It was nice to enjoy some cooler temperature this week after the extremely hot weather we have been having.
This week was another busy week for me as I had to travel back to Jefferson City for a Joint Committee on Legislative Research. Joint committees make up members from both the House and Senate. There are only a few committees that operate in this manner and I am honored that the speaker placed me on was of these committees.
State House members continue to study Medicaid enrollment changes
House Speaker Elijah Haahr made it clear this week that the House will continue to look closely at the changes in Medicaid enrollment numbers. Haahr issued a letter outlining the steps he has taken to seek answers to why the state has seen a significant drop in enrollment over the past year and giving his support to a continued investigation into the issue.
Missouri’s Medicaid program, which is known as MO HealthNet, provides health insurance for low-income Missourians. Missouri currently has approximately 600,000 Missourians on Medicaid. That number has dropped by more than 100,000 over the past year.
Officials with the program have said the drop in enrollment is due to a combination of factors, including an improving economy that has resulted in more people accessing private insurance, more people going without insurance after the tax penalty that was part of the Affordable Care Act was removed and new software that better allows the program to identify people who are no longer eligible for coverage.
Rep. David Wood, who chairs the Subcommittee on Appropriations for Health, Mental Health and Social Services, has already been investigating the decline in enrollment. Speaker Haahr also has personally requested an updated briefing on the reasons for the change in enrollment from the MO HealthNet Director. Haahr also noted that he appointed state Rep. Jon Patterson, M.D., to the MO HealthNet Oversight Committee.
Rep. Wood and Rep. Patterson have extensive knowledge of MO HealthNet. If MO HealthNet officials fail to adequately answer the questions the legislature has about the enrollment drop, the speaker has stated he will give his full support to public hearings on the issue.
Federal grant triggers plan to repair state transportation system
Missourians received good news this week as the state received a federal infrastructure grant that will trigger a bonding plan to repair more than 200 bridges across the state. The bonding plan was approved by the state legislature during the 2019 regular session and was one of Gov. Mike Parson’s top priorities.
Parson made the announcement that the state had received an $81.2 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to build a new I-70 Missouri River Bridge at Rocheport. The grant will enable a project to replace the existing four-lane bridge with a new six-lane structure. The existing bridge has been rated in poor condition, and a repair plan could have caused traffic backups of 20 miles in each direction, and delays of up to eight hours.
The Rocheport bridge has long been in need of repair, and we're thrilled that we now have the funds to complete this critical project and trigger our bold transportation plan. Transportation drives our economy, and replacing the bridge is a major step toward maintaining our highway system and ensuring we have the framework for access and expansion in the future.
The INFRA grant also triggers the $301 million bonding plan that was approved by lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session. The legislation is designed to provide funding to allow the state transportation department to fix 215 bridges across Missouri. The bonding plan also works in conjunction with $50 million in funding allocated in the state budget to fix 35 bridges.
Implementation of the plan will not only provide funding for Missouri’s bridges, but will also free up $301 million in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for other transportation needs in Missouri.
Special committee seeks input on potential criminal justice reforms
A special committee of the Missouri House of Representatives is seeking input that could help develop legislation dealing with civil asset forfeiture and racial profiling by law enforcement. The Special Committee on Criminal Justice is holding public hearings in response to data revealed by the 2018 Vehicle Stops Report from the Attorney General’s Office, and a report from the State Auditor’s Office on civil asset forfeiture.
The chairman of the committee said the auditor’s report showed $9.1 million in cash and property was seized in 2018, compared to $7.1 million in 2017. He called the findings a “call to action” for the committee and the legislature to balance the rights of Missourians against law enforcement’s duty to protect the public.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your representative, I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112.