The 2022 Session Begins

The 2022 legislative session is underway. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Jan. 5, and we’ve begun taking testimony on proposed legislation in committee hearings. So far, I have filed 17 bills for consideration during the upcoming term. I’ll discuss three of these measures in this report and will update you on some of the others in the coming weeks.

One of the biggest challenges for small business owners is finding the financing necessary to grow their business — from bootstrapping at the beginning with a few employees, to needing additional space and new employees as a business grows. It’s challenging enough for businesses in urban areas where financing options are right down the street at big banks and venture capital firms. For rural small businesses, it can feel impossible.

Senate Bill 675, the Missouri Rural Workforce Development Act, will make available $166 million of private growth capital to be exclusively invested into rural small businesses. In Georgia, where a similar law was enacted in 2017, outside investment has flowed into the state and fueled the creation and expansion of a number of rural businesses, ranging from farms and agricultural production facilities to manufacturers and service providers. Utah and Ohio also have similar programs. The Missouri Rural Workforce Development Act creates the opportunity to achieve the same results here in our state. To keep rural Missouri strong and thriving, we need quality, high-paying jobs that keep residents local and attract more Missourians to rural communities.

Another bill I’ve put forward this year addresses an alarming trend in education. In recent years, highly divisive topics and lessons have been introduced into our children’s classrooms. Inspired by so-called “critical race theory” curriculum originating at the university level, teachers are veering away from traditional history and literature lessons to advance the notion that America is an inherently racist nation. Senate Bill 676 declares it shall be the policy of the state board of education not to promote or allow divisive concepts in public school instruction.

The last bill I’ll mention at this time is Senate Bill 677. This legislation renews Missouri’s wood energy tax credit, which expired in 2020. This tax credit incentivizes sawmills, manufacturers and other timber producers to repurpose waste materials, turning sawdust into energy. Forestry products contribute $10 billion to Missouri’s economy each year, and more than 40,000 of our citizens are employed in related fields. Nearly half of all the charcoal consumed in the United States is produced in Missouri, much of it in the 16th Senatorial District. All of this cutting, planing, milling and processing of timber produces a lot of sawdust. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say there are mountains of the stuff throughout the Ozarks.

Sawdust can be used to make home heating pellets and a variety of other products. Unfortunately, the weight, bulk and relatively low value of this material makes it hard to justify transporting it. The wood energy tax credit helps solve that problem by allowing producers to claim a $5 per ton credit on their taxes. Without the credit, the sawdust piles grow. With the tax credit, jobs and economic activity grows. I have tried for the past couple of years to get this tax program restarted and I’m hoping this is the year we’ll get it done.

Missouri’s 2022 legislative session continues through May. We have a lot to do, and not much time. I will provide regular updates in the coming months to keep you informed of important developments.

It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at https://www.senate.mo.gov/brown for more information.

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