Every day I spend at the Capitol reminds me of how fortunate we are to live in a place where individuals have the right to express their opinions.
On the House Floor, we have the opportunity to agree or disagree with legislation as it is vetted. If you are in favor of a bill and that bill changes due to amendments being added, we have that right to vote as we see best for our community. As groups come to the Capitol, it amazes me how much commitment and passion each one of these individuals has. It is their right to come to their State Capitol to state their concerns. This week at the Capitol, there were over 600 people attending the Missouri Right to Life Day. While that group was singing Amazing Grace on the First Floor Rotunda, the Joplin High School ROTC was marching up the stairs to present the Colors on the House Floor. It is a feeling of pride to be a part of what is all happening here at the People’s House.
Other groups we were pleased to receive were members of the Missouri County Treasurer’s Association, Missouri Association of Agencies on Aging, Missouri Bankers Association, VOYCE - Speaking Up For Quality Long Term Care, Missouri Centers for Independent Living and Visitors for Disability Advocacy Day. I always look forward to visiting with friends from home and appreciate receiving the packets of information relating to what their agency has to offer.
The legislative session reached its mid-point. The House has sent nearly 70 bills to the Senate and the two chambers have worked together to see one bill already passed and signed into law by the governor.
House members will now spend time in our districts during their annual spring break and will return to the State Capitol on March 25. When we return, we will focus our efforts on approving the state operating budget. Lawmakers have a deadline of May 10 to complete the state budget. The bills sent to the Senate by the House have until May 17, when the legislative session officially concludes, to receive approval from both chambers.
Some of the Highlights of the First Half of the 2019 Session:
Developing Missouri’s Workforce
• Fast-Track - HB 225 is meant to put thousands of Missourians on a fast track to develop the skills they need to obtain good-paying jobs. The bill will create a new state financial aid program known as Fast-Track that would address workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue an industry-recognized credential in an area designated as high need. The goal of Fast-Track is to provide community colleges, tech schools, and universities with the means to equip students for the high-paying, high-demand jobs of the future.
• Missouri One Start - HB 469 Allows the Missouri Department of Economic Development to improve and consolidate its workforce development programs. The bill allows the department to consolidate three workforce training programs into the Missouri One Start program.
• Missouri Works - HB 255 Gives the Missouri Department of Economic Development an additional tool to bring new jobs to Missouri. The bill will modify an existing state program to establish a closing fund the department can use 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.
The Primary Reason I Ran for State Office was to Protect the Most Vulnerable
• Standing for the Unborn - HB 126 was approved by the House as the strongest piece of pro-life legislation in the nation. The bill prohibits physicians from performing an abortion after a fetal heartbeat or brain function is detected, which is typically around 6-8 weeks gestational age. Because similar provisions have been struck down in other states, the bill contains additional clauses to protect the lives of the unborn. Should the fetal heartbeat requirement not stand, Missouri law would prohibit all abortions past 14 weeks gestational age. If that provision doesn’t stand, the bill would implement a “Pain-Capable” standard that would prohibit abortions past 18 weeks gestational age. The legislation also states it is the intent of the state of Missouri to prohibit all abortions in the state under any circumstances.
• Fighting Sex Trafficking - HB 397 The change is to ensure young people who are forced into prostitution aren’t further traumatized by facing criminal charges. Current law in Missouri makes it an affirmative defense for a minor charged with prostitution to have been acting under coercion at the time of the crime. House Bill 397 would remove the coercion requirement and make it an affirmative defense that the defendant was under the age of 18.
• Hailey’s Law - HB 185 is meant to better protect children by improving the state’s Amber Alert system. The bill is known as “Hailey’s Law” in honor of Hailey Owens, who was abducted and murdered at the age of 10 while walking home from a friend’s house. The legislation would require the Amber Alert System to be tied into the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES), which is the computer system that allows all law enforcement in Missouri to communicate. That means once an officer enters information about a missing child into MULES; it would at the same time be available to the Amber Alert system.
• Simon’s Law - HB 138 Will prevent do-not-resuscitate orders from being issued for Missouri children without a parent being aware. The legislation would prohibit a health care facility, nursing home, physician, nurse, or medical staff from putting such an order in a child’s file without a parent’s permission. That permission may be written, or given orally in the presence of at least two witnesses.
Reforming Missouri’s Criminal Justice System
• Sentencing Reform - HB 113 Gives 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. 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.
• Preventing Debtors’ Prison - HB 192 Keeps judges from putting people back in jail for failing to pay for the cost of previous stays in jail. The bill would keep a person’s failure to pay a jail for housing that person from resulting in more jail time that would result in additional housing costs. Instead, a local sheriff could attempt to collect such costs owed through civil proceedings, or a judge could waive those costs.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
• Narcotics Control Act - HB 188 Creates a statewide monitoring program for drug prescriptions. Supporters say the bill would combat the abuse of prescription drugs and help prevent conflicts between medications. Known as the Narcotics Control Act, the bill would require the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to establish and maintain a program to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of all Schedule II through Schedule IV controlled substances.
• Stopping Fentanyl Abuse - HB 239 Makes it a felony to possess or distribute the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl and certain date-rape drugs. The measure would make it a first- or second-degree felony to possess or traffic fentanyl — which can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin — and derivatives such as the even more powerful carfentanil.. The legislation would not apply to people with prescriptions for fentanyl. The legislation also would make it a felony to possess or traffic the date-rape drugs GHB and the drug commonly known as Rohypnol.
The House Budget Committee concluded months of work by finalizing the appropriations bills that will make up the Fiscal Year 2020 state operating budget. When we return from our annual break on March 25, House members will work to approve the appropriations bills and send them to the Senate so that both chambers are on track to complete the budget by the May 10 deadline.
As the budget comes to the House floor, it leaves approximately $133 million on the bottom line for FY2020 supplemental expenses.
Funding highlights include:
• $61 million increase to fully fund the school foundation formula at more than $3.94 billion
• $3 million increase for Parents As Teachers program
• $5 million increase for transportation expenses for local school districts
• $700,000 increase to bring funding for school safety grants to $1 million
• $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 funded at $18 million)
• $500,000 increase for A+ Scholarships
• Nearly $1 million increase for Access Missouri Scholarships
• $11 million to perform maintenance and repairs at Missouri colleges and universities
• Funding of higher education workforce development initiatives (MoExcels projects = $17 million)
• $8.5 million to support adult high schools
Infrastructure and Economic Development:
• $100 million for statewide bridge repairs (according to the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program)
• $8 million for major water reservoir projects
• $440,000 to initiate new plant industries program (industrial hemp)
• $30 million to fund the governor's One Start initiative
• $300,000 for the new Missouri Military Community Reinvestment Program
• Funding and transfers to reorganize the Department of Economic Development across DHE, DNR, DIFP, and lieutenant governor's office
• $13.5 million of Volkswagen settlement funds appropriated to clean air projects and grants
• $6.4 million for port projects along Missouri rivers
• $5 million for alternatives to jail program (pre-trial electronic monitoring to save counties and the state millions in prisoner per diem costs)
• $9 million in rebased rates for developmental disability providers (improving access to services)
• $1 million to start an Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes (ECHO) for autism
• $153,000 to fund the Time Critical Diagnosis Unit inside the Department of Health & Senior Services
• $23 million of new general revenue spending to pick up the loss of federal funds that previously supported critical mental health programs at certified community behavioral health clinics
• 1.5% rate increases to Medicaid providers (returning to FY17 reimbursement levels)
If you have any questions on how to navigate the site, please feel free to call my office at 573-751-3455.
I am honored to represent you as your voice at the State Capitol.