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Just like any family or business that lives within a budget, the state of Missouri is required by law to have a balanced budget every year. This week we spent many hours listening to the proposed budget, revising and editing line item by line item on the appropriation bills.

On Thursday, the House gave its approval for the 2020 State Operating Budget. The budget bills now head to the Senate for their deliberation and passage. Finally, the Senate and the House must agree on the final version by Friday, May 10th.

This week the members of the House of Representatives put our stamp of approval on a balanced, fiscally responsible state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that starts in July. The 13 appropriations bills that make up the state spending plan contain approximately $29.25 billion in funding allocated among the state’s departments and programs.

One of the key points of emphasis in the budget is funding for the state’s K-12 public schools. As it heads to the Senate, the budget fully funds the school foundation formula with $3.94 billion in funding. The total represents an increase of more than $61 million in funding for the formula. 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 House.

Another priority expressed in the budget is a commitment to workforce development. The spending plan funds the reorganization of the Department of Economic Development so that the department can streamline and improve efficiency. It also provides approximately $18.5 million in funding for a new Fast Track Scholarship Program that will target adults over 25 who are working toward certification or a degree in a high demand field. The budget plan includes $30 million for the Missouri One Start program that will help businesses train their workers and upgrade their skills. Additionally, the budget proposed by the House provides $19 million in funding for the Missouri Excels Workforce Initiative that provides funding to institutions of higher education to develop and expand employer-driven education and training programs. Furthermore, the budget provides $8.5 million to support Missouri’s adult high schools that were created by legislation passed in 2018.

Legislation approved in recent weeks by the House would make it easier for people with criminal records to reintegrate into society by getting a job. The bill is also designed to save Missourians from spending time, effort, and expense to get a job only to find out their offenses will disqualify them.

Known as the “Fresh Start Act of 2019,” the bill would keep people from being barred from a job for committing crimes that have no relation to the work of that job.

The sponsor of the legislation said, “If you want to cut hair and be a cosmetologist, the cosmetology board can’t say you will not be allowed to get a license because you were convicted of mortgage fraud ten years ago. It just doesn’t make sense and it prevents people that want to get to work from getting to work.”

The bill would also require applicants to be told in a timely manner whether their record will preclude them from getting a given job.

“We’ve actually had specific examples in this state where people have gone through the training, spent the time, energy, and money to get the training and go through the courses to get a license, and at the very last step they apply to the board and they are denied the license,” said the bill’s sponsor. “In some cases people have spent six months to a year and tens of thousands of dollars to get that training only to find out later that they don’t qualify. Well, I think that’s wrong. I think we need to fix that.”

The sponsor noted that Missourians now must be licensed in order to work in one out of five jobs. He said while licensure is supposed to be about protecting the health, safety, and wellbeing of the public, industry groups have turned it into something of a “protectionist strategy.” “These occupational licenses have gone far beyond the original scope and intent of what they were created for,” he said.

Two bills passed by the House contain the “Fresh Start Act of 2019” provision. Both bills are currently under consideration by the Senate.

Other Bills Sent to the Senate

HB 451 modifies the inspection requirement for non-commercial motor vehicles which is currently required in order to renew a motor vehicle license. New motor vehicles after being sold will not have to have an inspection until after 10 years or the vehicle odometer reads 150,000 miles.

HB 677 modifies provisions relating to certain tourism infrastructure facilities. Supporters say the bill is necessary to keep Missouri's tourism infrastructure facilities world-class venues to attract events such as collegiate sports tournaments, concerts, and other unique events. Supporters say the facilities could use the improvements for public safety reasons. They also claim the bill would have a positive fiscal effect for the state, because these facilities bring in tourists that spend money that turns into tax revenue.

HB 257 allows the Board of Pharmacy to enter into a voluntary compliance agreement with a licensee, permit holder, or registrant to ensure compliance with statute and the rules of the board, in lieu of discipline. Supporters say the bill will give the board an alternative option for enforcing compliance before a patient has been harmed or has been put at risk for harm.

HB 169 establishes the “Internet and Social Media Awareness Program” to increase awareness of appropriate online behavior and skills among students in public schools. Supporters say the bill is important for all students and would empower teachers to do the right thing regarding the instruction of online classes. Supporters also indicate this is an example of real world learning and that allowing school boards to develop policies is an important aspect.

HB 655 defines the term "landowner's agent" for the purposes of who may take, attempt to take, or kill a feral hog with the use of an artificial light. Supporters say the definition needs to be clarified. Many farmers and landowners work all day and cannot be up all night searching for feral hogs. Many times landowners bring others in to combat the damage the hogs cause and they need all the tools possible to eradicate the hogs.

HB 450 allows a donor to make an anatomical gift by placing a donor symbol sticker authorized and issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services on the back of the donor's driver's license or identification card. Supporters say the bill will bring awareness to organ donation and the lives that can be saved. Only about half of the people who could sign up to donate do so.

HB 694 allows qualified entities, under certain circumstances, to receive individuals' criminal history information from the central repository as part of the "Missouri Rap Back Program" as well as the National Rap Back Program. The Missouri program includes automatic notifications made by the State Highway Patrol about whether an individual, specifically an applicant who is employed, licensed, or otherwise under the purview of the entity, has been arrested for a reported criminal offense in the state. Supporters say the bill cleans language up from legislation that was passed last year. It separates out public and private entities and this was language approved by the FBI.

Mike Ramsey of KFMO came to the Capitol to do a live radio interview with Rep. Mike Henderson and myself.

On Deck for Next Week:

• HB 189 – Modifies provisions relating to activities extended to persons found guilty of certain criminal offenses

• HB 628 – Places restrictions on the authority of dentists to prescribe certain opioids

• HB 739 - Modifies provisions relating to preventing sexual misconduct in schools

• HBs 812 & 832 - Designates the "Trooper John N Greim Memorial Highway" on a portion of U.S. Highway 50 in Johnson County and the "Trooper Fred L Walker Memorial Highway" on a portion of State Highway A in Clinton County

• HB 626 - Modifies provisions relating to the leasing or renting of motor vehicles

• HB 352 – Authorizes the early parole of certain offenders over the age of sixty-five

• HB 715 - Removes the sunset provision for the Wartime Veteran's Survivor Grant Program

• HB 563 – Modifies provisions relating to the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System

• HB 982 – Authorizes the Missouri State Capitol Commission to employ Missouri Capitol Police Officers for public safety at the seat of state government

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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