The pace at the State Capitol has definitely escalated.
It is easy to get caught up in the day to day planning of attending committee hearings, debating legislation on the House Floor and keeping track of the bills as they move through the legislative process. That is only a portion of our job here. As Representatives, we have been elected to be the voice of our constituents. We are here for the people in the hallways, the groups here on their advocacy day, the school groups laughing and talking and looking at everything, and constituents calling in to the office to voice their support or opposition on various house bills which have included the teacher’s retirement and charter schools. These groups including our students and teachers, they are the ones that remind us of the reason we are here.
The groups visiting their State Capitol this week were the Missouri Health Care Association, Missouri Centers for Independent Living, Missouri Athletic Trainers’ Association, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Assoc., Community of Disabled Citizens and Mentally Challenged.
We also had the opportunity to listen to the singing of the National Anthem and the playing of the bagpipes as a ceremony was held on the Rotunda floor to honor Missouri firefighters.
Bills of Interest
HB 581: This is the Charter school bill. It has a lot of moving pieces but basically it would allow Charter schools to open up anywhere in the state. My concerns with the bill are the efficiency of theses Charter schools. They are not accountable to anyone but the Charter sponsor who receives around $145,000 to be the sponsor. There is an incentive for the sponsor to keep the Charter open even if it is failing students. The state of Missouri has spent $750 million dollars on Charters that have closed because of performance or financial mismanagement. I see a lot of money that could be used to help kids in a much better way. I am not opposed to Charters in areas where schools are provisionally accredited or unaccredited. I understand just how poorly these schools must be performing to become unaccredited.
The Charter bill was to be brought up this week on the House Floor, but I think they are having a hard time finding the votes to push it through so it has been laid over. Unfortunately, I do not believe we always look at what is best for kids. I am worried that there are way too many other factors in play.
HB 161: Beginning with school year 2020-21, this bill modifies the law governing school start dates by removing the option that school districts may set an opening date more than 10 calendar days prior to the first Monday in September. Once we added an amendment to move it to 14 days, I supported this bill. I always support local control but in this case the change was minor and when you look at the money we loose on tourism I supported the changes.
HB 352: This bill specifies that any incarcerated offender 65 years of age or older who has no prior felony convictions of a violent nature, who is not a convicted sexual offender, and who is serving a sentence of life without parole for a minimum of 50 years or more must receive a parole hearing upon serving 30 years or more of his or her sentence. The Board of Probation and Parole within the Department of Corrections must determine whether there is a reasonable probability that the offender will not violate the law upon release and therefore is eligible for release based upon a finding that the offender meets specified criteria. Any offender who is not granted parole under these provisions must be eligible for reconsideration every two years until a presumptive release date is established. This is a tough bill. You want to see these geriatric offenders get a chance to see their family again but you also know that the families of the victims had an expectation of them serving their sentence.
HB 399: This bill prohibits any third-party payer for health care services from limiting coverage or denying reimbursement for treatment for physical, cognitive, emotional, mental, or developmental disabilities in specified situations. This is a huge bill that will guarantee therapy coverage by insurance carriers for children with developmental disabilities. This came through my committee on Insurance and the testimony was very emotional.
HB 547: Currently, treatment court divisions oversee veterans’ treatment courts, adult treatment courts, DWI courts, family treatment courts, and juvenile treatment courts. This bill would require each circuit court to establish a treatment court division. This is a very important piece of legislation for our veterans who struggle when they return from combat.
HB 324 deals with flying drones over our state penitentiaries, mental health facilities and County and municipal jails. This bill is all about the safety of the workers and offenders. It will help to prevent contraband form entering these facilities. It has passed out of the House.
HB 492 prohibits health carriers from only allowing health care providers to be reimbursed using methods requiring the health care provider to pay a fee or reduced reimbursement rate in order to receive such reimbursement. -If a health carrier changes reimbursement methods they must notify the health care provider if any fee, discount or other remuneration required to redeem the reimbursement amount. For new or renewed contracts after August 28, 2019, health carriers must offer an alternative reimbursement method which has no such fees. These fees on reimbursement cost our health care providers money and force them to pass this cost on to its patients.
HB 493: Currently, under the Comprehensive Emergency Medical Services Act, health carriers and managed care plans are required to pay benefits directly to any ambulance service when an insured requests services from an ambulance service. This bill limits the direct payment to ground ambulance services. The idea behind the bill is to take out an unintended advantage that was given to air ambulance services. They have been guaranteed to get paid by insurance companies first. This bill levels the playing field to try and create a free market place where individuals are protected from $50,000 bills for services that are vital to them but are extremely overpriced.
HB 604: The bill states beginning September 1, 2020 and subject to appropriations, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall use an outcome-based measure to set criteria for the designation of schools in need of intervention and specifies a time line for the initial remedial year (Section 161.1090 and Section 161.1095).
The bill specifies that before August 30, 2020, the department must identify two or more approved independent school turnaround experts of which schools in need of intervention may partner. The bill specifies that the department shall award contracts to independent school turnaround experts and that governing boards shall not be required to pay independent school turnaround experts. The bill also establishes the "School Turnaround Fund" for the payment of contracts (Section 161.1105). The bill specifies that the department shall review school turnaround plans within 30 days of submission. Criteria for approval are specified in the bill as well as an appeal process. The bill establishes the "School Intervention Fund," to fund interventions identified in approved school turnaround plans (Section 161.1110).
The bill specifies that a school in need of intervention that does not meet the exit criteria within three school years may petition the department for an extension to continue school improvement efforts for up to two years (Section 161.1115). The bill, requires that before November 30, 2021, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall report to the Joint Committee on Education on the implementation of the School
This bill is intended to provide the help necessary to struggling public or Charter school buildings. It is my belief that when we have buildings that are not up to standard we are hurting children and have a responsibility to take all steps necessary to help.