Missouri House Resumes Following Break
The House is back in session this week after the conclusion of the annual legislative spring break. The first half of session saw historic reforms on topics ranging from labor agreements to transportation network companies. In the second half of session, we will see additional reforms to help attract businesses and create jobs.
This week the House GOP finalized the budget. The two biggest accomplishments this year were fully funding the K-12 education foundation formula for the first time in Missouri history and maintaining social services funding despite a budget shortfall. Many tough decisions were made during the budget process to ensure we found the best solution for all Missourians. Another notable feature of the budget is the creation of the Missouri Senior Services Protection Fund. This is a fund dedicated to providing healthcare services to our state’s most vulnerable senior citizens. The House was also able to restore $21 million in cuts to higher education, ensuring we keep college affordable for students.
After much debate, the House passed Real ID. Passing HB 151 brings Missouri into compliance with the Federal Real ID standard that was created in 2005. The bill provides for the option to obtain a Real ID or keep or renew the standard Missouri driver’s license.
Another piece of reform the House passed is PDMP, otherwise known as the prescription drug monitoring program. This creates a statewide database that allows doctors to see what their patients are currently being prescribed.
The House also passed HB 174, reinforcing 1st Amendment rights for all Missourians. This bill protects our rights by allowing organizations that offer alternatives to abortions to operate without undue government influence. It’s vital we protect everyone’s right to free speech, regardless of their views. Free speech is vital to ensuring the future of our country and is vital if we want to continue to have open debate on issues.
Also, the House took time this week to honor some of the state’s greatest heroes for their service. In observance of the annual Vietnam Veterans Day today, lawmakers welcomed veterans who served in the Vietnam War to the House Chamber to recognize them for their courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty and country. I was honored to present Dr. Richard Elgin of St. James and Mr. Keith Swallow (and wife Julie) of Rolla each with a House Resolution recognizing their great service to our country. Dr. Elgin was a Warrant Officer U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam from 1969-1970 and Mr. Swallow was a Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy.
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.
House Advances Legislation to Allow Missourians to Obtain REAL ID-Compliant Photo Identification (HB 151)
Legislation that would give Missourians the option to obtain photo identification that complies with the federal REAL ID Act is now on its way to the Senate. The bill approved by the House this week would require the state revenue department to issue Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards to those who want them.
Passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005, The REAL ID Act was designed to enhance security procedures by establishing new minimum standards for driver’s licenses. Missouri responded to the requirements by passing a state law in 2009 to protect the private information of Missouri citizens by prohibiting the Missouri Department of Revenue from complying with the federal act. Because the state has not complied with the requirements, Missouri licenses are no longer a valid form of identification at federal facilities and military bases, and will no longer be valid at airports as proof of identity for domestic flights beginning in 2018.
For Missourians who do not want to comply with the REAL ID requirements because of privacy concerns, the legislation would allow them to request the existing style of Missouri identification that is not compliant with the federal act. For those who want or need the federally compliant driver’s license, the bill would establish safeguards so that any additional data gathered is used only for purposes of issuing the identification.
In essence, the bill is designed to provide a solution that will ensure Missourians aren’t burdened with having to get alternative identifications to access federal facilities or to visit family members on military bases. The bill is about giving Missourians the option to decide whether to obtain identification that is compliant with REAL ID.
House Moves to Protect Alternatives to Abortion Agencies (HB 174)
The Missouri House has approved legislation meant to protect the rights of alternatives to abortion agencies to provide their services without government interference. The bill is a response to a St. Louis ordinance that was passed to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s reproductive decisions or pregnancy. The ordinance could prevent agencies and the individuals who work there from providing their resources and counseling to expectant mothers.
The bill approved this week would acknowledge the rights of alternatives to abortion agencies, including crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes, to freely assemble and engage in religious practices or speech without government interference. The bill would prohibit local municipalities from enacting ordinances that restrict the rights of these agencies.
The bill will protect the free speech rights of agencies, and prohibit political subdivisions from creating rules to prevent pregnancy centers and maternity homes from providing resources to expectant mothers.
Missouri’s Alternatives to Abortion Program was created to assist women in carrying their unborn child to term instead of having an abortion, and to assist them in caring for their child or placing their child for adoption. Services are available during pregnancy and for one year following birth.
House Gives First-Round Approval to Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (HBs 90 & 68)
The Missouri House has given initial approval to a proposed tracking system for prescription drugs that supporters hope will fight opioid abuse in Missouri. The bill aims to help stop the practice of “doctor shopping,” which involves offenders going from doctor to doctor in order to obtain multiple prescriptions for valuable and addictive medications.
The Narcotics Control Act would allow Missouri to join other states that already have a prescription drug monitoring system in place. The bill would require the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to establish and maintain a program to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of all Schedule II through Schedule IV controlled substances. The bill would require information on these drugs being prescribed and dispensed to be reported within 24 hours. By the year 2020 the information would be updated in real time.
Supporters note that prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the United States, and that a monitoring program would allow prescribers a way to find and address abuses. They note that because Missouri is the only state without such a program in place, border states see citizens cross into Missouri to “doctor shop” for prescription drugs. Supporters say 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 say it does not matter that Missouri is the only state without a monitoring program. They point out that Missouri is not the nation’s leader in prescription drug abuse, but is instead in the middle of the pack, which they say is proof that prescription drug monitoring programs don’t have a huge impact in preventing abuse. Other opponents express concerns with the potential for the database with private patient information to be hacked and accessed and the lack of real-time monitoring, which allows for the potential of same-day doctor shopping. There was, however, an amendment added to the bill which would require real-time monitoring by 2020. The bill requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
Ethics Reform Bill Receives House Approval (HB 229)
The Missouri House has approved another ethics reform proposal – this one aimed at the influence lobbyists have on local elected officials. The legislation would bar gifts from lobbyists to local government officials, superintendents, school board members, members of charter school boards, and the staff and family members of such people.
The proposal would extend to local elected officials the same ethical reforms the House has proposed for members of the legislature and statewide elected officials. The House approved the gift ban for state elected officials and sent it to the Senate in January. The bill also clears up the definition of local government lobbyists, which the sponsor said is somewhat murky right now. “Not everyone who gives gifts to local government officials right now is required to register as a local government lobbyist, so this requires them to do that,” said the sponsor.
The bill originally extended its prohibitions only to governments and school districts with annual operating budgets of more than $10 million. House members amended the bill to remove the cap.
House Approves Legislation to Better Prepare Missourians for the Workforce and Self-Sufficiency (HB 680)
The members of the Missouri House hope to give the approximately 500,000 Missourians without a high school diploma a second chance to obtain an education that will allow them to secure good-paying, family-supporting jobs. To accomplish this goal, legislation approved this week would establish four adult high schools in Missouri.
The legislation is modeled after a program in Indiana that was put in place to address the needs of adults without high school diplomas, and employers seeking a qualified workforce. The program has seen tremendous success as it has grown from four schools to 11. After the 2014 school year, 88 percent of students were employed or in college six months after graduation. Supporters hope to see a similar level of success in Missouri.
Supporters note that a high school diploma is a key component to giving Missourians an opportunity to obtain gainful employment. They point to Census Bureau statistics that indicate a high school diploma can increase a person’s lifetime earnings by as much as $400,000. Proponents say a high school diploma is critical to empower people to move off of government assistance and toward self-sufficiency.
The bill would establish four adult high schools located in Southeast Missouri, St. Louis City, Mid-Missouri, and Southwest Missouri for individuals age 21 and up who do not have a high school diploma. It would give priority to Missourians who are currently on government assistance. The schools would help these individuals complete their high school education and obtain a diploma. They would also offer skills certifications based on regional demand through partnerships with community colleges and other programs. Additionally, they would offer a child care center to remove a significant barrier for many adults who would like to participate.
House Passes Legislation to Create Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (HB 327)
Members of the Missouri House took action this week to help low-income seniors afford fresh produce from farmers’ markets in the state. The House approved legislation to establish the Missouri Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program within the state Department of Health and Senior Services.
The department would utilize a federal grant from the USDA Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) to provide low-income seniors at least 60 years of age or older with vouchers from county designated distribution sites that may be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agricultural programs. The national program was established in 2001 as a USDA pilot program designed to improve low income seniors’ diets. While Missouri has not participated in the program previously, in Fiscal Year 2015 SFMNP assisted more than 817,000 seniors across the country.
Proponents say that many seniors live on a fixed income and cannot afford fresh fruits and vegetables. According to the Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Aging, 25 percent of older Americans have poor nutrition. The bill would help seniors afford fresh, nutritious produce from farmers’ markets across the state.
Prevailing Wage Bill Heads to Senate (HB 104)
Members of the Missouri House approved legislation this week meant to make public construction projects more affordable for taxpayers. The bill would repeal Missouri’s prevailing wage law to help reduce the cost of construction and maintenance projects for municipalities and school districts.
Missouri law currently requires contractors and subcontractors working on public works projects to pay employees the prevailing wage for the particular locality in which the project is being completed. While the state’s minimum wage is $7.70 per hour, prevailing wage requires significantly higher wages. For example, the prevailing wage in Boone County for carpenters working on public works projects is approximately $25 per hour. In St. Louis and Kansas City, the prevailing wage is approximately $37 an hour.
The bill approved by the House would change Missouri law to require contractors and subcontractors to pay employees state or federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. Contractors and subcontractors would be permitted to pay higher than the minimum wage, but that would not be a requirement.
Eliminating the prevailing wage would help lower the high costs of many public works projects. Currently, many communities and school districts are either forced to pay too much for needed construction or maintenance, or to forego the projects entirely. Removing the prevailing wage requirement will allow the state to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars.
If both chambers approve the bill and the governor signs it into law, Missouri will join states such as Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana, which have all repealed their prevailing wage laws in recent years. Missouri is currently one of only 29 states that still have a prevailing wage law in place.
Vietnam Veterans Day
Rep. Jason Chipman, Dr. Richard Elgin, Julie Swallow, Keith Swallow, and Speaker Todd Richardson
Also, the House took time this week to honor some of the state’s greatest heroes for their service. In observance of the annual Vietnam Veterans Day today, lawmakers welcomed veterans who served in the Vietnam War to the House Chamber to recognize them for their courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty and country. I was honored to present Dr. Richard Elgin of St. James and Mr. Keith Swallow (and wife Julie) of Rolla each with a House Resolution recognizing their great service to our country. Dr. Elgin was a Warrant Officer U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam from 1969-1970 and Mr. Swallow was a Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. More than 70 veterans started the day by gathering in the House Lounge to receive official House Resolutions presented in honor of their service. House members and the veterans they honored listened to remarks from both the Lt. Governor and the House Speaker before taking time for pictures. During the event, lawmakers were able to offer their sincere thanks to the many veterans in attendance. The event continued on the House floor as the veterans in attendance were again recognized and honored by legislators.
The observance of Vietnam Veterans Day was created by HB 1128, which was approved by the General Assembly and signed into law in 2012. The day recognizes the courage and patriotism of those who served during the Vietnam Conflict. The citizens of the state of Missouri are encouraged to observe the day with appropriate events, activities, and remembrances in honor of the veterans who bravely fought, served, and sacrificed during the Vietnam Conflict and returned home to no parades, ceremonies, or public celebrations to welcome them in gratitude for their courageous service and sacrifices made on behalf of the nation.
State Board of Health Anniversary
I truly enjoyed visiting with Navy veteran Ralph Davis and his wife Midge. Mr. & Mrs. Davis have been married for 68 years! Mr. Davis and his wife were at the Capitol with the St. James Veteran Home helping to celebrate the 134th Anniversary of the State Board of Health sponsored by the Department of Health and Senior Services.
I had a great time visiting with Robert “Bear” Bass from the Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort in Leasburg and the many other resort owners, floaters, and canoe enthusiasts that traveled to the Capitol this week. It is important, especially in our district, to strive to promote and preserve the streams of Missouri.
I was honored to present a certificate to Navy veteran James Leonard (J.L.) Thompson during a ceremony to honor his military service on Saturday, March 18th at the American Legion Post 81 Hall in Bourbon.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org