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Dale Wright (Wide)

Rep. Dale Wright

HBs 1-13 which contain record funding for elementary and secondary education and stays within the required balanced state budget is now on its way to the governor’s desk for signing.

This week the Missouri House and Senate gave final approval to the appropriations bills that make up the $29.7 billion state spending plan that provides funding to the state’s departments and programs.

For the third consecutive year, the budget approved by the General Assembly fully funds the school foundation formula with a total of $3.94 billion in funding. The total represents an increase of more than $61 million and brings the amount of funding for K-12 public schools to its highest level in state history. The education budget also includes a $5 million increase for a total of $108 million in funding for transportation expenses for local school districts. Additionally, the budget includes a $3 million increase for the Parents as Teachers program. In total, funding for pre-K-12 education is increased by $116 million in the spending plan approved by the legislature.

In the budget process, the General Assembly agreed to provide an additional $1 million in core funding for most of the state’s four-year colleges and universities. During the discussion on higher education funding, House members also fought to preserve language that prevents colleges and universities from offering in-state tuition to students with unlawful immigration status.

The language was placed in the budget in 2015 in an effort to ensure taxpayer dollars are used only for students who are legal residents. While the Senate initially moved to remove the language, the House fought to keep it, and the two legislative bodies ultimately agreed to the House position. As a result, these students will continue to pay international tuition rates. The language in the budget will also continue to prohibit institutions of higher learning from providing these students with state-sponsored scholarships.

The budget plan also makes it a priority to fund repairs for the state’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure. It includes critical funding that is part of a proposal to fix 250 bridges statewide. The budget contains $50 million in funding for the repairs, which would be used in conjunction with a $301 million bonding plan that still requires House approval and also requires the state to receive a sizeable federal infrastructure grant. In the budget, House and Senate members also agreed to allocate $50 million in funding for a cost-sharing program that will allow the state transportation department to provide a 50/50 match to counties and municipalities to improve local roads and bridges.

Other budget highlights include:

Education

$300,00 for school safety grants across the state

$1 million of spending approved to make improvements to the Missouri School for the Blind

Funding of Missouri scholarships

The newly proposed workforce development scholarship, Fast Track, is funded at $10 million

$500,000 increase for A+ Scholarships

Nearly $1 million increase for Access Missouri Scholarships

$19.5 million increase to colleges and universities for ongoing operations

$18.9 million in funding for MoExcels higher education workforce development initiatives

$10 million is appropriated for the translational precision medical center to be built at the University of Missouri – Columbia

$1.8 million will go to Missouri Southern State University to help expand healthcare and STEM programs

$5.3 million increase to support adult high schools

$1.1 million increase to restore prior year cuts to aid public libraries

Infrastructure and Economic Development

As part of a larger compromise related to transportation spending, the General Assembly authorizes borrowing up to $301 million over a seven year period if enough federal INFRA grant funds are received to replace the I-70 bridge over the Missouri River at Rocheport (replacement costs projected at over $240 million)

$10 million for major water reservoir projects

$5 million in general revenue to match federal dollars for improving rural broadband infrastructure

$347,338 to initiate a new plant industries program (industrial hemp)

$17.35 million to fund the governor's One Start initiative for economic development and customized training

$300,000 for the brand new Missouri Military Community Reinvestment Program

The reorganization of the Department of Economic Development across DHE, DNR, DIFP, and lieutenant governor's office is transferred and funded

$13.5 million of Volkswagen settlement funds appropriated to clean air projects and grants

$10.4 million for port projects along Missouri rivers

$10.8 million in road funds to MoDOT for flood-related expenses, plus $6 million to the Department of Public Safety for flood-related expenses

Tourism funding is increased $4.7 million over FY19 funding

Miscellaneous

$5 million for alternatives to jail program for pre-trial electronic monitoring that will save counties and the state millions in prisoner per diem costs

$38.3 million appropriated as aid to counties to offset prison housing costs

$58 million in rebased rates for developmental disability providers to improve access to services

$1 million to start an Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) for autism

$153,000 to fund the Time Critical Diagnosis Unit

$15 million in savings generated by the consolidation of two prisons in Northwest Missouri

Savings achieved from the prison consolidation will fund critically needed salary increases that will help recruit and retain Department of Corrections personnel

$22 million of general revenue spending appropriated to pick up the loss of federal funds that previously supported critical mental health programs at certified community behavioral health clinics

1.5 percent rate increases to Medicaid providers (returning to FY17 reimbursement levels)

$5.5 million appropriated to fund Missouri’s presidential primary

$18 million in federal funds are appropriated for crime victims grants

$1.1 million to open two juvenile advocacy offices (one that is specific to St. Louis, the second that will operate statewide out of Kansas City) inside Missouri’s public defender system

Bills "Truly Agreed and Finally Passed"

HB 260 specifies that the court may require any person found guilty of chasing, pursuing, taking, transporting, killing, processing, or disposing of certain wildlife in violation of the Missouri Conservation Commission's rules and regulations to make restitution to the state. The moneys collected will be transferred to the State School Moneys Fund.

Supporters say the wildlife in the state belongs to all Missourians and when poachers take wildlife illegally, they are stealing from the citizens of the state. Missouri has some of the lowest poaching fines in the country and this bill would increase the fines and reduce poaching.

SB 196 authorizes the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to award grants to preserve, protect, or restore historic county courthouses. Supporters say the funds for the county courthouses come from the Athletes and Entertainers Tax and while this is not a new program, they want to dedicate a portion for courthouses because of their historic significance.

Supporters cited the historic significance, community development, tourism potential, and other positive impacts of restoring these buildings and their grounds. The bill also creates the Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund in the state treasury to be administered by the Department of Natural Resources.

SB 167 modifies the definition of "contractor", for purposes of public works construction bonds, to include persons and business entities that contract, provide, or arrange for construction services on a public works project for a non-governmental purpose when acting as a lessee, agent, designee, or representative of a public entity.

The act exempts construction managers not-at-risk and construction managers who do not otherwise enter into contracts with contractors for the furnishing of labor, materials, or services to a public works project from the definition of "contractor."

The act further requires that all contracts for public works in excess of $50,000 to be performed for a public entity's lessee, agent, designee, or representative on work for non-governmental purposes shall require contractors to furnish a bond. Supporters say the bill will help broaden work for non-governmental purposes. A contractor lien is a claim for payment made by a contractor or a subcontractor who has performed work on a property. Currently, contractors cannot file a lien on public projects or public property.

This bill will allow contractors and subcontractors to acquire bonds to do private work on public land. Supporters also say that there is no recourse for contractors who work on public property. This bill will provide a recourse for contractors who put resources and material into projects in the event that the work could not be completed. Supporters want bonds for contractors and subcontractors so that they will be paid for their services and material.

Lieutenant Governor's Senior Service Award

The office of the Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe hosted its annual Senior Service Award on Monday, May 6th. Senior citizens are nominated based on their service and dedication to their communities. I had the honor of joining the Lt. Governor in recognizing Mr. Murphy Thomas of Farmington as one of the recipients of this award in recognition of his many years of service to our area and for his example of charity to others. There were over 60 senior citizens throughout the state who were recognized for their achievements.

Last Friday, I was honored to be invited by Ste. Genevieve School Board member Terry McDaniel to tour the Ste. Gen Elementary Schools. Wow, was I impressed! The staff, the teachers and the students are amazing! We are fortunate to have such outstanding schools in our district! I was hosted by Renee Yamnitz, Principal at Bloomsdale Elementary and Geri Diesel, Principal of Ste. Genevieve Elementary. What an Outstanding job they are doing with their schools! Thanks to all of them for their passion and service.

My very own tour guide was Cecilia Mooney, a 5th grade student at Bloomsdale Elementary She is awesome!

I want to take this moment to say a thank you to all teachers and retired teachers in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week! Thank You for loving and serving our children.

Please come join Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe and other dignitaries who will be attending the Memorial Dedication Ceremony at 10 a.m. May 18.

If you have any questions regarding any state matters or legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact email me at dale.wright@house.mo.gov or call 573-751-3455.

It is an honor to serve as your state representative.

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