By Otto Fajen
MNEA Legislative Director
NEW LAWS TAKE EFFECT TODAY
The normal effective date for bills without an emergency clause is August 28th (90 days following the official end of session on May 30). Bills with an emergency clause become effective upon approval by the Governor unless a later date (often July 1st, the first day of the new school year and state fiscal year) is specified in the emergency clause.
While not a part of MNEA's education advocacy, a provision of public interest that becomes law today is a comprehensive ban on texting and most other uses of mobile devices while driving, regardless of driver age (SB 398). This law does not restrict voice-only phone calls using voice-activated or hands-free calling features in non-commercial vehicles, nor does this law apply while a vehicle is legally stopped or parked.
Under SB 398, drivers are prohibited from physically holding or supporting a cell phone with any part of their body; manually typing, writing, sending, or reading text-based messages; recording, posting, sending, or broadcasting video, including video calls and social media posts; and watching a video or movie.
SCHOOL RETIREMENT PROVISIONS
The following school retirement changes were enacted last session (SB 20 and SB 75) and go into effect today (August 28):
- Restores the 2.55% benefit factor for 32 or more years of PSRS service credit for persons retiring on or after the effective date. This provision will apply to those whose retirement becomes effective on or after this date.
- Increases the earnings limit for PSRS retirees working part-time in PEERS positions to 133% of the Social Security earnings limit (currently amounting to $28,249) for the next five years and then 100% of the earnings limit (currently $21,240) thereafter. In practice, this provision will be available for this school year, since retirees will not have exceeded the existing $15,000 earnings limit before the higher limit takes effect today (August 28).
- Extends the critical shortage employment option from two years to four years and increases the allowed number of critical shortage teaching positions in a district to the greater of five or one percent of the total number of teaching and non-certified staff positions in the district. PSRS staff will be collaborating with employers to create a process where current critical shortage staff will be able to use the extended authorization for this school year if needed.
- Preserves the PSRS-eligible status for speech implementers employed before August 1, 2022, who are employed on or after today (August 28), as a speech-language pathology assistant.
- Provides a same-sex domestic partner pop-up provision for retirees with similar documentation requirements to the divorce pop-up provision in current law.
The Association supported the enactment of these improvements to our school retirement systems.
REQUIREMENTS FOR FINGERPRINT BACKGROUND CHECKS
A new law in effect today (SB 186, SB 28, and SB 40) eliminates the requirement that schools and other employers using the Rap Back program for notifications of law violations must require all employees to undergo an additional fingerprint background check every six years. The Association appreciates this helpful change to remove a costly and unneeded burden on school employees.
SB 40 also requires school districts to conduct criminal background checks on adult students enrolling in courses taught at public schools.
SCHOOL PROTECTION OFFICERS
A new law in effect today (SB 186) clarifies that if a school board authorizes an employee to serve as a school protection officer, that employee may lawfully carry a weapon on school premises.
REDUCTION OF RETIREMENT INCOME TAXES
SB 190 goes into effect today and increases the eligibility for deduction of certain Social Security income and retirement income, including PSRS and PEERS pension income, by removing the income limitations on this deduction. Public pension income in Missouri, including PSRS and PEERS pensions, which does not exceed the maximum allowed amount (currently $36,976) will be exempt from state income tax without an income or filing status restriction on eligibility.
HOMESTEAD PROPERTY TAXES
SB 190 also now allows a county to vote to grant a homestead property tax credit to Social Security-eligible homeowners residing in the county. The credit will be the increase in homestead property tax liability from the year the taxpayer became eligible. The language may eliminate future increases in school property tax liability for those taxpayers in those counties where the credit is authorized. The language of this law is not clear regarding key implementation issues and seems likely to be subject to litigation to clarify how the law will be interpreted.
ADULT HIGH SCHOOLS
A new law in effect today (HB 447) allows siting a fifth adult high school in the Kansas City area and moves the administration of adult high schools from DESE to the Department of Social Services. The state currently has four adult high schools created under state contract by MERS Goodwill. Adult high schools allow adults to obtain industry certifications and complete high school work to obtain a State Board-approved high school diploma. Adult high schools also offer job placement services.
SCHOOL FUNDING FOR STUDENTS IN FACILITIES
A new law in effect today (HB 447) clarifies provisions relating to educational funding for students in state custody and students being treated at a residential treatment facility.
HB 447 also now requires DESE to convene a work group to develop academic performance standards for health and family education and change the required one-half credit in health education to health and family education. HB 447 also requires DESE to establish language developmental milestones for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
OPTIONAL COURSE IN THE BIBLE
A new law in effect today (SB 34) allows public schools to offer elective courses in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Existing state law already provides that public schools may use books of a religious nature as part of instruction in elective courses in literature and history, if such books are used in a manner consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
FINES AND PENALTIES TO SCHOOLS
A new law in effect today (SB 109) ensures that the Iron County School District will not have a state aid reduction based upon receiving a financial payment for a certain environmental violation in the county.
TRANSGENDER SPORTS PARTICIPATION
New law in effect today (SB 39) enacts a four-year moratorium on transgender athletic participation in competitive girl's or women's events in public and private middle schools and high schools and public and private colleges. This bill overrides MSHSAA and NCAA policies on transgender athletic participation that seek to balance fairness and inclusion for athletes. The Association believes that educators should continue to establish the policies and procedures that govern the activities of Missouri students who participate in school activities and opposed this change.