The Capitol Report | April 27th, 2017

Budget Update, Ridesharing, & Savings Program

With just one week left before the state operating budget must be approved by both chambers, the House and Senate have sent several of the appropriations bills to conference committees where lead negotiators from both sides will work together to reach a compromise on the final spending plan. One item that will not require compromise is a $48 million funding increase for the School Foundation Formula. The House approved the increase to fully fund the formula for the first time since it was created, but the Senate then removed the increase during the committee process. The House and Senate were expected to iron out the difference in conference, but an amendment approved on the Senate floor took the House position to provide full funding. Now public schools are set to see a significant increase in funding next fiscal year.

The Senate made several other changes to the House version of the $27.7 billion budget that will now require negotiation. Budget leaders will need to reconcile differences in funding for in-home care and nursing home services for Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. They will also look to reach a compromise on funding for higher education, spending to increase broadband internet access in rural schools, payments to the biodiesel producer incentive fund, and whether state dollars should be used for DUI checkpoints, among other things. Lawmakers have until May 5 to get the budget across the legislative finish line.

Also, legislation approved by the House and Senate to allow rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to operate throughout Missouri has been signed into law. Governor Eric Greitens signed the bill this week and it officially takes effect on August 28 of this year. House Bill 130 will establish criteria for fare charges and customer receipts. It will also require local and national criminal background checks for drivers; inspections for vehicles; and an annual registration fee of $5,000. Additionally, the bill will exempt transportation network companies from local or municipal taxes. The bill will also allow the companies to expand beyond municipalities that have passed their own ordinances governing ridesharing. With the signing of the bill, Missouri joins 39 other states that already have statewide regulatory frameworks for ridesharing companies.

Missourians living with disabilities will be better able to afford expenses related to their care thanks to a new savings program launched in Missouri this week. State Treasurer Eric Schmitt announced the creation of the MO ABLE program to allow Missourians with disabilities to save and invest through tax-free savings accounts without losing eligibility for federal programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. Under the program, Missourians who contribute to ABLE accounts will be eligible for a tax deduction of up to $8,000, or $16,000 if married and filing jointly. Earnings in ABLE accounts are not subject to federal or state income tax, as long as funds are spent on qualified disability expenses. Powered by the multistate STABLE partnership, MO ABLE features the lowest cost and highest quality plans in the nation. The program’s tax-free savings accounts allow families to set aside money to use on qualified expenses such as education, health care, housing, transportation, and more. Eligible individuals can learn more and sign up for an account at http://www.moable.com. An initial contribution of at least $50 is required in order to set up an account.

Reminder: 120th District Survey: 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.

If you would prefer a paper survey, please contact my office and a copy will be mailed to you. http://jasonchipman.polldaddy.com/s/2017-legislative-survey

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

 

House and Senate Head to Conference on State Spending Plan

With just one week left before the state operating budget must be approved by both chambers, the House and Senate have sent several of the appropriations bills to conference committees where lead negotiators from both sides will work together to reach a compromise on the final spending plan.

One item that will not require compromise is a $48 million funding increase for the School Foundation Formula. The House approved the increase to fully fund the formula for the first time since it was created, but the Senate then removed the increase during the committee process. The House and Senate were expected to iron out the difference in conference, but an amendment approved on the Senate floor took the House position to provide full funding. Now public schools are set to see a significant increase in funding next fiscal year.

The Senate made several other changes to the House version of the $27.7 billion budget that will now require negotiation. Budget leaders will need to reconcile differences in funding for in-home care and nursing home services for Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. They will also look to reach a compromise on funding for higher education, spending to increase broadband internet access in rural schools, payments to the biodiesel producer incentive fund, and whether state dollars should be used for DUI checkpoints, among other things. Lawmakers have until May 5 to get the budget across the legislative finish line.

Rideshare Bill Signed into Law (HB 130)

Legislation approved by the House and Senate to allow rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to operate throughout Missouri has been signed into law. Governor Eric Greitens signed the bill this week and it officially takes effect on August 28 of this year.

House Bill 130 will establish criteria for fare charges and customer receipts. It will also require local and national criminal background checks for drivers; inspections for vehicles; and an annual registration fee of $5,000. Additionally, the bill will exempt transportation network companies from local or municipal taxes.

The signing of the bill comes in the same week that Lyft announced its services are now available in St. Louis, St. Charles, and Columbia. The company previously operated only in Springfield. Uber currently operates in Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, and Springfield. The bill approved by the legislature will allow the companies to expand beyond municipalities that have passed their own ordinances governing ridesharing. With the signing of the bill, Missouri joins 39 other states that already have statewide regulatory frameworks for ridesharing companies.

Legislation to Ensure Fairness in Public Construction Set to Become Law (SB 182)

Legislation is now on its way to the governor that is meant to put an end to project labor agreements (PLAs) and ensure a fair and competitive bidding process for public works projects in Missouri. In effect, the bill would ban PLAs, which ensure public works contracts are almost exclusively awarded to union contractors or contractors who agree to labor union demands.

Project labor agreements require that public construction projects such as building schools or libraries be performed only by union contractors, or by contractors who agree to labor union standards. The current system allows non-union contractors to bid on a project, but in effect makes them become a union shop for the public project. The legislation approved by the General Assembly will remove a 50 percent state funding threshold for political subdivisions and labor agreements, and prohibit bidders from entering into these types of agreements.

Supporters of the bill say it is important to make the bidding process for taxpayer-funded projects competitive and fair so that Missourians will get a better return on their tax dollars. They point out that PLAs raise the cost of construction on average by 18 percent. Supporters also note that 86 percent of the workforce is non-union, and PLAs are discriminatory against private, non-union firms that want to bid on public projects.

Opponents of the legislation say that PLAs are a worthwhile tool for political subdivisions to receive higher quality and more efficient work for the public dollars spent. If signed into law by the governor, Missouri will join 23 other states that have already enacted laws to limit or prohibit PLAs.

House Approves Pro-Life Measure (HB 194)

Members of the Missouri House came together in bipartisan fashion this week to approve a strong piece of pro-life legislation that would hold abortion providers accountable for their actions and ensure they are not selling fetal tissues. The bill that now heads to the Senate would implement stricter requirements for the tracking of fetal tissue after abortions; require additional parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion; and require annual random inspections of abortion providers.

The bill specifically prohibits an individual from knowingly donating the fetal organs or tissue resulting from an abortion to any person or entity for medical, scientific, experimental, therapeutic, or any other use. It would also establish a tracking system for fetal remains. Specifically, it requires all tissue removed from an abortion to be sent to a pathologist. Currently, only a representative sample of tissue removed at the time of abortion must be sent to a pathologist. Each fetal tissue specimen must be given a unique identification number to allow the specimen to be tracked from the abortion facility or hospital where the abortion was performed to the pathology lab and its final disposition location.

The bill stems from the recommendations made by two House committees that met during the 2015 interim to investigate allegations that Planned Parenthood sold the tissues and organs from aborted fetuses. It was in 2015 that an anti-abortion group released video of a Planned Parenthood executive discussing how the organization disposes of the tissues and organs from aborted fetuses. Pro-life activists say the video proved that Planned Parenthood sold the tissues for profit, which is illegal.

The bill approved by the House would also require an adult consenting to a minor’s abortion to notify the other parent in writing of the decision. Under the bill, the first parent would not have to notify the other in some circumstances, including if the second parent had been convicted of sexual offenses. In addition, the bill would require the Department of Health and Senior Services to conduct annual, unannounced, on-site inspections and investigations of abortion facilities. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Approves Fair Fare Passenger Safety Act of 2017 (HB 293)

Members of the Missouri House approved legislation this week meant to improve the level of safety for Missourians utilizing Uber, Lyft, or a taxi for transportation. The legislation would prohibit drivers who are transporting passengers for a fee from utilizing a handheld wireless communication device to take part in a telephone call, or to text message.

Supporters of the legislation say it is designed to reduce the amount of distracted driving that takes place. They say some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens use services like Uber, Lyft, or a taxi to get around. They say the bill will improve their level of safety by ensuring drivers are not distracted when they drive. Supporters also point out that drivers would still be able to use hands-free technology, and that there would be no violation if the driver has no passengers in the vehicle.

Under the bill, a violation would be deemed an infraction and a moving violation that is assessed points. The legislation is now under consideration in the Senate.

Legislation Set to Be Signed into Law to Provide Funding for Cemetery Maintenance (HB 51)

Legislation is now headed to the governor’s desk that will help the many cemeteries across the state that are falling into disrepair because of a lack of funding for maintenance. The legislation given final approval by the House will address the problem by allowing for more investment options with the goal of making more funds available for upkeep.

Currently, county-controlled cemetery trust funds are only allowed to keep funds in low interest certificates of deposit or bonds. According to state mandates, the principal on these funds cannot be touched. Only the interest on the funds can be used to fund maintenance costs. Because of extremely low interest rates, many county commissions are in a critical situation with minimal funds available to pay for maintenance.

The bill that is now set to become law will allow local control of the cemetery trust funds and give the county commissions the choice to continue to keep the funds in low interest CDs, or to invest a portion of the funds into higher yielding investment vehicles using the expertise of investment managers.

Supporters of the bill note that many cemetery trust funds hold hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the few investment vehicles currently authorized do not generate enough revenue to pay for maintenance. HB 51 will provide county commissions with more investment options.

Legislative Leaders Move to Help Secretary of State Protect Victims of Abuse

A bipartisan group of lawmakers joined the Missouri Secretary of State this week to support a change that would strengthen a program designed to protect victims of abuse. House members said they are ready and willing to add language to an existing bill to ensure confidential addresses in the “Safe at Home” program remain private.

The change to the “Safe at Home” address confidentiality program is necessary because of a decision by a St. Louis County Circuit Court. In an alleged case of spousal abuse, a circuit court judge ordered the wife to provide her protected address to the attorney of her husband. Both the Secretary of State and the Attorney General have attempted to intervene to protect the victim’s address, but their efforts have been denied by the court.

Now, lawmakers will look for a legislative solution to strengthen the program that was created in 2007 to protect victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, human trafficking, or stalking. They will look to amend an existing bill and pass it into law before the legislative session ends on May 12.

MO ABLE Program Launches to Empower Missourians with Disabilities

Missourians living with disabilities will be better able to afford expenses related to their care thanks to a new savings program launched in Missouri this week. State Treasurer Eric Schmitt announced the creation of the MO ABLE program to allow Missourians with disabilities to save and invest through tax-free savings accounts without losing eligibility for federal programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

Under the program, Missourians who contribute to ABLE accounts will be eligible for a tax deduction of up to $8,000, or $16,000 if married and filing jointly. Earnings in ABLE accounts are not subject to federal or state income tax, as long as funds are spent on qualified disability expenses. Powered by the multistate STABLE partnership, MO ABLE features the lowest cost and highest quality plans in the nation. The program’s tax-free savings accounts allow families to set aside money to use on qualified expenses such as education, health care, housing, transportation, and more.

Eligible individuals can learn more and sign up for an account at http://www.moable.com. An initial contribution of at least $50 is required in order to set up an account.

Take Back Day Provides Opportunity to Dispose of Expired or Unwanted Medications

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will once again conduct its popular Take Back Day event April 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at locations across the country. This marks the 13th prescription drug take back event in the last seven years. It continues the DEA’s focus on preventing pill abuse and theft by ridding homes of potentially dangerous prescription drugs.

Last October, Americans turned in 366 tons of prescription drugs at almost 5,200 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,000 sites operated by its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 12 previous Take Back events, the DEA and its partners have collected more than 7.1 million pounds of pills.

To participate, individuals can bring expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs to a collection site near you. The DEA can accept only pills or patches. It cannot accept liquids, needles, or sharps. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked, and is a great alternative to dispose of unused medicines.

Search for a collection site near you by visiting the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day website at https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html.

Legislative Survey

Earlier this year my office released a 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. 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.

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

 

 

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