Lawmakers on Wednesday are expected to clarify Missouri statutes, paving the way for individuals to use the sales of multiple vehicles as credit against the purchase of another vehicle.
That's not a new concept, but it's one that had been applied inconsistently until June, when the state Supreme Court ruled by statute only the sale of one vehicle may be applied as a credit against the purchase price of a new vehicle when calculating taxes.
In August, Gov. Mike Parson called on the General Assembly to hold a special session to respond to the court's decision and run concurrently with its veto session.
"Once the Supreme Court made that decision, it became the law of the state. It's not fair to people to lose their tax money on those vehicles," Parson said Friday. "They paid taxes on all that when they bought them. You're taking away their tax dollars and giving it away to the government."
The Supreme Court decision came following a 2017 legal fight from a St. Louis County resident. All David Kehlenbrink wanted to do was save a few tax dollars on a new Dodge pickup he had bought. He had recently sold a Ford truck and a Kawasaki motorcycle and went to the license office to get the new pickup titled. That office allowed him credit for both of the other vehicles. A license office employee told him he could apply for a sales tax refund for other vehicles sold within a 180-day window surrounding the purchase of the new Dodge.
Shortly afterward, he sold a Jeep and a Hyundai and applied for the refund, but the Missouri Department of Revenue denied the claim, saying he'd received his credit.
For most folks, that would have been the end, but Kehlenbrink had a family member who was an attorney who helped him fight the decision.
An administrative hearing commission ruled the law as ambiguous and said regulation allowed for the sale of one or more vehicles to be used to reduce tax liability.
The DOR fought the decision, which reached the Missouri Supreme Court.
And the court's decision cemented the law, Parson said.
Calling the special session is the right thing to do for the citizens of the state, he continued.
"I wish we didn't have to call a special session," he said. "(Without it) you'll have thousands of people caught up in losing their tax money."
State law allows the governor to convene the General Assembly in special session for a maximum of 60 calendar days at any given time, according to the Missouri House of Representatives website. When a governor does so, only subjects recommended by the office holder when calling for the session — or a special message — may be considered.
It's actually much more difficult for the Legislature to call its own special session. The president pro tem of the Senate or the House speaker may convene a 30-day special session upon petition of three-quarters of the members of each chamber.
Five area House members — Dave Griffith, of Jefferson City; Rudy Veit, of Wardsville; Rocky Miller, of Lake Ozark; Sara Walsh, of Ashland, and David Wood, of Versailles, all Republicans — responded to questions concerning the decision to hold a special session in conjunction with the veto session.
The special session is of utmost importance for his district, Miller said, because of all the boats people buy and sell around the Lake of the Ozarks.
Boat owners are already required to hold separate titles for boats, outboard motors and trailers — items that are typically sold together.
"Technically under the law, you can get credit for only one," he said. "One of our biggest industries here at the lake is buying and selling boats. Is it special session worthy? I'm not sure."
But it would be beneficial to taxpayers — particularly farmers, who make up another large portion of his constituency, he said.
Letting them save money on sales taxes for multiple vehicles is in the best interest of taxpayers, Griffith said.
"If a Missourian has paid tax on a vehicle, boat, motor, trailer or another means of transportation, they should be credited for that tax paid, no matter the number of vehicles," Griffith argued. "This is the perfect time to take care of this, since by statute, the General Assembly must be in session."
Wood said he trusts the bill brought before lawmakers concerning the tax issue will clarify state law. Until he sees it, he can't make a decision on whether to support it.
Hearing officers in the DOR have different opinions about how many vehicles may be applied to sales tax credit, Veit said.
"I have a lot of faith in our governor, and I'm sure he would not have called a special session if it was not the right economic thing to do," he said. "It will spare constituents of an extra (tax) burden."
All agreed that because chambers were already to gather for the veto session, cost to conduct the special session would be minimal.
"Any time we can save Missouri taxpayers money is a win," Walsh said.
"The sales tax issue is something we need to address. I think the multiple vehicle incentive provides a well-deserved break to taxpayers and should be reinstated," state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, wrote.
"As with any piece of legislation, I reserve judgment on how I'll vote until I see the bill's final form, but I do support the multiple vehicle incentive," added Bernskoetter, who represents Cole, Osage, Gasconade, Maries, Miller, Morgan and Moniteau counties.
Lawmakers will also have the chance Wednesday to override vetoes Parson made to six bills — two House bills and four Senate bills.
Per the Missouri Constitution, if a governor vetoed any bill on or after the fifth day before the last day of session, the Legislature automatically meets for a veto session on the first Wednesday after the second Monday in September, meeting for up to 10 days.
Each vetoed bill is first reconsidered in the chamber in which it originated — House bills in the House and Senate bills in the Senate.
The governor's objections are noted, and the members of the chamber face a question for each vetoed bill: "Shall the bill pass, the objections of the governor thereto notwithstanding?"
Two-thirds of the elected members of each chamber must vote "yea" for a bill to pass despite the governor's veto.
None of the House members who responded to questions about the veto session thought any of the six vetoed bills this year would be brought up for votes.
Veit said he understands Parson's reasoning for vetoing each bill.
"I don't think there are going to be any attempts to override any of Gov. Parson's vetoes," Veit said.
Bernskoetter said he voted in favor of all six bills, "but I also think the governor had sound reasoning in his decision to veto each of them. The best course of action for the Legislature is to go back to work next session and try to address the issues the governor had with these bills and remove some of the more troublesome sections."
HB 399 generally prohibits any third-party payer for health care services from limiting coverage or denying reimbursement for treatment for physical, cognitive, emotional, mental or developmental disabilities under specific conditions.
Parson vetoed the bill because one section would require the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services to have a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, Ph.D. in a health-related field or an equivalent academic degree.
"While having a health-related academic degree would certainly be beneficial in managing our state's Department of Health and Senior Services, it may limit the appointment of otherwise qualified candidates," he wrote.
He looked forward to working with the Legislature next session on two of the bill's provisions that his veto prevented from becoming law, Parson wrote.
One provision "would likely result in improved program quality assurance and decreased fraud" in consumer-directed services. The other would develop an interactive mobile assessment tool for Missouri's Medicaid program, called Mo HealthNet, and "would likely lead to greater efficiencies for the Department of Health and Senior Services."
HB 447 is an omnibus that changes disposition for human remains and establishes a coroner Standards and Training commission to create training standards for county coroners. The bill funds training. It also establishes guidelines for creating death certificates for people who died while in hospice care.
And it creates the "Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Board" to improve data collection and reporting regarding maternal mortality.
"This bill dealing with outdoor cremations I am not in favor of this bill," Griffith said. "The burial of a loved one should be treated with respect and honor, and I believe this would not do that, so I am in favor of the governor's veto."
There are good points in the bill, he added, but it still needs some work.
SB 202 creates provisions relating to mining royalties on federal land.
Parson vetoed the bill because the way the bill would distribute mining royalties among counties, and what the money could be spent on, would violate federal law.
SB 282 modifies provisions relating to disposition of human remains — specifically allowing open cremations.
Parson vetoed the bill and HB 447 for the same reason: "The burial of our loved ones or the disposal of their remains is deeply personal and should be treated with the utmost care and respect. Without more thorough vetting to ensure that outdoor cremations can be conducted in a manner that fully disposes of the entire remains while also addressing the health and safety concerns of individuals who be impacted nearby, I am not comfortable with allowing these types of ceremonies to be conducted in our state," he wrote.
SB 414 concerns innovations in health insurance.
Parson vetoed the bill because he wanted more time for recommendations to be developed and considered by his office and the Legislature.
SB 147 is an omnibus that enacts provisions relating to motor vehicles (including changing the helmet law).
"I think (the governor) was incorrect on that one for sure," Miller said. "The bill would have made it optional to wear a motorcycle helmet. That's really important to tourism in Missouri."
Arkansas allows riders to choose whether to wear helmets, Miller said, and receives tourist dollars because of its law.
Parson stated he vetoed the bill because a section of it regarding the exemption of minor traffic violations from driver's license suspension proceedings too narrowly applied to St. Louis City and St. Louis County and would likely be unconstitutional.
He added a proposed state task force on towing would be redundant, because the attorney general's office already "has a system in place to handle such complaints," managed by the Consumer Complaint Division.