MRA Members & Friends:
When speaking of the path along which a bill must travel to become law, it seems this comment invariably makes its way into the conversation, “Those who like sausage or the law should never see either one made.”
I won’t confirm or deny that statement, but I will say that no matter what one thinks of the process, it must be acknowledged that enacting a law in Missouri takes a great deal of time and effort. Several MRA members witnessed this first hand during the 2015 legislative session.
The Association has often communicated in recent months regarding assessments restaurants were receiving for employees’ Missouri income tax when the Missouri Department of Revenue believed employees had failed to report all of their cash tip income. Recognizing that it can never be sound public policy to remove the responsibility for the state income tax from employees who knowingly under-report cash tips and place that tax burden on their employer, MRA designed a course of action to address the matter.
In an October 2014 meeting, MRA decided the best manner in which to protect the interests of the restaurant industry would include interaction with the Department of Revenue and the passage of legislation that clearly defined an employer’s responsibility as it relates to Missouri income tax withholding on tip income.
Before the 2015 legislative session began, MRA retained attorney Thomas McMahon of Lathrop & Gage, LLC in Kansas City to draft proposed language to be included in the legislation we would seek to pass. Our contract lobbying firm, Brent Hemphill & Associates identified legislators in both chambers of the General Assembly to sponsor the legislation.
MRA requested and was granted a meeting with Missouri Director of Revenue Nia Ray and members of her staff to explain the issue from the perspective of a restaurateur. Two CPAs, Jeffrey Katz of Kansas City and Richard Eberle of St. Louis attended along with Tom McMahon and a group of MRA members. The meeting was successful. The Department and MRA agreed to collaborate on legislation that provides protection for restaurants making a good faith effort to comply with tip reporting requirements.
In several committee hearings in Jefferson City, MRA members provided testimony in support of the legislation. On many other days, they walked the halls of the Capitol and spoke with legislators. Members turned out in record numbers for MRA’s Annual Legislative Day on March 31st to continue the dialogue. The result was bipartisan support for our legislation. In fact, as the MRA delegation watched from the gallery above the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives on Legislative Day, our bill was perfected unanimously.
Knowing the process by which our legislation, House Committee Substitute for Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 336 became law provides a window through which to see the legislative process as it unfolds. The path was long and it certainly wasn’t easy; however it did reaffirm a fundamental belief that the process can work. When it works together for the good, as it did in this instance, it is something special to observe.
Legislative victories require a strong and united voice, as well as an ongoing dialogue with legislators. I encourage you to participate in the process. There is always strength in numbers, and there are critical issues on the horizon. Rest secure in the knowledge that Missouri Restaurant Association is up to the challenge. We have been for nearly 100 years.
Greg Hunsucker Sincerely yours,
Chairman, MRA Government Relations
& Public Policy Committee
Owner, V’s Italiano Ristorante