We are by no means through with our committee's work. I am holding monthly hearings throughout the interim with the Juvenile Officer system. Among other things, we are working on some standards of practice across the state. We are also very concerned about the number of turnovers within the Division and are working on ways to improve working conditions and salaries.
Business owners were helped by a bill, which was signed into law last week. Prior to it's passage, the Department of Revenue could change policy on which items sales taxes could be charged on. Many businesses, unaware of policy changes, would go several years before suddenly finding during a tax audit that they were liable for large amounts of back taxes and penalties. This new law requires the department to notify any business, which may be affected by policy changes. If businesses are not informed, they won't be responsible for the taxes.
Due to concerns raised in the aftermath of last summer's Ferguson unrest, Senate Bill 5 was filed to address the limits on how much of a city's budget can come from traffic fines. It also requires changes in how municipalities operate. This bill sets caps the amount of money that cities and villages can collect from traffic fines and fees at 12.5 percent in St. Louis County and 20 percent in the rest of the state.
The other big development last week was Department of Education informing the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium on Wednesday that, as the result of language that Missouri Legislators opposing Common Core worked into this year's budget, the department was prohibited from spending any money as a member of SBAC. The Senate Budget chairman, Kurt Schaefer and House Budget Chair, Tom Flanigan exhibited great foresight and leadership in accomplishing this task. Last year Legislators established a working group to establish Missouri-specific standards to replace those being forced upon us by Common Core. Many of us look at Common Core efforts as being continued overreach of this administration and their one-size-fits all agenda. The first reports from those working groups are due in a few weeks and I expect we will have recommendations to work with next session.
One last bit of great news is that Senators Blunt and McCaskill with the help of Representative Hartzler forestalled the near closure of Ft. Leonard Wood. The Dept. of Defense had a "listening post" this spring that was attended by over half of the General assembly. We were there to support our Federal counterparts in asking the Dept. to reconsider the lay off of over 5400 service men and women as well as thousands of civilian staff. This would have had a devastating effect on the area as well as the whole state. It feels great to report a successful bi-partisan effort of Missouri State and Federal Representatives and Senators!