Capitol Report | March 17th, 2016

2017 Missouri State Budget

Today, the House of Representatives finished passing our version of the FY2017 budget. It will now move to the Senate for their consideration. Other than HB2001, which is the bill that appropriates funds to pay the public debt, I voted “NO” on all of the budget bills. I was questioned by many of my colleagues as to the purpose of my votes. How could I vote against the items contained within the bills? There were many important provisions within these bills, such as defunding Planned Parenthood and holding the University of Missouri administration accountable for their actions. While I am completely onboard with these provisions, my objection and ultimately my “NO” vote was in protest of the way Missouri handles taxpayer dollars.

Last year, the budget process was changed to make it faster so that, if the Governor vetoed any line items, the Legislature could choose to attempt an override before adjourning in May. This is important to the departments who may have had their budget vetoed because it will give them some clarity when their budget goes into effect July 1, rather than having to wait until September for the normal override session. I agree with this change, because it is good policy to have the government know what it has to work with.

What I don’t agree with is there is little, if any, transparency and accountability with how these departments spend your money. We, as a legislature, have many responsibilities while in session and, because we are only part time, have little time to dive into what the departments are doing. There is also little incentive by these agencies to actually save the taxpayers any money. I filed a bill before session, HB1687, which would have given financial rewards to state workers to become more efficient. I later found out that this method wasn’t possible, but I intend to continue to find a way.

The only Constitutional duty the Legislature has is to pass a budget. We are also constitutionally obligated to maintain a balanced budget, which is not completely true because we are allowed to go into debt by issuing bonds for certain things. We do not have a tax-and-spend leadership. We are not Washington D.C. My only question before casting my votes was how we can say we are in favor of accountability and getting rid of waste, fraud, and abuse when we continue to spend money the same way we always have. I have been assured by our Leadership that substantial changes are being considered, but like anything else, it is a process and it takes time. This is Missouri, Show-Me.

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

 

Missouri House Enters Annual Spring Break with Impressive List of Legislative Accomplishments

The members of the Missouri House of Representatives finished up the first half of the legislative session with a substantive list of legislative accomplishments. As the House takes a week off to prepare for the final push to the end of session in May, it does so with one legislative priority already on the governor’s desk, and many more out of the House and now under consideration in the Senate.

  • Ethics Reform – House leadership began the session with a commitment to passing substantive ethics reform into law during the 2016 session. In the first weeks of session, the House sent several bills to the Senate that are designed to improve the culture at the State Capitol.
    • HB 1452 would require elected officials to file a personal financial disclosure twice each year. Current law requires only a single disclosure each year.
    • HB 1575 would require elected officials to report lodging and travel expenses in a timely fashion. The bill requires the expenses to be filed within 30 days of the reportable event.
    • HB 1979 would require elected officials to have a one-year “cooling off” period after leaving office before they could become lobbyists. The sponsor of the bill called it an effort to “remove the distractions, remove the barriers to good governance.”
    • HB 1983 would make it clear that no statewide official or member of the General Assembly can serve as a paid political consultant while in office. The bill’s sponsor called the measure a necessary conflict of interest provision to prevent public offices from being used to gain personal wealth.
    • HB 2166 would ban gifts and meals provided by lobbyists to elected officials. Under current law, no limit exists on the amount of gifts a lobbyist can provide to a legislator or other state elected official.
    • HB 2203 would limit how long campaign funds can be invested and how they can be used.
    • HB 2226 would prohibit task force and commission appointees from profiting from the recommendations they make.
  • “Paycheck Protection” – The House and Senate approved and sent HB 1891, which is commonly referred to as Paycheck Protection, 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.
  • Ensuring Welfare Recipients are Properly Verified – House members also approved and sent to the Senate HB 1795, which would allow the state to more efficiently and proficiently verify applicants and recipients of welfare services by contracting with outside vendors.
  • Voter Identification – HB 1631 and HJR 53 would require voters to show a photo ID at the polling place, which proponents believe would help prevent voter fraud. One piece of legislation is a constitutional amendment that would allow Missourians to decide whether voters should have to show a form of photo identification in order to vote. The second bill would put a voter ID system in place in the event voters approve the change to the state constitution.
  • Stopping the Tax Increase on Agricultural Land – The House and Senate moved quickly to pass HCR 58 to reject a proposed tax increase on Missouri’s agricultural land.
  • Big Government Get Off My Back Act – The House approved and sent to the Senate HB 1870 to revive the Big Government Get Off My Back Act in order to cut the bureaucratic red tape that too often stifles the growth of small businesses in Missouri.
  • Increasing Access to Lifesaving Medications – The House sent the Senate HB 1366 & 1878, which is designed to give Missourians better, more affordable access to interchangeable biological products that are similar in nature to the generic versions of traditional medications.
  • Continuing the Fight against Human Traffickers – The Senate is now considering HB 1562, which was approved by the House to help stop the multi-billion dollar criminal industry of human trafficking by expanding the crime of sexual trafficking of a child to include the advertisement of a child participating in a commercial sexual act.
  • Securing Funding for a New Veterans Home – The House approved HJR 54 to allow voters to decide if the state should issue bonds to provide funding for a new veterans home. The proposed constitutional amendment would generate $50 million in funds through bond sales.
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring – The House approved HB 1892 and sent the bill to the Senate with the goal of enacting 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.

House Makes History by Exercising Constitutional Authority to Override Governor’s Budget Restrictions

For the first time in state history, the Missouri House has successfully moved to override budget withholdings made by the governor. Voters approved Amendment 10 to the state constitution in 2014, which gives the legislature the authority to ensure programs receive funds that were appropriated by the General Assembly but then restricted by the governor. The legislature’s authority works in a similar fashion to its ability to override a gubernatorial veto and requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. The House received bipartisan support with more than 120 votes for each of the motions approved this week.

The governor, who has the authority to restrict spending if revenues are insufficient to fund the budget, continues to withhold more than $46 million in funds from the state operating budget for the current fiscal year. However, House leaders claim the state’s revenue situation is healthy and that the governor has no reason to withhold funds to balance the budget. The vice chair of the House Budget Committee told his colleagues on the House floor that, due to a reduction in the supplemental budget of more than a million dollars, the funds are available to pay for the appropriation withhold overrides.

As a result, the House exercised its constitutional authority to force the governor to release $575,000 in withheld funds for the Missouri Scholars Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy. The Missouri Scholars Academy is an academic program for Missouri’s most gifted high school students, and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy is a program for highly motivated student artists in visual arts, theatre, dance, creative writing, and music. The state has traditionally provided funding for the academies, but the governor has both vetoed and withheld funds from the programs in recent years. The funds the House voted to release would allow students to attend the programs without having to pay an additional charge.

The House also voted to release $350,000 to the Brain Injury Waiver Fund that is used to help provide care to Missourians with brain injuries, who are currently on a waiting list. The waiver model includes early intervention and treatment options to provide critical services while reducing long-term costs. The program is meant to provide access to rehabilitation that allows people to successfully regain daily life skills and vocational potential.

Both motions now move to the Senate for consideration. If they receive two-thirds votes there, the governor will then be forced to release the funds.

House Approves Supplemental Budget (HB 2014)

The members of the Missouri House approved legislation to provide approximately $489 million in supplemental funds for the $26 billion Fiscal Year 2016 state operating budget. Before the bill came to the floor, members of the Budget Committee had shaved off more than $7 million in spending from the governor’s original $496.5 million request during the committee process.

The final version of the bill includes more than $267 million in additional spending for the state’s Medicaid program. Some House members have pointed to the additional dollars as another example of the out-of-control growth of the program. Even before the supplemental spending, the Medicaid program takes up approximately 36 percent of the entire state operating budget. Some lawmakers have said that Medicaid growth is jeopardizing spending priorities in other areas of the state budget.

Other major items in the supplemental budget include an additional $19.5 million for Early Childhood Special Education, $5.26 million for Prop. C sales tax distribution to school districts, and $5.5 million for a drug assistance program.

The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Creating Stricter Requirements for a Minor to Obtain an Abortion (HB 1370)

The members of the Missouri House sent legislation to the Senate this week that would create stricter requirements for a minor to obtain an abortion in Missouri. Under current law, a minor must obtain the written consent of a parent or guardian in order to have an abortion. The legislation approved by the House would add the requirement that the consenting parent or guardian first notify in writing any other custodial parent or guardian.

The sponsor of the bill said his intent is to encourage families to have discussions before an abortion. As he told his colleagues on the House floor, his goal with the bill is not to stop anything, but instead to start a conversation among family members.

The legislation approved by the House does waive the consent requirement in an emergency situation. The bill also clarifies that a parent or guardian is not required to receive notice if he or she has been found guilty of certain offenses, is listed on the state’s Child Abuse or Neglect Central Registry, Sexual Offender Registry, has an order of protection against him or her, had their rights terminated, cannot be located, or is incapacitated.

Requiring High School Students to Learn Lifesaving First Aid (HB 1643)

As the House headed into its annual Spring Break, members also took time to approve legislation that would require high school students to obtain lifesaving first aid training. Under the bill, students would not be able to graduate until they receive 30 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation instruction and training in the proper performance of the Heimlich maneuver or other first aid for choking. If signed into law, the requirement would begin for health and physical education classes in the 2017-2018 school year.

Supporters of the bill said CPR practice will help to save lives and also said parents will have greater peace of mind knowing their child’s peers are trained to deal with an emergency situation. They also pointed out that the American Heart Association is available and waiting to provide funding and training kits to schools.

House Approves Meet in Missouri Act to Attract More Conventions (HB 1698)

Missouri already sees a significant economic boost from millions of convention attendees each year, and now the members of the Missouri House want to give cities a new tool to help attract even more conventions to the state. This week House members approved the Meet in Missouri Act to provide grants that would help large conventions that take place in Missouri to recover some of their costs.

Specifically, the act would authorize grants that would cover up to half the operating expenses of a large convention. To be eligible, a convention would have to draw at least half of its attendees from out of state. The grants would then be tied to the number of hotel rooms filled by attendees. The program would have $3 million each year to award in the form of grants. The bill also includes safeguards to ensure the convention meets its attendance goals. If it falls short, it would have to refund a portion of the grant money.

Supporters of the bill pointed out that Missouri already hosts more than 22.3 million visitors annually, which has a significant positive impact on the state’s economy. They noted that the convention industry is very competitive, and a new grant program would allow Missouri to more effectively compete with other states for conventions.

2016leadershipphelpscountyCapitol Visit
This week I was honored to visit again this year with Leadership Phelps County. Members included: Tracy Limmer, Armando Florentino, Bethany Sbabo, Trishia Emrick, Amanda Vogt, Nicole Smith, Robin Rosenburg, Annette Wells, and Rebecca Bolen.

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