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House perfects home-based business bill

by Cameron Gerber | April 8, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Home-based businesses would have fewer local regulations to wade through under a bill making its way through the Missouri House.

HB 2593, sponsored by Rep. Tony Lovasco, a Republican from St. Charles County, would prohibit political subdivisions from restricting no-impact, home-based businesses (which do not have the outside appearance of a business or employees outside of residents of the home) by requiring permits, variances or other prior approval. Local governments would be able to enact safety and health regulations.

"It basically just says that if you operate a no-impact, home-based business that you don't have to ask permission for it first," Lovasco told his House colleagues. "We keep the ability of local jurisdictions to still provide their typical guidance over health and safety issues. ... You should not have to be going though an onerous licensing process or pay exorbitant fees to do the kinds of things people are doing out of their houses anyway."

The bill was perfected on the floor Wednesday afternoon with several additional provisions added into the mix when the scope of the bill was expanded to encompass the overall use of private property.

One proposed amendment sought to require licenses for home-based businesses if a publicly-operated business in the same sector would be required to hold one.

"You could have a business and run it out of your house, and this is allowing you to do it with no expense, but another individual may have the same type of business that has a brick and mortar store, has employees, and they're required to take a business license," said Rep. Bill Falkner, R-St. Joseph. "I have no problem with the home-based businesses, but if the business they're doing has a business requirement from the municipality they are in, they should at least get a business license."

After floor discussion and debate over the cost of procuring a license, Falkner ultimately withdrew the amendment, still noting the lack of a license could prove detrimental to customers in numerous sectors.

Another home business provision that was successfully attached by Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, would allow the sale of cottage-based products over the internet, an issue that has come up in the Legislature several times over the years.

"The current statute regarding home-based business when it comes to cottage foods, there are certain items that you can make according to the statutes at home in your residential kitchen without having a license or inspection or those kinds of things," Baker said. "The only thing that is not allowed according to the current statute is to sell those items over the internet. ... This would allow what fits the current statute as home-made goods to be sold over the internet."

The language would require these products to note on their packaging that they were not produced in a regulated environment.

Another added portion would prohibit local governments from imposing eviction moratoriums unless authorized by the state, while another section would grant homeowners' associations the authority to adopt rules regarding sale signs on property under their purview. The association would be allowed to remove such signs without penalty if it finds it to impede the public health and safety or violates one of its ordinances.

A final amendment would prohibit local governments from requiring home inspections for property owners to sell their property, with the exception of inspection requirements for new construction or occupancy limits.

The bill requires another vote in the House to be passed along to the Senate for its consideration.

Opportunity Solutions Project lobbyist James Harris testified in support of a parallel Senate effort last month, pointing to local regulations he said the bill would help to streamline.

He said Jefferson City allows businesses that make use of 25 percent of the home or 400 square feet, whichever is less, can be used for a home-based business. He said local ordinances allowed daycare, teaching and tutoring businesses to take clients in the home, while other businesses were not authorized to do so.

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