Legislature Set to Reconvene for Special Session
Last Friday, the General Assembly adjourned for the legislative year. In the last legislative session, the House and Senate truly agreed to roughly 140 bills, while this session, approximately 75 bills made it across the finish line. The total number of bills passed was lower this year, but many important issues were still addressed such as substantive labor reform, tort reform, and economic development measures that will make Missouri a more attractive location for job creators in the months and years to come.
Most recently, the Governor has decided to reconvene the General Assembly for a special session to consider one topic—allowing the state to consider granting lower utility rates in order to attract a smelter that is ready to open up the old Noranda facility in southeast Missouri later this year. When the facility closed, 900 jobs were lost, if reopened by the new smelter, an estimated 500 jobs would be restored. The topic was brought up by Rep. Don Rone during the regular session, and the legislation was attached to several bills, but ultimately failed to pass before session ended due to opposition in the Senate.
The Governor is now giving Rep. Rone’s legislation another shot by calling for the special session, which will begin next Monday, May 22nd. Historically, special or extraordinary sessions have been called multiple times by multiple governors. Traditionally, the General Assembly convenes at the State Capitol annually on the first Wednesday after the first Monday of January. It adjourns on May 30, with no consideration of bills after 6:00 p.m. on the first Friday following the second Monday in May.
However, after regular session has concluded, the Governor may convene the General Assembly in special session for a maximum of 60 calendar days at any time. Only subjects recommended by the Governor in his call or a special message may be considered. The President Pro Tem and the Speaker may also convene a special session, but only for 30 days and upon petition of three-fourths of the members of each chamber.
In other news, thousands of veterans will receive free dental care on Saturday, June 24th, when doctors and their teams from nearly 450 Aspen Dental-branded practices in 35 states open their doors for Aspen Dental’s National Day of Service – an event that is expected to be the largest single-day oral health initiative for veterans in 2017. Interested veterans should call 1-844-AspenHMM (1-844-277-3646) to find a participating practice in their community and schedule an appointment in advance – space is limited and appointments are filling up fast.
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.
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.
Legislature Approves Senior Services Protection Fund (HCB 3)
With just seconds to spare in the 2017 legislative session, House members approved a bill that will create the Senior Services Protection Fund to preserve several services for the elderly and disabled. The move represents a last-ditch effort by the House to preserve nursing home and in-home care services for some of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. In the days leading up to the conclusion of the session, House and Senate members had worked to find a solution that would keep the vital services intact. The House had passed a version of the bill that would end the renter’s portion of the senior citizens property tax credit in order to generate funds that would be used to protect the existing level of service.
The Senate countered by passing a version of the bill that would raise the funds by “sweeping” the unexpended monies from several state funds associated with regulatory boards and commissions. The House initially rejected the Senate’s plan and sought a conference where lead negotiators could work on a compromise. The House Budget Chairman was concerned that the Senate solution involved one-time dollars and would not represent a long-term funding source. He also raised concerns about the constitutionality of the Senate’s language. However, with the Senate being unwilling to negotiate and the need to preserve the services vital, the House opted to take the Senate plan as time ran out.
This piece of legislation is necessary because the budget approved by the General Assembly this year relies on the Senior Services Protection Fund to restore a cut proposed by the governor to in-home care and nursing home services. The governor had recommended increasing the eligibility requirements (21 points to 27 points)for these services, which would have resulted in approximately 20,000 seniors and disabled Missourians no longer qualifying for the state-funded care. The House then moved to fully restore them to their original levels so that no one would be cut off from care. The final version of the budget represents a compromise that increases requirements slightly (24 points), but also includes a provision that would completely restore the governor’s proposed cut if the Senior Services Protection Fund bill becomes law.
The bill would also restore funding for brain injury services provided by the Department of Health that have been withheld in previous budget cycles; restore a portion of a cut proposed by the governor to reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers; and provide additional funding for the state’s Area Agencies on Aging for use in the Meals on Wheels program that provides meal assistance to seniors.
Helping to Prevent Overdose Deaths (SB 501)
The General Assembly gave final approval this session to legislation meant to prevent overdose deaths. The bill will give immunity from charges for minor possession of drugs or paraphernalia or being under the influence to a person who calls for emergency medical attention for someone who is overdosing on drugs or alcohol, and will give immunity to the person in need of medical attention. The legislation has been referred to as “Bailey and Cody’s law” in memoriam of two overdose victims whose parents believe that having such a law in place could have saved their children’s lives. Supporters say the bill will help reduce the number of drug and alcohol related overdoses by eliminating the fear some would have of being prosecuted if they call for help for themselves or others. Similar legislation has been enacted in other states and local areas and has proven to save lives, particularly when working in conjunction with bills that allow first responders or friends and loved ones to have and administer naloxone – a drug that counteracts overdoses to opioids, including heroin. Missouri in 2014 and 2016 enacted such laws.
Improving Transparency in the State Legal Expense Fund (SB 128)
The General Assembly gave final approval this session to legislation that will increase transparency when lawsuits against state agencies are settled.The legislation was prompted by the revelation that millions of tax dollars were paid out over several years in settling harassment and discrimination cases against the Department of Corrections.
The cases against Corrections came to light late last year when an article on Pitch.com detailed several of them, and outlined how employees who complained about being harassed or discriminated against were victims of retaliation by fellow staff members. House members said after the article came out that they were unaware of the settlements because those have been paid out of a line in the budget that has no spending limit on it.meant departments never had to come to the legislature and justify how much their settlement agreements were costing the state. The legislation will require the attorney general to report every month to the legislature and others about how the state’s legal expense fund – the fund from which money for settlements is taken – has been used. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced in March he would begin monthly reporting on the activity of the legal expense fund.Legislators praised his decision but said the bill passed this year is still needed to ensure future attorneys general will follow suit.
Protecting Police Officers (SB 34)
The Missouri General Assembly took action this session to deter crimes against law enforcement officials. House and Senate members approved legislation that will create enhanced penalties for individuals who assault officers of the law. The legislation will increase by one degree the penalty for first and second degree involuntary manslaughter; first and second degree property damage; first and second degree stalking; and first-degree trespassing; when those crimes are committed against a law enforcement officer, or a family member of the officer. As an example, first degree involuntary manslaughter is a class C felony under current statute, but will increase to a class B felony if SB 34 becomes law.
Supporters of the bill said the enhanced penalties are necessary because crimes against law enforcement officers have increased in recent years. They said the enhanced penalties will be a deterrent for anyone who may consider engaging in a crime against law enforcement. They also said the bill will reinforce the legislature’s commitment to law enforcement.
Ensuring Consistency with the State’s Minimum Wage (HB 1194)
In response to a Missouri Supreme Court decision that invalidated part of Missouri’s minimum wage law, lawmakers moved to implement a fix that will provide a consistent wage in municipalities throughout the state. The House and Senate approved legislation this session that will reaffirm that the state’s minimum wage is applied throughout Missouri, and keep the decision to raise wages in the hands of the employer and employee. While the state currently has a minimum wage that increases based on the Consumer Price Index, and is currently higher than the federal minimum wage, some municipalities have considered their own increases. St. Louis passed an ordinance to raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour this year and $11 an hour by 2018. The legislation approved by the House will preempt and nullify the minimum wage enacted by St. Louis, and provide that other municipalities cannot enact a minimum wage that exceeds the one established by state law.
The bill will ensure it is not illegal for an employer to hire someone in accordance with the state minimum wage. The legislation approved by the General Assembly will protect job creators from being turned into criminals. Also, a mandated increase in payroll would force businesses to either raise prices or cut costs by reducing the size of their workforce. In addition, it’s important to have a consistent minimum wage across the state rather than an inconsistent patchwork of wages that vary from municipality to municipality. The $10 minimum wage took effect in St. Louis in recent weeks. If Governor Greitens signs HB 1194 into law, the wage will revert back to the state standard on August 28.
Organ Donor Program Fund (SB 248)
In the final moments of the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers moved to support organ donation in Missouri by giving approval to a bill that would continue the organ donor program fund tax checkoff on state income tax returns. The checkoff is set to expire on December 31, 2017. The bill approved by the General Assembly would remove the sunset entirely and allow the checkoff to continue indefinitely. Supporters say the checkoff has been very successful, along with the driver’s license donations, Employee Charitable Campaign, and direct donations in funding the Organ and Tissue Donor Program.
Free Veteran Dental Care
Thousands of veterans will receive free dental care on Saturday, June 24th, when doctors and their teams from nearly 450 Aspen Dental-branded practices in 35 states open their doors for Aspen Dental’s National Day of Service – an event that is expected to be the largest single-day oral health initiative for veterans in 2017. Interested veterans should call 1-844-AspenHMM (1-844-277-3646) to find a participating practice in their community and schedule an appointment in advance – space is limited and appointments are filling up fast.
Missouri Job Centers offer “On-the-Job Training” (OJT) to help businesses across Missouri save on hiring and training costs for new hires. 50% reimbursement of the wages of workers hired through the program for up to 1040 hours of On-the-Job Training can equate to tremendous savings for business owners and employers. For more information visit: https://jobs.mo.gov/employer/incentives/on-the-job-training
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 (link below). 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org