Capitol Report 03/26/15

The House had an incredibly busy first half of the legislative session as members approved more than 90 bills that now await approval in the Senate.

One particular piece of legislation aimed to reform Missouri’s welfare system by placing a greater emphasis on helping people get back to work. Specifically, SB 24 is designed to restructure the welfare system and reinvest the savings into incentives such as childcare, job training and transportation services to get people back into the workforce.

Another bill, HB 152, sought to address a gap in current law that allows dangerous sex traffickers to advertise in the state without fear of criminal charges. The bill, approved overwhelmingly by the House, would add the advertising of sexual acts with a minor to Missouri’s existing law against sex trafficking.

House members also took action during the first half of the legislative session to protect Missouri businesses from unannounced changes in state tax policy. According to the sponsor of HB 299, many Missouri businesses aren’t made aware of tax policy changes until they are audited. These surprise tax increases have upset many business owners and created an environment of taxation uncertainty in the state.

House members also approved HB 104, which is known as the Student Freedom of Association Act to prohibit colleges and universities from enforcing policies that deny benefits to student religious organizations that require members to adhere to certain beliefs. The bill would simply allow religious student groups to require members to “adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs”.

You may read more about what is happening at your Capitol below.

As always, I will work diligently and tirelessly for you as your State Representative. 

-Jason Chipman              

Welfare Reform
In an effort to place a greater emphasis on helping people get back to work, the members of the Missouri House approved legislation last week to reform the state’s system of welfare. The bill is designed to restructure the welfare system and reinvest the savings in incentives such as childcare, job training and transportation services to get people back into the workforce.

A study done earlier in the year by the Heartland Institute found that Missouri had only a 14 to 16 percent work participation rate for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The participation rate ranked Missouri last in the nation and earned the state a grade of F in the report.

The bill approved by the House would add Missouri to the list of 37 other states that require welfare recipients to take immediate steps to seek employment in order to receive benefits. The legislation also would lower the lifetime limit on assistance from five years to 30 months. The savings generated from the change would then be invested in child care, education, transportation and job training assistance for participants in the TANF program.

As supporters said on the House floor, the changes are meant to put an emphasis on getting people back to work and out of poverty. They emphasized the need for welfare benefits to be temporary assistance that helps people in need to return to self-sufficiency and independence.

The bill now returns to the Senate with the changes made by the House. In all likelihood the bill will now move to a conference committee where select members from each chamber will meet to iron out any differences.

Human Trafficking
The Missouri House took action to address a gap in current law that allows dangerous sex traffickers to advertise in the state without fear of criminal charges. The bill approved overwhelmingly by the House would add the advertising of sexual acts with a minor to Missouri’s existing law against sex trafficking.

During debate on the floor, the sponsor of the bill talked about websites and flyers used to promote the exploitation of children and how law enforcement is currently powerless to stop them. He said his bill would give law enforcement and prosecutors a powerful tool to target and shut down trafficking websites and protect innocent children from harm.

Modeled after the congressional SAVE Act, HB 152 would criminalize any form of advertisement – from online posts to classified ads – if the advertiser knows it could lead to human trafficking. Individuals who engage in such advertising would be guilty of sexual trafficking of a child, which is a felony offense in Missouri with a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.

Liquid Nicotine
Before adjourning for spring break, the Missouri House also passed legislation to protect young people from dangerous liquid nicotine commonly used in e-cigarettes. The bill passed by the House would require that the refillable containers for liquid nicotine be sold in child-safe packaging.

The sponsor of the bill noted that the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes has led to new dangers for children that occur due to contact with the liquid nicotine. She pointed to cases where children have accidentally ingested the dangerous liquids that are often flavored as types of candy or fruit. During discussion on the floor, she reminded the members of the House of the tragic death of a toddler in New York who passed away last year after drinking some of the liquid nicotine.

By putting new safety standards in place, the members of the House hope to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in Missouri.

Tax Policy Changes
House members also took action during the first half of the legislative session to protect Missouri businesses from unannounced changes in state tax policy. According to the sponsor of the bill, many Missouri businesses aren’t made aware of tax policy changes until they are audited. These surprise tax increases have upset many business owners and created an environment of taxation uncertainty in the state.

In an effort to put an end to the process of notification by audit, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation to require the Department of Revenue to post all tax policy changes on its website, and to notify businesses either by mail or email. Supporters said the change will give Missouri businesses a fair system of notification that will prevent surprise tax increases that have caught so many business owners off guard.

Religious Freedom
The Missouri House took a stand in defense of the religious freedoms of college students during the first half of the legislative session. House members approved a bill known as the Student Freedom of Association Act to prohibit colleges and universities from enforcing policies that deny benefits to student religious organizations that require members to adhere to certain beliefs. The bill would simply allow religious student groups to require members to “adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Supporters of the protection pointed to events in California and Tennessee where campus policies caused some religious organizations to disband or be denied access to funding and facilities. The move to pass HB 104 is meant to protect Missouri students from a similar occurrence on college campuses in the state. If the bill makes its way through both chambers and is signed into law, Missouri would become the ninth state to put such protections into law.

Home Repair Grants
Residents throughout the Meramec Region may be eligible for up to $5,000 in grant funding for home repairs through the Meramec Community Enhancement Corporation (MCEC). MCEC, a 501c3 that works in partnership with Meramec Regional Planning Commission, has been awarded a grant for housing renovation projects in the region by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.

The grant program allows qualifying homeowners to make home repairs and improvements. Homeowners shall meet income guidelines and other requirements to receive grant monies. For more information or a pre-application, contact Lyle Thomas at 573-265-2993 or lthomas@meramecregion.org. Pre-applications can also be found at www.meramecregion.org

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s