Workforce Standards & Development - Chairman
Property, Casualty, & Life Insurance
Select Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations
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We dealt with over 45 bills last week. Many of these were brought up as a courtesy to the bill handlers to give them experience for possible Legislation next year. As I’ve said before, most good bills are the effort of as much as 3 or more years work. Some of them, although just one or two liners, are important additions to statute. HB1955 is a good example. It exempts volunteer workers from having to have workers compensation insurance. Organizations like the VFW or Elks Clubs that depend on volunteers who only work a few hours a month to do much of their work would be exempted from the expense and paper work of workers comp. SB677 allows Epinephrine usage in emergency situations and SB814 gives deployed military personal an exemption from Missouri Income tax. There were also some very complicated bills such as HB1765, which deals with Criminal Code Revisions. This is an example of a bill that has been in the works for 4 years or more. HB1465 allows Doctors to have more latitude with collaborative practices with Nurse Practitioners. This law has tremendous importance for rural areas where there are fewer and fewer Doctors.
HB586 and HB651 dealing with the foundation Formula for schools passed the House after a lengthy debate. The current formula is underfunded by approximately $550 million dollars and the more we put into the appropriation for the formula, the larger the deficit grows. If we found the money to make up the $550 million, then the adequacy target would grow to the point where we would need an additional $400 million by 2019. As you can see, this is a race with no finish line. The Formula is currently funded to an adequacy target of $6110 per student based on daily attendance. With the 5% cap provided by HB586, the target would increase to $6241 or a statewide increase of $90 million dollars next year. In 2019 that growth rate of 5% would take us to $6316 or an additional $100 million dollars. The removal of the cap several years ago in anticipation of gambling revenues that never materialized, created a situation where higher spending was encouraged to raise the base amounts for the next year. A slower predictable growth is better for all districts. We were also able to increase school transportation funding by $5 million dollars. The Governor has been methodically stripping the budget of transportation money with his yearly withholds. This is putting an unfair burden on rural districts such as ours.
We had another busy week last week. The House debated and passed 37 bills, most of which will not make it through the Senate. Some of this is intentional as the bills still need quite a bit of refining before we consider making them part of statute and we also have to deal with the time issue. It takes quite a while to move a bill through the process and there is only so much time. House and Senate leaders are charged with the job of deciding which legislation has priority and making sure it moves first. We identified certain issues as Caucus Priorities last fall and these bills are given extra attention. Even so, they are for the most part controversial issues, and take up a lot of time in committee as well as on the floor for debate.
HB2069, which deals with record keeping and proper disposal of fetal remains after an abortion, is a good example. Even though it passed with only 35 no votes, there was some very spirited debate. The bill prohibits fetal remains from an abortion being sold or donated for medical research. There are provisions for testing for abnormalities and disease but it would halt the process of baby parts being used for experiments. It requires abortion clinics to keep accurate records of how the remains are disposed and by whom and make those records available.
We sent HB2331 to the Senate last week without any fanfare or press releases. It didn’t take up much floor time, it doesn’t cost Missouri taxpayers anything and there weren’t any protest groups on the front lawn. What the law establishes is a voucher for low-income seniors to get fresh produce from Farmer’s Markets. It takes advantage of a Federal program that has been established for several years that is designed to make sure seniors get proper nutrition. It has the added attraction of encouraging Farmer’s Markets and it even adds a little tax revenue to cities. How on earth we were able to move something like this through the committee process and get a floor debate done and a nearly unanimous vote is beyond me. It makes way too much sense! We also voted out the UBER bill. UBER is a new wrinkle to taxi service and works off an app on your cell phone. You are able to make arrangements for a driver to pick you up and take you where you are wanting to go, determine the rate, see a photo of your driver and his car, and get a guaranteed pick up time all by using your smart phone. The only real opposition to the bill was from the big metro areas where the Taxi Companies feel threatened. It is being used all over the country and most people are very satisfied with the concept. HB2146 and 2147 both deal with the courts and children’s Division. This has been a good session for children’s issues.