Capitol Report | April 7th, 2016

Funding, Uber & Lyft, & Fantasy Sports

As the governor released $2.1 million in funds he had withheld from the current state operating budget, House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan expressed his thanks but also cautioned that the legislature will continue to monitor other opportunities to override the governor’s withholdings.

The Missouri House had voted in bipartisan fashion on Wednesday, March 16 to override the governor’s withholds of $575,000 for the Missouri Scholars Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, and $350,000 for the Brain Injury Waiver Fund. While the Senate has yet to complete the overrides, Flanigan said it’s clear that the constitutional authority given to the General Assembly by voters was instrumental in forcing the governor’s hand.

The governor also released $250,000 in funding for the foster kids health home, $400,000 for asthma services, $300,000 for naturally occurring retirement communities, and $250,000 for the Sullivan County Lake project. Even with the money he released, the governor continues to withhold more than $44 million in funds appropriated by the legislature for the current state operating budget.

The legislature gained the constitutional authority to override withholdings made by the governor when Missourians overwhelming approved Amendment 10 in 2014. 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.

Also, House members voted in favor of legislation that would create statewide standards and regulations for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft. Currently in Missouri, Uber is the lone transportation network company providing services and only in Columbia, Kansas City, and St. Louis.

In addition, the Missouri House gave approval this week to legislation that would require daily fantasy sports sites to register to do business in Missouri, but would exempt them from the state’s gambling laws.

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

 

Legislative Pressure Prompts Governor Nixon to Release Withheld Funding

As the governor released $2.1 million in funds he had withheld from the current state operating budget, House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan expressed his thanks but also cautioned that the legislature will continue to monitor other opportunities to override the governor’s withholdings.

The Missouri House had voted in bipartisan fashion on Wednesday, March 16 to override the governor’s withholds of $575,000 for the Missouri Scholars Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, and $350,000 for the Brain Injury Waiver Fund. While the Senate has yet to complete the overrides, Flanigan said it’s clear that the constitutional authority given to the General Assembly by voters was instrumental in forcing the governor’s hand.

“I’m happy to see the governor release funds to these deserving programs, but also extremely thankful that the voters made the wise decision to give the legislature the authority to intervene in times when his withholds are not justified. This is an important check and balance that Missourians saw fit to give us, and it’s a power we will continue to exercise when the governor oversteps his authority by unnecessarily restricting funding for worthy programs,” said Flanigan.

The governor also released $250,000 in funding for the foster kids health home, $400,000 for asthma services, $300,000 for naturally occurring retirement communities, and $250,000 for the Sullivan County Lake project. Even with the money he released, the governor continues to withhold more than $44 million in funds appropriated by the legislature for the current state operating budget.

The legislature gained the constitutional authority to override withholdings made by the governor when Missourians overwhelming approved Amendment 10 in 2014. 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.

Promoting Ethanol Production in Missouri (HB 1413)

The House advanced legislation this week that would extend the state’s ethanol producer incentive fund. The incentive, which is meant to promote increased ethanol production and use in Missouri expired on Dec. 31 of last year. The bill approved by the House would renew the incentive and extend it until Dec. 31 of 2020.

Supporters of the legislation point to the positive impact that ethanol production has on the agriculture industry and the state’s economy. The state has six majority farmer-owned ethanol plants in operation in Missouri and each year the plants use slightly more than 30 percent of the state’s corn crop to produce approximately 300 million gallons of ethanol and 825,000 tons of distillers grains. Supporters note that ethanol is 100 percent renewable and plays an important role in reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

Opponents of the bill say the incentives for ethanol amount to corporate welfare and would be better utilized to support the state’s system of education or transportation infrastructure. They also said the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers and should instead allow the free market to decide if ethanol is a viable fuel alternative.

The legislation is now under consideration in the Senate.
Missouri House Approves Regulations for Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft (HB 2330)

House members voted in favor of legislation that would create statewide standards and regulations for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft. Currently in Missouri, Uber is the lone transportation network company providing services and only in Columbia, Kansas City, and St. Louis.

Proponents of the legislation say statewide standards would help to expand ride-sharing services in Missouri. They also say it would create jobs as other companies move in and begin hiring drivers. Opponents of the bill argued that regulations should be adopted by individual municipalities rather than by the state. They also said that jobs created by these companies would take jobs away from traditional taxi services.

The bill approved by the House would require any transportation network company to apply for an annual permit with the Department of Revenue with an annual fee of $5,000. The legislation also would require the companies to maintain primary automobile insurance coverage on all vehicles. Additionally, it would require companies to conduct local and national criminal background checks on their drivers, and prohibit drivers who use drugs or alcohol while driving, or who are convicted sex offenders or guilty of other serious felony offenses.

The bill would promote cost transparency by requiring companies to disclose their fare calculation method, and to provide an estimated fare. The legislation also prohibits cities and municipalities from enacting additional licensing requirements for these companies.

House Approves Regulations for Fantasy Sports such as FanDuel and DraftKings (HB 1941)

The Missouri House gave approval this week to legislation that would require daily fantasy sports sites to register to do business in Missouri, but would exempt them from the state’s gambling laws.

The legislation would require fantasy sports sites like FanDuel and DraftKings to register with the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration, and pay an annual $5,000 registration fee. The bill also would require safeguards to prevent individuals who would have an unfair advantage from participating in fantasy contests, such as employees or individuals who participate in, or officiate, the sporting event.

Supporters of the legislation believe daily fantasy sports sites require skill and should not be regulated in the same way gambling is in Missouri. Opponents say daily fantasy sports do involve luck rather than just skill, and that the regulations outlined by the bill are not extensive enough.

Autism Awareness Month

Members of the Missouri House paused this week to acknowledge the thousands of Missouri families who continue to need support as they raise children with autism. April is Autism Awareness Month in Missouri and April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day.

The Missouri General Assembly has consistently supported efforts to provide the necessary resources to families with autistic children. For the Fiscal Year 2017 state operating budget the House approved $5 million to expand the Thompson Center for Autism in Columbia so that the center can accommodate an additional 2,000 visits per year. The House-approved budget also includes $1 million to create an autism clinic at Truman State University in Kirksville, and $500,000 to expand services at the Mercy Kids Autism Center in St. Louis. In 2010, the legislature also approved legislation to require coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, affecting more than three million people. Autism is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the human brain. Autism can result in significant lifelong impairment of an individual’s ability to learn, develop healthy interactive behaviors, and understand verbal as well as nonverbal communication. Early diagnosis and care is vital to allow individuals with autism to lead happy, healthy lives, and to achieve their greatest potential.

Capitol Visits

This week I was lucky enough to have several visitors! I was honored to receive my membership certificate inducting me into the Civil Air Patrol. I also enjoying visiting with St. James EMS Chief Mr. Bryan Lambeth and presenting Bill Cooper with a well-deserved House Resolution.

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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