The Capitol Report | February 23rd, 2017

Legislative Survey, Unemployment Reform, & Virtual Education

Today, my office released a new 2017 legislative survey that may be taken by any 120th District constituent. As your voice in state government, I can be more effective when I know your views on the many issues facing our state. Please take moment to respond to this survey. Since I can talk with only a small portion of you personally, it is one of the best ways for me to learn your stance on potential legislation. You can also contact me by calling, emailing, or stopping by my office. As always, your interests, concerns, and wishes are the reason I am here.

Survey link: http://jasonchipman.polldaddy.com/s/2017-legislative-survey

If you would prefer a paper survey, please contact my office and a copy will be mailed to you.

In other news, the House recently approved legislation meant to keep the state’s system of unemployment financially stable. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Fitzpatrick, would link unemployment benefits to the rate of unemployment, and ensure the state keeps more money in the unemployment trust fund. The legislation is designed to make sure the state has enough money in its unemployment trust fund so that businesses don’t have to pay a penalty. Specifically, it will increase the minimum amount of money in the fund before employers’ contribution rates decrease. The bill also ties unemployment benefits to the average unemployment rate so that more benefits are available when unemployment is high. The Missouri House also approved legislation meant to expand course options and access for K-12 students. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Spencer, would change the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to “The Missouri Course Access Program” (MCAP) and allows any K-12 student to enroll in MCAP courses. The Missouri Virtual Instruction Program was established in 2007 to offer online courses to public, private, and home school students. The program allows students to take advanced courses that are not currently offered by their local school districts.

In order to give students in all parts of the state access to advanced coursework, the legislation would allow students to take online courses that would be paid by the school district or charter school. Students would be eligible if they have attended the school for at least one semester, and if the course is not available in the school district. The bill requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to review the online courses to ensure they meet state standards. The existing MOVIP has seen funding dwindle in recent years, which has limited free tuition to students who are unable to attend traditional schools because of health issues. The legislation that would change the program to MCAP would not rely on a direct appropriation, but would instead redirect a portion of the per-pupil funding provided by the state.

You may read in more detail about what is happening at your State Capitol below.

As always, I will work diligently for you as your State Representative.

-Jason

 

Legislative Survey

Today, my office released a new 2017 legislative survey that may be taken by any 120th District constituent. As your voice in state government, I can be more effective when I know your views on the many issues facing our state. Please take moment to respond to this survey. Since I can talk with only a small portion of you personally, it is one of the best ways for me to learn your stance on potential legislation. You can also contact me by calling, emailing, or stopping by my office. As always, your interests, concerns, and wishes are the reason I am here.

Survey link: http://jasonchipman.polldaddy.com/s/2017-legislative-survey

If you would prefer a paper survey, please contact my office and a copy will be mailed to you.

House Approves Unemployment System Reforms (HB 288)

The Missouri House recently approved legislation meant to keep the state’s system of unemployment financially stable. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Fitzpatrick, would link unemployment benefits to the rate of unemployment, and ensure the state keeps more money in the unemployment trust fund.

The bill is identical to legislation that was put into law in 2015. After being approved by the House and Senate, the bill was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon. The House then took immediate action to override the governor’s veto. The Senate, which was at a standstill in the final days of session because of a filibuster, did not complete the override motion until the annual Veto Session in September. Because of the timing of the veto override motions, the Missouri Supreme Court later struck down the law.

The legislation approved this session by the House is meant to put the law back into effect. It is designed to make sure the state has enough money in its unemployment trust fund so that businesses don’t have to pay a penalty. Specifically, it will increase the minimum amount of money in the fund before employers’ contribution rates decrease. For example, Missouri businesses would see their contribution rates decrease by 12 percent if the fund has a balance greater than $870 million. Supporters note that Missouri is the only state that has been forced to borrow money from the federal government to pay for unemployment benefits during each of the last five economic downturns. As a result, employers have been forced to pay millions of dollars in interest.

The bill also ties unemployment benefits to the average unemployment rate so that more benefits are available when unemployment is high. If the state were in a position of high unemployment (9 percent or higher) benefits would be available for 20 weeks. In periods of low unemployment (lower than 6 percent) benefits would be available for 13 weeks. Supporters say the change is an important step toward ensuring Missouri can afford to help its citizens during times when they are without work.

Opponents say the change will make it even more difficult for unemployed Missourians to obtain the financial support they need to pay their bills and keep food on the table. They say it will make the length of Missouri’s unemployment benefits one of the shortest in the nation.

House Approves Legislation to Stop Illegal Use of Herbicides (HB 662)

The members of the Missouri House also approved legislation, sponsored by Rep. Rone, meant to stop the illegal use of herbicides that have caused widespread damage to crops in the Southeast Missouri.

According to experts from the University of Missouri, many farmers in that region lost an average of 35 percent of their crops when neighboring farmers used an outdated Dicamba product. Wind and temperature changes caused that product to spread onto nearby fields. Because the product was drifting onto fields not planted with seeds resistant to it, those crops were damaged. At least 150 farmers were impacted by the illegal use of the product.

The legislation approved by the House would allow the Department of Agriculture to issue a fine to any individual who knowingly applies a herbicide to a crop for which the herbicide is not labeled for use. The department could issue a fine of up to $1,000 per acre on which a product is spread illegally. The per-acre fine would be doubled for those who repeatedly violate the new law. Under current law, the fine is a flat $1,000, which the sponsor of the bill said is not a strong enough deterrent. The money collected in fines would go to the local school district in which the violation occurred.

The bill would also give the Department of Agriculture additional powers to investigate claims of illegal uses. The department would be able to subpoena witnesses and compel the production of certain records related to the misuse of herbicides. Farmers penalized for illegal use would be liable to the department for its expenses and for personal property affected.

The bill includes an emergency clause, which would make it effective immediately upon being signed by the governor. The sponsor of the legislation told his colleagues, “If we do not raise the fine and the penalty for using illegal products, then we will have the same situation in 2017 that we had in 2016.”

Expanding Virtual School Options for Missouri Students (HB 138)

The Missouri House has approved legislation meant to expand course options and access for K-12 students. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Spencer, would change the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to “The Missouri Course Access Program” (MCAP) and allows any K-12 student to enroll in MCAP courses.

The Missouri Virtual Instruction Program was established in 2007 to offer online courses to public, private, and home school students. The program allows students to take advanced courses that are not currently offered by their local school districts. As the sponsor of the legislation pointed out, there are 255 school districts in Missouri that have no students in calculus; 213 that have no students in physics, 105 that have none in chemistry; and there are 110 school districts that have ended their gifted programs.

In order to give students in all parts of the state access to advanced coursework, the legislation would allow students to take online courses that would be paid by the school district or charter school. Students would be eligible if they have attended the school for at least one semester, and if the course is not available in the school district. The bill requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to review the online courses to ensure they meet state standards.

The existing MOVIP has seen funding dwindle in recent years, which has limited free tuition to students who are unable to attend traditional schools because of health issues. The legislation that would change the program to MCAP would not rely on a direct appropriation, but would instead redirect a portion of the per-pupil funding provided by the state.

As the sponsor of the bill told his colleagues on the House floor, “Course access opens up possibilities for school districts. Course access makes education fair, equitable, and accessible.”

Missouri House Approves Perinatal Care Legislation (HB 58)

Members of the Missouri House gave bipartisan support this week to legislation meant to help reduce the incidence of preterm births and infant mortality in Missouri. The House approved legislation that would require the Department of Health and Senior Services to establish levels of neonatal and maternal care available at each birthing center in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Haefner, is meant to provide a referral system that would ensure high risk and other at-risk newborns receive consultation and access to risk-appropriate care. In effect, it would ensure moms and babies receive the right care at the right place. Supporters note that approximately 25 percent of at-risk newborns in Missouri are born at a facility that is not equipped to meet their needs. They say enacting the legislation will allow complex care to be delivered in a more timely fashion to babies and mothers in need.

The House approved similar legislation during the 2016 legislative session, but the Senate failed to send the bill to the governor’s desk before time ran out.

Capitol Visitalzheimers-association-day-photo

This week I had a great visit with Terri Gibson, Mary Williams, Sara Cook, Laura Sternberg, and baby Charles with the Alzheimer’s Association. Several members of the General Assembly wore purple in support of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.

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 415-B, Jefferson City, MO 65101. If you wish to unsubscribe from this report, please email Dylan Bryant at dylan.bryant@house.mo.gov

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