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Omnibus business bill sent back to Senate

by Cameron Gerber | May 13, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

A legislative package that would change numerous aspects of business in Missouri gained a few more provisions Thursday as this year's legislative session winds down.

Senate Bill 968 began with language that would prevent the state from imposing filing or reporting requirements for charitable organizations that are more strict than those on the federal level. It grew to include other proposals as it made its way through the Senate and into a House committee before finally making its way to the House floor Thursday morning.

Among the priorities tacked on in both chambers were provisions allowing rural electric cooperatives to benefit from the Missouri Disaster Fund currently reserved for local governments, a section allowing invitations to bid on city contracts to be published online rather than solely through newspapers and the Personal Privacy Protection Act blocking public agencies from disclosing personal information.

Other sections would allow certain limited liability companies (LLCs) to make campaign contributions, eliminate an expired health tax credit while adding another one, a tax credit for shareholders of corporations that divide its gains and losses through shareholders, the rate of unemployment contributions by an employer, business covenants, a tax credit for research expenses, and more.

The bill also includes the Regulatory Sandbox Act, a proposal that's also working its way through the process as a standalone bill that would create a state office tasked with identifying state laws and regulations that could be waived for certain businesses for a two-year period. Businesses could apply with the office for a series of exemptions they would like to benefit from, which would be approved or denied by the office.

Waived rules would create an open "sandbox" for businesses to operate in without typical regulatory burdens to see how they might fare.

In all, the bill that made it to the floor included nearly 20 sections.

"This is a large bill that contains a number of House priorities related to business entities contained within it," House handler Rep. Alex Riley, R-Springfield, said on the floor. "In the same way that I worked with a lot of our members across the aisle on our side to get the bill to a place where they were comfortable supporting it, I've done the same with senators on the other side of the building to make sure that they were more comfortable."

A handful of further changes were added before the bill passed by a vote of 120-15. Rep. Brian Seitz, R-Branson, altered a section that would establish Branson Landing as an entertainment district able to sell liquor by ensuring the new accommodation lined up with local ordinances and policies.

Another amendment from Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, would tighten the new privacy sections while another change from Chesterfield Republican Rep. Derek Grier would streamline the Missouri One Start program by adding options for the Department of Economic Development to administer the program.

Even a local lawmaker joined in on the floor amendment process. Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, attached a section he said would eliminate unused LLCs. The language would allow courts to dissolve an LLC if it is not reasonable for the business to carry on, if the business has been abandoned, or if the managers of the business are deadlocked or are found convicted of fraud and other offenses.

LLCs are business entities that protect their owners being personally pursued over the company's liabilities or debts. They also do not pay taxes on their profits directly; rather, their profits are passed onto members, who report them on their own income tax returns.

"We have over 6,000 LLCs out there with no action, and there needs to be a method to clean them up and not cost taxpayers money," Veit said.

Other provisions in the latest version of the bill expand advertising options for self-storage facilities, add requirements for business covenants and allow participants in the Missouri Works program an additional 12 months to reach payroll requirements from the Department of Economic Development.

The bill must head back to the upper chamber for its consideration, though Riley noted he had worked with all stakeholders to make it palatable enough to pass.

This year's legislative session ends at 6 p.m. today.

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