Capitol Report | March 3rd, 2016

Budget, Paycheck Protection, Drug Monitoring, 911

Another legislative week comes to a close! The House Budget Committee met for several hours over the course of two days to work out the final details of the Fiscal Year 2017 state operating budget. After much discussion and several amendments, the approximately $27.1 billion spending plan is now headed to the House floor for discussion. The plan that House members are set to debate next week includes an additional $69.3 million for the School Foundation Formula that provides basic state aid for public elementary and secondary schools. The budget proposal also includes an additional $9.9 million in performance-based funding for the state’s institutions of higher education.

The Missouri House and Senate this week worked together to send “paycheck protection” legislation to the governor. The bill is meant to give public employee union members the right to opt-in annually if they choose to participate in their union. The current system requires a public employee to opt-out, and if they fail to do so their dues are automatically deducted.

After lengthy debate and discussion, the Missouri House approved legislation this week that would enact a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri, which is currently the only state in the nation without such a program in place. Known as the Narcotics Control Act, the bill would allow physicians and pharmacists to monitor patients’ medication lists in order to catch those who try to obtain multiple prescriptions for addictive pain killers from different medical professionals.

The Missouri House of Representatives gave final approval to legislation designed to consolidate and provide adequate funding for the state’s 911 call centers. The bill is meant to ensure Missourians have access to 911 emergency services in all parts of the state. The bill would update the current funding model for 911 services that was put in place more than three decades ago and is based on a surcharge on traditional landline phone lines.

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

 

State Operating Budget Headed to the House Floor for Discussion

The House Budget Committee met for several hours over the course of two days to work out the final details of the Fiscal Year 2017 state operating budget. After much discussion and several amendments, the approximately $27.1 billion spending plan is now headed to the House floor for discussion.

The plan that House members are set to debate next week includes an additional $69.3 million for the School Foundation Formula that provides basic state aid for public elementary and secondary schools. The budget proposal also includes an additional $9.9 million in performance-based funding for the state’s institutions of higher education.

Other budget highlights 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

“Paycheck Protection” Legislation Sent to the Governor (HB 1891)

The Missouri House and Senate this week worked together to send “paycheck protection” legislation to the governor. The bill is meant to give public employee union members the right to opt-in annually if they choose to participate in their union. The current system requires a public employee to opt-out, and if they fail to do so their dues are automatically deducted.

In effect, the bill would require annual written consent from a public employee before any amount could be withheld from the earnings of the employee for the payment of any portion of dues, agency shop fees, or other fees paid to a public labor organization. The legislation also would require public employee unions to obtain annual written consent in order to spend a portion of the fees on political activities. Unions for first responders, such as police and firefighters, would be exempted from the requirements of the bill.

The General Assembly approved similar legislation two years ago but saw the bill vetoed by the governor. This year’s version of the legislation received 109 votes in the House and 23 votes in the Senate. Both totals represent veto-proof majorities. The General Assembly now awaits the governor’s action on the bill. If he vetoes the legislation, the House and Senate are likely to move quickly to attempt an override.

House Approves Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (HB 1892)

After lengthy debate and discussion, the Missouri House approved legislation this week that would enact a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri, which is currently the only state in the nation without such a program in place. Known as the Narcotics Control Act, the bill would allow physicians and pharmacists to monitor patients’ medication lists in order to catch those who try to obtain multiple prescriptions for addictive pain killers from different medical professionals.

The bill’s sponsor noted that prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the United States. She also pointed out that Kentucky saw a 50 percent drop in “doctor shopping” after it put a similar law in place in 2012. The bill sponsor and other supporters said the goal of the bill is to get prescription pain medicines like OxyContin and Vicodin off the streets, and to lower the number of overdoses.

Opponents of the bill said it does not matter that Missouri is the only state without a monitoring program. They pointed out that Missouri is not the nation’s leader in prescription drug abuse, but is instead in the middle of the pack, which they said is proof that prescription drug monitoring programs don’t have a huge impact in preventing abuse. Other opponents expressed concerns with the potential for the database with private patient information to be hacked and accessed.

Improving 911 Services for Missourians (HB 1904)

The Missouri House of Representatives gave final approval to legislation designed to consolidate and provide adequate funding for the state’s 911 call centers. The bill is meant to ensure Missourians have access to 911 emergency services in all parts of the state.

The bill would update the current funding model for 911 services that was put in place more than three decades ago and is based on a surcharge on traditional landline phone lines. The bill’s sponsor noted that as more and more residents have done away with landlines and switched to cell phones, funding for 911 services has dissipated. The legislation would allow local municipalities to submit for voter approval a fee of up to $1.50 for any device capable of contacting 911.

As the sponsor said, “Right now we see 80 percent of 911 calls coming in from cell phones, but there is no funding whatsoever being generated from these devices that are now the primary form of communication for the majority of Missourians. If we want to be serious about providing adequate 911 services to ensure the safety and well-being of Missouri citizens, we must provide a funding source that will allow our out-of-date 911 system to be updated. With a new funding source, and by consolidating existing call centers, we can create an effective, streamlined system that will meet the needs of people in all parts of the state.”

The bill’s sponsor also noted that there are currently 17 counties in Missouri that do not have adequate 911 services, which makes it difficult for officials to locate a caller. She also pointed out that there is no way to effectively text 911 in Missouri. In addition, she noted that Missouri has lagged behind every other state in the nation in addressing the need for improved 911 services, and that Missouri is currently the only state in the country that does not have a surcharge on cell phones.

The legislation approved by the House would allow and encourage municipalities to work together to consolidate 911 services. It also would implement a 3 percent surcharge on each retail purchase of a prepaid cell phone to provide additional funding for 911 services. In addition, it would create a Silver Alert System to help in locating missing elderly persons.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Encouraging Missourians to Save (HB 2125)

The members of the Missouri House took action this week to encourage Missourians to save their hard-earned dollars. The legislation would allow financial institutions in the state to offer and conduct savings promotion programs, which offer participants a chance to win prizes if they make a minimum deposit.

The programs were authorized by Congress in 2013 with the passage of the American Savings Promotion Act. Since its passage, 16 states have authorized savings promotion programs and have encouraged savings of more than $100 million to date. Under current Missouri law, banks and credits unions in the state cannot offer promotional prizes to encourage savings. The bill approved by the House would authorize financial institutions to do so.

The bill’s sponsor said the legislation would be extremely beneficial for lower income Missourians. He said nearly 35 percent of the state’s residents do not have savings accounts right now, and nearly 40 percent of Missourians are liquid asset poor, which means they have less than a three-month cushion of savings. He said savings promotion programs represent a great way to create a habit to save.

House Approves Adoptee Rights Act (HB 1599)

House members spent Wednesday morning discussing the merits of a bill designed to provide adoptees in Missouri with access to their birth certificates when they turn 18. The Missouri Adoptee Rights Act is designed to ease current requirements that restrict access to birth certificates for those who have been adopted.

Under current Missouri law, adoptees are only allowed to access information to identify a biological parent when the parent consents or dies. The bill approved by the House would give adoptees a simple process to obtain a birth certificate without first needing to obtain a court order. In effect, it would allow an adopted person to apply for an original birth certificate as long as the applicant is at least 18 years old, was born in Missouri, and has proper proof of identity.

Proponents of the change said that Missouri has more than 500,000 adoptees who deserve to have a chance to have a relationship with their birth parents, and who deserve better access to information that may help them answer questions about their own health. Opponents say that 40 percent of birth parents do not consent to being contacted by the child they gave up for adoption and the state should not retroactively break the confidentiality the parents were promised.

Lowering the Tax Burden on Fitness (HB 1463)

Members of the Missouri House moved this week to stop what they believe is an overly-broad interpretation of the state’s entertainment tax. House members approved legislation to exempt activities such as gym memberships, as well as dance and yoga classes, from an entertainment tax that was intended for items such as tickets for sporting events and amusement parks.

The bill would update state statutes dealing with sales taxes on entertainment or athletic events and reverse decisions made by the Missouri Department of Revenue that negatively impact small businesses throughout the state.was in 2010 that the revenue department decided that yoga studios and gyms were “places of amusement, entertainment, or recreation” and began taxing these small businesses. The department also began auditing businesses and ordering them to pay years of back taxes.

The legislation approved by the House would protect small businesses from the department’s overly-broad interpretation and put an end to the tax on fitness.

Appreciating Those Who Defend the American Way of Life

Many of Missouri’s top military officials made their way to the State Capitol this week to be honored during Military Appreciation and Awareness Day. The event takes place each year to highlight the significant contributions and sacrifices of military service members and the importance of the economic impact that military installations have on the state of Missouri.

Visitors included Maj. Gen. Kent Savre with Fort Leonard Wood; Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets with Whiteman Air Force Base; and Brig. Gen. Greg Mason with the Missouri National Guard. They took part in a joint informational hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Health Committee and the House Veterans Committee. Military Leaders and members of the Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission also met with legislators to discuss the nearly $40 billion impact that defense and military spending have on Missouri’s economy.

Also this week, legislators joined Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder to honor veterans who have continued their service to this country after their military careers ended. The Veterans Service Awards are presented each year to individuals who have served in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and now work to better their communities through volunteerism. As Lt. Gov. Kinder said, “The same strong sense of duty and patriotism veterans showed in their service to their nation, invariably they now show to their communities after they returned home. This is a small way our state can say, ‘Thank you’ to our veterans and honor the sacrifices they continue to make for their communities and their state.

Capitol Visits

This week I was excited to be with Melody Slusher as she received the Veterans Service Award from Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. I nominated Melody, also an Army vet, after learning about all she is doing for our service men and women after they return home. If you see Melody out and about, please congratulate her for all of her hard work on behalf of our veterans.

I was also honored to meet and talk with Ms. Grace Hinson’s fourth grade class from Steelville Elementary. The students had some great questions for me about the history of our beautiful Capitol.

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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