Capitol Report | February 11th, 2016

Veterans Home, Welfare, Overdose, & EPA

It has been quite a productive week at the Capitol. On Tuesday, I introduced HB 2096 to the Committee on Consumer Affairs. This bill would eliminate the requirement that students at public universities and colleges pay the student health fee if they have private insurance.

Also, the House approved legislation this week that would allow voters to decide if the state should issue bonds to provide funding for a new veterans home. Members gave bipartisan support to the proposed constitutional amendment that would generate $50 million in funds through bond sales. The legislature is looking for a solution that will provide adequate care for the 15th-largest population of veterans in the nation. The governor has already called for an additional $500,000 in spending to design what would be the state’s eighth nursing facility for veterans. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration. If approved there, it would go before voters on the November ballot.

The House also advanced legislation that would allow the state to more efficiently and proficiently verify applicants and recipients of welfare services. The bill would allow the Missouri Dep. of Social Services to hire an outside vendor to conduct the verification process for applicants for the state’s various welfare programs. The bill is meant to help the department ensure accuracy in the welfare rolls, which is a process it has admittedly fallen behind in performing. The department is supportive of the change, and is accepting bids from vendors. The legislation to enable the change now moves to the Senate for consideration.

In other news, legislation is now on its way to the Senate that would allow friends and family of heroin overdose victims to administer life-saving medication. The House gave bipartisan support to HB 1568, which would allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone or Narcan to individuals. The drug, which has no side effects or addictive qualities, is used to temporarily counteract the effects of opiates. The bill’s sponsor said that making the antidote available to even more Missourians will save even more lives.

Efforts by the federal government to implement new carbon emission standards are now on hold following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court granted an application for stay of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which would require a reduction of approximately 28 percent in carbon dioxide emissions from Missouri power plants by 2030. Missouri was one of 21 states to sue the EPA for exceeding its authority in issuing new, burdensome regulations on energy providers. Producers in Missouri have said complying with the EPA’s deadlines would cost the state more than $6 billion. However, Ameren has said its own plan will allow it to meet the new standards five years later in 2035 at a far more affordable rate.

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

 

 

House Approves Bonding Plan to Provide Funding for New Veterans Home (HJR 54)

The Missouri House approved legislation this week that would allow voters to decide if the state should issue bonds to provide funding for a new veterans home. Members gave bipartisan support to the proposed constitutional amendment that would generate $50 million in funds through bond sales.

The state currently has seven veterans homes located in Cameron, Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Mount Vernon, St. James, St. Louis, and Warrensburg. The homes provide approximately 1,350 long-term skilled nursing care beds. However, there is a glaring need for more beds as the state currently has more than 1,900 veterans still waiting to get into a home. The Missouri Veterans Commission also anticipates an increase in the number of veterans needing nursing care in the years to come.

The pressing need has prompted the legislature to look for solutions that will provide adequate care for the 15th-largest population of veterans in the nation. The governor has already called for an additional $500,000 in spending to design what would be the state’s eighth nursing facility for veterans. The legislation approved by the House now moves to the Senate for consideration. If approved there, it would go before voters on the November ballot.

Ensuring Welfare Recipients are Properly Verified (HB 1795)

The members of the Missouri House advanced legislation that would allow the state to more efficiently and proficiently verify applicants and recipients of welfare services. The bill would allow the Missouri Department of Social Services to hire an outside vendor to conduct the verification process for applicants for the state’s various welfare programs.

In addition to screening applicants, the company hired by the state would work to re-verify current enrollees. In effect, the vendor would work to ensure recipients and applicants are in fact eligible for programs such as food stamps. In cases where the vendor finds suspected cases of fraud, it would then notify the department, which would investigate.

The bill is meant to help the department ensure accuracy in the welfare rolls, which is a process it has admittedly fallen behind in performing. The sponsor of the bill said the change has the added benefit of possibly saving the state more than $20 million over the next three years by eliminating waste and fraud from the system. She noted that other states that have hired third party vendors to screen welfare recipients and applicants have seen millions of dollars in savings as a result.

The social services department is fully supportive of the change, and is already accepting bids from vendors. The legislation to enable the change now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Providing Life-Saving Medication to Overdose Victims (HB 1568)

Legislation is now on its way to the Senate that would allow friends and family of heroin overdose victims to administer life-saving medication. The Missouri House gave bipartisan support to HB 1568, which would allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone, or Narcan, to individuals. The drug, which has no side effects or addictive qualities, is used to temporarily counteract the effects of opiates.

As the sponsor of the bill pointed out on the House floor, two-thirds of all overdoses happen in the home, and 85 percent of the time someone else is present. In the 38 states that already have similar legislation enacted into law, 80 percent of overdose rescues are performed by family and friends. The sponsor also noted that Massachusetts saw its rate of opiate-related deaths cut nearly in half after passing its version of the bill.

The legislation would supplement a bill passed in 2014 that put Naloxone in the hands of qualified first responders. The bill’s sponsor said that making the antidote available to even more Missourians will save even more lives.

FFA President Adam Kirby Reminds Legislators of the Importance of Agriculture

The members of the FFA State Officer Team made the trip to the Missouri State Capitol Tuesday to represent the nearly 26,000 FFA students in Missouri. Keeping with House tradition, FFA President Adam Kirby addressed the members and talked about the progress the organization has made in recent years. Kirby described how the organization has been proactive in promoting agriculture in an ever-changing society, and how “agriculture has developed into a vast industry of opportunity in areas encompassing everything from biotechnology, to international marketing and trade.”

Kirby also described to House members how FFA is playing an instrumental role in growing future leaders for Missouri. As Kirby said, “All students have an inborn desire to speak, to lead, and to become better. FFA simply facilitates this desire and helps morph it into a passion. Together members can become empowered and take a grasp of their future. These members are our future and the future of Missouri Agriculture. They are the future leaders of our country, and will soon become researchers, agriculturalists, politicians, farmers, and agri-business owners.”

Kirby concluded his speech by asking House members to continue to work with FFA to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture.

House Members Observe Thank a Farmer Week

As House members heard about the importance of agriculture from FFA President Adam Kirby, they also took time to celebrate Thank a Farmer Week. The event runs from Feb. 7-13 and is designed to remind Missourians about the vital role the agriculture industry plays in the state.

Missouri has been and continues to be an agriculture state with more than 100,000 farms located on more than 28 million acres of farmland. Each farmer in Missouri is able to provide enough food and fiber for 168 people in the United States and abroad according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

In addition to taking time to thank farmers, House members also recently took action to prevent a tax increase on the state’s best farmland. The House and Senate worked together to pass a resolution rejecting a tax increase proposed by the Missouri State Tax Commission. The legislature acted quickly to protect farmers across Missouri from paying an additional $2 million in taxes.

United States Supreme Court Issues Stay on Federal Clean Power Plan

Efforts by the federal government to implement new carbon emission standards are now on hold following a decision by the United States Supreme Court. The court granted an application for stay of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which would require a reduction of approximately 28 percent in carbon dioxide emissions from Missouri power plants by 2030.

Missouri was one of 21 states to sue the EPA for exceeding its authority in issuing new, burdensome regulations on energy providers. Producers in Missouri have said complying with the EPA’s deadlines would cost the state more than $6 billion. However, Ameren has said its own plan will allow it to meet the new standards five years later in 2035 at a far more affordable rate.

Following the ruling, House Speaker Todd Richardson praised the Court’s unprecedented decision to stay a federal rule before it is implemented. “I was pleased to see the Supreme Court put a freeze on President Obama’s burdensome energy regulations,” said Richardson. “We have already been dealing with the negative impacts these new rules would have on Missouri. This decision will help us keep Missouri’s energy costs low, save countless dollars in implementation costs, and preserve jobs in the energy sector. The legal fight will go on, but we will continue to oppose undue burdens on our energy production.”

The stay issued by the court will remain in effect pending disposition of the lawsuit, including through any appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Missouri Supreme Court Clarifies that Nonviolent Felons Cannot Carry Guns

It was in 2014 that Missouri voters approved Amendment 5 to strengthen and protect the firearms rights of all law-abiding citizens. The amendment made the right to keep and bear arms “unalienable” and required any law that restricts gun rights to be held to a higher legal standard. However, the amendment made it clear that lawmakers can restrict the gun rights of violent felons.

At the same time, the wording of the amendment led to a court challenge regarding the gun rights of nonviolent felons. Lower court rulings actually threw out the convictions of three nonviolent felons for gun-related offenses. The case then went to the Missouri Supreme Court, which this week ruled that the constitutional amendment does not allow nonviolent felons to carry guns.

Going forward, Missouri law that prohibits all felons from having firearms will continue to be valid. The court noted, “The constitution does not prohibit the legislature from regulating nonviolent felons’ possession of firearms, and (current law) is a constitutional restriction of a nonviolent felon’s right to bear arms.”Commissioners Photo

Capitol Visit

I was honored to visit with Phelps County District 1 Commissioner Larry Stratman (center) and Randy Verkamp, Phelps County Presiding Commissioner (right). We discussed a variety of topics important to the 120th District.

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