The House approved legislation that would force the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to sell land it had acquired in Oregon County for use as a new state park. Many House members had taken issue with the decision of the executive branch to acquire the Frederick Creek Ranch land with funds that were meant for important remediation efforts such as clean drinking water projects in Missouri’s lead mining district.
During the 2015 interim, the House formed a committee to look at what members said was an inappropriate use of settlement funds that were intended to be utilized to remediate the damage done by the ASARCO mining conglomerate at five sites in southeast Missouri’s lead mining district, which includes St. Francois, Reynolds, Iron and Madison counties. Instead, the trustees of the ASARCO settlement determined it was appropriate to use funds to acquire land several counties away and in a different watershed.
Now, with the legislation approved by the House, members hope to undo the decision made by executive branch to prioritize the purchase of Frederick Creek Ranch over the remediation projects in areas that were actually impacted by ASARCO’s actions. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
The Missouri House approved legislation to promote American history and civics education in Missouri classrooms. The bill would create the Missouri Civics Education Initiative to require students in public, charter, and private high schools to receive a passing grade on a standardized civics test in order to graduate.
Supporters said ensuring a thorough knowledge of the country’s history and system of government is a key first step in creating an engaged and active citizenry that will vote and take active roles in the political process.
Under HB 1621, exams would consist of the same 100 questions used on the civics portion of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ U.S. Naturalization test that is taken by immigrants looking to gain American citizenship. The questions would cover topics ranging from the United States Constitution to American history to geography. The test could be retaken by the student an unlimited amount of times until a passing grade is obtained.
If passed into law, Missouri would join states such as Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana and Wisconsin, which all passed Civics Education Initiatives earlier in the year.
If approved by both chambers and signed by the governor, the Missouri Civics Education Initiative would take effect Aug. 28, 2016, and all students entering ninth grade after July 1, 2017, would be required to receive a passing grade on the civics test.
The Missouri House took action this week to fix an issue with the Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act that will help veterans to more easily afford the cost of a college education. The bill changes existing law to ensure the tuition benefit created by the act is applied correctly.
The Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act was created by Senate Bill 830 in 2008. The act limits tuition charged to qualified combat veterans to $50 per credit hour for any program leading to a Bachelor’s degree. Under the act, a “combat veteran” is any person who served in armed combat after September 11, 2001, who was a Missouri resident when first entering the military, and who was discharged from military service under honorable conditions.
While the program has been beneficial for combat veterans, several filed a lawsuit alleging some state universities were misapplying the benefit. The universities were using the other financial aid available to the veterans to pay for tuition before capping the cost of classes at the $50 limit. The veterans who brought suit said the $50 cap should be applied first so that other financial aid could then be used to cover the other costs associated with attending college, which have increased significantly in recent years.
The legislation approved by the House changes the law to require the tuition limitation be provided before all other aid is applied and repeals the provisions prohibiting a veteran from receiving more than the actual cost of attendance when the limitation is combined with other available aid. The bill also will clarify how the law should be interpreted so that every university in Missouri will apply the act in the same way. Supporters said the goal of the legislation is to support veterans in Missouri and to help them to obtain their degrees without accumulating excessive student loan debt.
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This report was filed Feb. 19, 2016