We have had a lot of agriculture represented at our Capitol this week. Beginning with Governor Parson driving a tractor to the Capitol for FFA Week and Farm Bureau’s county leaders attending their legislative day. Fittingly, our state capitol, currently under reconstruction, looks like a giant grain bin.

At the Capitol this week, we have been reminded of how important agriculture is to our Missouri economy. On Tuesday, Governor Parson announced in a ceremony at the State Capitol that he would proclaim February 16-23 as National FFA (Future Farmers of America) Week in Missouri for more than the 25,000 agriculture students throughout the state. They are the future of the agricultural industry and the future of our state.

In keeping with the Agricultural setting, there were members here from around the state representing the Missouri Farm Bureau. They were here to attend their legislative forums, visit with their Representatives and to advocate for farmers, for the rural way of life and for all Missourians who benefit from those who choose to pursue the life of a farmer. I had the pleasure of meeting with two of our own Farm Bureau Members from our district, Steve Huber and Brian Koenig of Perry County MO Farm Bureau.

What do farmers do with all their produce, beef, dairy, etc…? They depend on the Grocery Association to market their goods. It just so happened that Grocers Association Advocacy Day was held at the Capitol this week. Representing Country Mart and the Missouri Grocer’s Association on Grocers Day was Jim Hamblin. He recently retired as Vice President of the Country Mart Corporation and currently serves as a board member of the Missouri Grocer’s Association.

I have been approached to sponsor numerous pieces of legislation during my short time here in the Missouri House. I have tried to be selective in choosing bills that will have a real impact for good on our District and throughout the entire state. With that in mind I have filed HB 987. This bill prohibits persons who have been arrested from being released from custody during or immediately preceding the delivery of medical or psychiatric care in a hospital where the person is receiving treatment, unless certain conditions are met. Prior to filing this bill I met with representatives for law enforcement, EMS services, the Missouri Hospital Association, attorneys, and other legislators to receive input on how this bill can accommodate all the stakeholders.

My Committee Notes

The Committee on Aging heard proposals addressing issues facing the elderly. HB 317 which allows citizens age 70 and older to opt out of jury duty based upon such issues as ill health or lack of transportation, passed and moves on to the House of Representatives. HB 466 also passed and goes to the full House. It provides for Alzheimer’s patients to live in the community of their choice and receive support from care givers of their choice.

Our Insurance Committee met to hear HB 399 which states no third party payer shall limit or deny coverage or deny reimbursement for treatment of symptoms and behaviors for individuals with physical or developmental disabilities as determined by a physician or psychologist. It was passed out of committee.

Bills of Interest

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives gave their stamp of approval this week to legislation that would give judges greater discretion when sentencing non-violent offenders. The bill is meant to both help non-violent offenders get a second chance, and to slow the growth of Missouri’s prison population.

Missouri has the nation’s eighth largest prison population with an estimated 31,830 inmates for Fiscal Year 2019 at a cost of $22,561 per prisoner per year. At Missouri’s current pace, it will be 2,000 prison beds short by 2021, and will need two new prisons over the next five years at a cost of $485 million. More than 30 states that have reduced or reformed their mandatory minimum sentencing laws with tremendous success.

The bill is aimed at helping non-violent offenders get a second chance, but it does not repeal any crimes and offers flexibility in judicial discretion.

The bill would allow judges to issue sentences below Missouri’s current minimum sentencing requirements except in crimes that involved the use, attempted use, or threat of physical force, or certain non-consensual sex crimes against a minor.

Legislative projections indicate the bill would save the state more than $3 million per year by the time it is fully implemented.

The bill is now under consideration by the Missouri Senate.

House members approved legislation that would give the Missouri Department of Economic Development an additional tool to bring new jobs to Missouri. The department can use funds to make agreements with companies to create new jobs in the state.

The bill would enhance the existing Missouri Works Program, which helps businesses access capital through withholdings or tax credits to embark on facility expansions and create jobs. 20 percent of the program is to be devoted to a closing fund that would allow the department to offer tax credits within a year of closing a deal that requires a business to meet certain job creation criteria. Under the plan, a qualified company could receive a tax credit of up to 9 percent of new payroll issued within one year as long as the company creates 10 or more jobs that pay 100 percent or more of the county average wage. The program would be capped at $25 million and reevaluated every two years.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Legislation approved by the Missouri House and now under consideration by the Senate would lift the requirement, under certain circumstances, that the death of a person under hospice care be investigated.

Missouri law requiring coroners and medical examiners to investigate a death in a home doesn’t account for the increase in the use of hospice care for terminal patients.

The coroner does not have to come out and see that person who we all know is dead from a well-documented terminal illness.

The legislation would allow the physician treating a patient or the hospice director to certify when a patient has died due to natural causes relating to a disease or known illness. A coroner or medical examiner must be notified within 24 hours of such a death.

HB 77 updates provisions related to teacher and employee retirement systems. The bill is meant to fix a problem with language that was passed last session. It will add a provision that exempts anyone that retired as a teacher under the public school retirement system who is now employed by a public community college.

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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