Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Mike Moon: House leadership leaving the majority of Missourians without a voice

(From Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove)

In the previous two Capitol Reports, I referred to a portion of the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed….”

The first right (given by God) listed is “Life.” Without life, the others are meaningless.

The second is “Liberty.” Liberty is defined as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.” No one (at least, I’ve not encountered anyone who) wants more government (laws which restrict our ability to do the things we want to do).

The third is, “Pursuit of Happiness.” The fifth amendment (in the Bill of Rights) changed this phrase to “property.”

When speaking of property, we often think of tangible items. While real estate, dwellings, animals, vehicles all fit the definition of property, we would be remiss if we omitted time, ideas, and, of course, business.

During a previous gubernatorial administration, the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) took it upon themselves to re-interpret tax rules and the application of these rules. One particular redefinition related to places of entertainment. Please bear with me because I find it difficult not to make light of the laughable decision made by the DOR.

Most logically thinking individuals would readily agree that sporting events, ballets, plays, and concerts would/should be considered entertainment (and, under DOR tax rules are subject to a use tax – patrons or ticket-buyers are charged a tax, collected by the venue operator and remitted to the DOR).

Here’s the laughable part: The DOR decided that fitness centers, martial arts training centers, dance studios, et cetera were/are entertainment venues and therefore subject to the use tax.

When the change was made by the DOR, business owners stated that they contacted the department for clarification (should a patron tax be collected or not). According to the business owners, answers provided were not clear. Therefore, many, if not most did not collect the tax.

Audits followed and some business owners were found to be out of compliance with the DOR tax rules. The out-of-compliance business owners were assessed fines (tax). One particular business was fined more than $200,000 (a resulting settlement was reached totaling $36,000 – the same amount held in business’ bank account. I find that particularly odd).

Are you finding this to be unbelievable?

The DOR’s action(s) was corrected by the enactment of law, however, no action has been taken to make whole the businesses who were wronged.

Over the past three sessions, I have worked with the legislative liaison for the DOR. Interestingly, this individual worked as a legislative assistant to the Senator who pushed the “fix” to the underlying problem. Recently, during a conversation about making whole the businesses harmed by the DOR action, this liaison stated that these businesses are “doing okay” and did not need to be re-imbursed. (Incredible!)

For the past three sessions, bills have been filed to right this wrong. Last session (2018) a bill aimed at doing this was forwarded to the House calendar only to die.

This session (2019) the same bill has yet to be referred to committee.

Along that line (of bill referrals), this session I filed 13 bills at the beginning of session. As (unwritten) House procedure dictates, a representative wishing to be granted a hearing is asked to make that request known to the Speaker, in-writing. To date, requests for 12 bill hearings were delivered (in January) to the Speaker.

One bill has been referred to committee – the only bill for which a committee hearing was NOT requested. Does this seem a bit odd?

Recall the attempt to change the House rules…. Could this lack of attention to the bills be related to the failed attempt?

Recently, a representative reminded me of my attempt to change the way in which the House really works. He related to me his frustration regarding the progress of the bills he filed. This individual went on to say: “You mentioned the concentration of power among a few individuals. I’ve made it known my opposition to “X” (a Republican Caucus priority). Since then, nothing I’ve filed has moved.”

This is not the only comment I’ve heard. Others are now finding truth in the fact that an oligarchy has infected the MO House and only a select few have the luxury of making substantive decisions regarding policy. A number of freshmen have been afforded opportunities to see their bills move through the House. (This may be a strategic move to cause these members to discount the oligarchy argument.) Outside these exceptions, however, the majority is on the outside looking in… and you (among many others) are left without a voice....

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