayers to search expenditures and payments received and made by counties and municipalities. It would create the Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database, which would be an easy to use, downloadable database housed on the Missouri Accountability Portal. A municipality or county may voluntarily participate in the database or may be required to participate through a petition process used by its residents. The database would provide expenditure data for each fiscal year beginning on or after Dec. 31, 2022. • Property Tax Fairness (SB 676) — The legislation would protect Missourians from being blindsided with dramatic property assessment increases. The bill is meant to provide citizens with a reasonable timetable to appeal increases in assessed value. The bill would clarify deadlines and guarantee that taxpayers will always have at least a month to appeal an assessment increase. The legislation also provides additional protections to homeowners against abusive assessments. The bill requires county assessors to conduct a physical inspection of real estate prior to increasing a property’s assessment more than 15%. It also shifts the burden of establishing higher property values to assessors. • Income Tax Exemption for Stimulus Payments (SB 676) — Legislation that is meant to protect Missourians’ stimulus payments from state income tax. The stimulus payments are not subject to federal income taxes, and the change approved by the General Assembly would enact a similar policy for Missouri tax law. • Ethics and Redistricting Reform (SJR 38) — This proposed constitutional amendment will allow voters to decide if they want to strengthen ethics reforms that were passed in 2018 and create a redistricting plan that is designed to keep communities intact. If approved by voters, the change to the state constitution would ban all lobbyist gifts and create stricter campaign contribution limits for state Senate candidates. The plan would authorize the existing Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commissions to prepare new redistricting plans for the state Senate and House of Representatives. • Recognition for Veterans (SB 656) — Legislation approved by the General Assembly seeks to recognize the contributions of the state’s veterans. The bill would designate August 19 of each year as Honor Guard Appreciation Day. June 6 of each year would be Ghost Army Recognition Day. The bill also designates the 22nd day of each month as Buddy Check 22 Day to encourage citizens to check in on veterans and to raise awareness of the problem of suicide facing military personnel. Additionally, the bill creates the Meritorious Service Medal special license plate and the Central Missouri Honor Flight special license plate. The bill also exempts Purple Heart special license plates from vehicle registration fees for the first set of plates issued. The bill also requires the Missouri Veterans’ Commission to seek out business organizations that are interested in hiring veterans for available job opportunities.