Capitol Report | February 25th, 2016

Toxic Exposure & Clean Power Plan

This week has been another busy one in the legislature. It is really starting to ramp up. I presented four bills in committee this week. The first bill was HB 2093 to the Committee on Public Safety. This bill would give some legal protections against civil lawsuits to first responders who are trying to restrain an individual suspected of having a drug or alcohol overdose. I was honored to have Greg Campbell, Chief of the North Crawford County Ambulance District, give testimony in support HB 2093.

I also presented HB 1694 to the Committee on Elections. This bill would give the Governor 30 days from the time they receive a notice of vacancy to call for a special election to fill a seat in the General Assembly. This has been a bipartisan problem over the last 15 years. Politics should not play a role in determining whether or not a district has representation.

I also presented HB 2090 and HB 2224 to the Committee on Civil and Criminal Proceedings. HB 2090 will increase protections for and clarify language regarding public administrators and the use of their personal credit report when dealing with their wards. HB 2224 will extend the availability of the use of expungements for certain non-violent offenses. I consider it a once-in-a-lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card. If a person has a qualified offense, has repaid their debt to society, cleaned up their life, and have become a model citizen, this bill would allow them to put their past behind them, especially when it comes to becoming gainfully employed.

The House approved legislation this week that seeks to place a greater emphasis on the need for research for veterans who might have been exposed to toxic chemicals during their service. The House approved a resolution that requests Congress create a national center within the Department of Veteran Affairs that would research treatment and diagnosis of health conditions for these veterans, as well as their descendants.

In recent weeks the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which would require a reduction of approximately 28% in carbon dioxide emissions from Missouri power plants by 2030. This week the Missouri House passed a resolution that calls on the attorney general to take necessary legal actions to prevent the “unlawful obligations” of the plan from being imposed on Missouri families and businesses. Missouri generates more than 80% of its electricity from coal. The requirement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 would cost the state more than $6 billion according to Missouri’s energy providers.

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 Budget Committee Moves Forward With Cautious Approach to FY 2017 Spending Plan

The governor’s revenue growth estimate and spending plan have led the House Budget Committee to revive the Surplus Revenue Fund to ensure a fiscally responsible state operating budget for Fiscal Year 2017. House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan said the fund is necessary because the House is basing its budget bills on a more conservative 3.1 percent revenue growth estimate, which is a full percent lower than the optimistic 4.1 percent growth estimate put forth by the governor.

Flanigan this week offered substitute versions of the appropriations bills that make up the FY 2017 state operating budget, and filed HB 2600 to implement the Surplus Revenue Fund, which was created and utilized in 2014 when the governor and the General Assembly could not reach a consensus revenue estimate. The plan put forth by Flanigan and the members of the House Budget Committee bases the budget on 3.1 percent revenue growth, but also puts the surplus fund in place to capture any additional dollars that come in if revenue growth is closer to the governor’s estimate.

“As we look at a governor who has withheld funds at every turn and for any reason, it’s imperative that we have a responsible spending plan that will ensure vital services like education and public safety actually receive the funds we appropriate. The House refuses to go with the governor’s option of promising funding only to withhold the dollars when revenues don’t come in at levels that suit him. It’s certainly not responsible budgeting to do things the governor’s way, and the withheld funds make it extremely difficult for our constituents to receive the array of services their tax dollars provide,” said Flanigan.

Flanigan said the Surplus Revenue Fund could capture as much as $195 million in revenue. $91.3 million would be the result of the one percent difference in revenue growth estimates between the House and governor. The other $103.7 million would be the result of “collections additions” anticipated by the governor, such as the increased federal CHIP rate and recent court settlement between the federal government and the Division of Youth Services.

Flanigan noted that if revenues come in at the higher estimate, the fund would provide an additional $46.6 million for the school foundation formula, which would bring the total increase to the formula to $70 million for FY 2017.Surplus revenues would also be used to increase funding to additional programs such as:

  • K-12 Foundation Transportation – $5 million
  • Higher Education Performance Funding – $9,911, 149
  • Community College Equity – $4,504,016
  • State Tech Equity – $373,979
  • Tourism – $4.5 million
  • Public Defenders – $4 million
  • Medicaid – $104,155,079

Not considering the Surplus Revenue Fund, the spending plan introduced this week by Flanigan and the House Budget Committee would appropriate $27.1 billion for Fiscal Year 2017. Flanigan said some of the highlights of the budget include:

  • $1.3 million for 2015’s Dairy Revitalization Act
  • $2 million increase for river ports
  • $2 million increase for business startups through the Missouri Technology Corporation
  • $30 million to revive the state cost-share program to fund transportation projects
  • Increase Medicaid provider rates by three percent
  • Two percent pay increase for state employees
  • $500,000 increase for the Alternatives to Abortion program
  • $1.75 million increase to library funding over the governor’s recommendation

House Budget Committee Announces Cuts to University of Missouri

House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan announced this week that the House Budget Committee would move forward with a spending proposal that makes targeted cuts to funding for the University of Missouri System.

The version of the higher education funding bill introduced by Flanigan has $8,076,196 less in state aid for the University of Missouri System than in the current year’s budget. Flanigan said, “The decision to further reduce appropriations for the system was not made lightly and recent events have proved to Missourians that existing performance measures are not the only indicators of a university’s performance. Furthermore, the General Assembly can and should look beyond traditional indicators in determining how much is appropriated to our universities.”

For the FY 2017 budget, the House will not appropriate a lump sum to the system, but will instead budget to seven different lines – University of Missouri – Columbia, University of Missouri – Kansas City, University of Missouri – St. Louis, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Extension, endowed professorships, and the “UM System”. The reduction proposed by Flanigan will be made in two places. First, UMC’s appropriation is reduced $402,059, or the equivalent of three salaried positions (Dr. Melissa Click’s position, one division chair in communications, and the dean of arts and science).Second, the reduction in the state appropriation is also targeted to administration. The UM System primarily consists of the board of curators, president’s office and other multi-campus functions and is cut $7,674,137 (approximately half the reported amount for FY16).

Flanigan noted that the reductions are not only about Dr. Melissa Click and her actions. He said, “For several months legislators have had stories relayed to us from current and past students, staff, and faculty of a vast bureaucracy that rivals the Pentagon in terms of red tape and delays. Additionally, appropriators are deeply concerned with the faculty waiver process, how conflicts of interest are addressed, and the inability to terminate employees who participate in conduct unbecoming the University of Missouri and our state. The cuts we have put forward are intended to send a strong message to the administration without harming our students, who deserve better.”

Missouri House Approves Bill to Help Elderly and Disabled Missourians (HB 1565)

The House approved legislation this week that would implement more reasonable asset limits for elderly and disabled Missourians who hope to qualify for Medicaid.

Current law allows an individual to have only $1,000 in assets to qualify for Medicaid assistance. A married couple has an asset limit of $2,000. The bill approved by the House would steadily increase these limits to $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple by 2021. After that, the limits would continue to increase with the rate of inflation.

The bill received strong bipartisan support on the floor where the sponsor noted that Missouri’s assets limits haven’t changed for more than 40 years. Supporters said the current limits prevent some of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens from having enough in savings to adequately provide for themselves, or pay for things like emergency car or home repairs.

The bill is similar to SB 322, which received overwhelming approval in the House last year but fell victim to the filibuster that shut down the Senate in the final week of session.

House Approves Legislation to Improve Health Outcomes for Children with SCID (HB 1387)

The members of the Missouri House approved legislation to expand the state’s newborn screening requirements to include severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). The bill is meant to save lives and give children diagnosed with SCID an opportunity for a healthy, normal life.

The sponsor of the bill noted that children born with SCID appear normal and healthy until they contract any sort of childhood illness. They then see a shortened life span of approximately one year and spend the majority of that time in a hospital. As the bill’s sponsor explained, the key to giving children with SCID a fighting chance is to identify the disorder at birth so that the child can receive a bone marrow transplant.

Currently, 34 other states have newborn screening requirements that include SCID. The bill’s sponsor stressed the importance of adding the requirement in Missouri to protect babies from dying from what is now a preventable disease.

The legislation approved by the House also establishes within the Department of Health and Senior Services the Sickle Cell Standing Committee. The committee would be charged with assessing the impact of sickle cell disease on urban communities, examining the existing services and resources, and developing recommendations for educational services to schools.

House Approves Legislation Calling for Passage of the Toxic Exposure Act (HCR 96)

The Missouri House also approved legislation this week that seeks to place a greater emphasis on the need for research for veterans who might have been exposed to toxic chemicals during their service. That House approved a resolution that requests Congress to create a national center within the Department of Veteran Affairs that would research treatment and diagnosis of health conditions for these veterans, as well as their descendants.

The sponsor of the resolution pointed out that many veterans are exposed to toxic chemicals during their service. As the resolution points out, many veterans “have come into contact with various toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange and other dioxin-contaminated herbicides during the Vietnam War, various neurotoxins during the Gulf War, and chemical weapons and burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan during Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn.” Exposure to these toxins can lead to residual medical conditions, and unexplained ailments for these veterans’ years after their service, as well as certain diseases for their children.

The resolution urges Congress to approve the Toxic Exposure Act of 2015 to create a national center that would research the health conditions of descendants of veterans exposed to toxins during their military service. Additionally, the Act would authorize the Department of Defense to declassify certain instances of exposure; create a database of congenital anomalies; and devise a national outreach campaign on the potential long-term health effects of exposure to toxic substances on service members and their descendants. The resolution is now under consideration by the Missouri Senate.

House Approves Resolution to Protect Missourians from the Federal Clean Power Plan (HCR 69)

In recent weeks the United States Supreme Court issued a stay on 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. The move was one applauded by members of House leadership as it put a freeze on what they saw as overly burdensome energy regulations.

This week the Missouri House again addressed the issue of the EPA’s regulations by passing a resolution that calls on the attorney general to take necessary legal actions to prevent the “unlawful obligations” of the plan from being imposed on Missouri families and businesses. As the resolution points out, Missouri generates more than eighty percent of its electricity from coal. The requirement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 would cost the state more than $6 billion according to Missouri’s energy providers.

The resolution notes that “the Clean Power Plan is based on emission reduction measures that interfere with the regulation of electricity by individual states and that will have a major impact on energy resources, electricity ratepayers, grid reliability, jobs, and the economy of the United States.” It also points out that a total of twenty-nine states do not believe the Clean Power Plan is consistent with the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. The legislation now heads to the Senate for approval.

Capitol Visits

I was honored to have Greg Campbell, Chief of the North Crawford County Ambulance District, visit this week and provide testimony in support of HB 2093, which would give some legal protections against civil lawsuits to first responders who are trying to restrain an individual suspected of having a drug or alcohol overdose.

I also had a chance to visit with Kathy Oliver, Phelps County Public Administrator, as she traveled to the Capitol to testify on HB 2090, which will increase protections for and clarify language regarding public administrators and the use of their personal credit report when dealing with their wards.

I also spoke with a past colleague, Danny Galarza, from Brewer Science. It was great to catch-up and discuss a few important legislative issues.

I am committed to serve the constituents of the 120th District, so please feel free to contact my office anytime at 573-751-1688. Your District 120 Capitol office is 201 W Capitol Ave, Rm 115H, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

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