JEFFERSON CITY - Parents would be freed from state sales taxes for back-to-school clothing under a measure that won preliminary approval from Missouri's Senate Monday.
Not just clothing. The bill would establish a four-day sales-tax exemption for both clothing and school supplies.
The measure is cosponsored by the Senate's top leader -- Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau -- and Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia.
Under the bill, the sales tax exemption would begin at 12:01 on the first Saturday in August and last until the following Tuesday.
The exemption would take effect in time for the next school year and extend to 2002.
After than, a bipartisan commission comprised of senators and representatives would report on the success of the exemption and recommend its continuation.
"If you're a common citizen trying to raise kids, usually you don't have a lobbyist up here fighting for you, other than us," Jacob said.
Senate staff projections estimate the loss of sales tax revenue will cost the state around $4 million.
Sen. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis City, questioned whether the legislature should allow a future loss of revenue when the state already faces a projected $350-400 million deficit.
The bill's sponsors said a loss of $4 million, out of a budget of $18 billion, was not an issue.
"The state faces continued rising fuel bills," Kinder said. "The hardworking people deserve a break when they send their kids back to school."
The bill requires a second vote in the Senate to advance to the House.
In other legislative action Monday:
* The Senate passed a bill lowering the monetary amount involved in felony theft. Under the new provision, anything over $500 would qualify as a Class C felony. Under current law, theft higher than $750 is required to become the more serious felony offense.
* Traffic violations in work zones would carry tougher penalties under a measure approved by the Senate.
* A bill allowing parents to abandon their newborn within 5 days of birth passed without debate in the Senate. Parents could relinquish their healthy newborn at a hospital without fear of criminal action.
* The Senate extended mandated health care coverage for those with breast and prostate cancer. The bill would supplement Medicaid coverage for cancer victims that receive a CDC screening from their physician.