Workforce Standards & Development - Chairman
Property, Casualty, & Life Insurance
Select Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations
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Session came to a close at 6:00 P.M. last Friday. Many of the bills made headlines because of the controversy surrounding them but there were dozens of bills and amendments that most people will never know about that have the potential of making Missouri a better place to live and work. One of my favorites was SB588. It allows certain felonies to be expunged from the records. In the case of young people who make a mistake and get convicted of a felony, they are able to apply after repaying their debt to society and 5 years of good behavior, to have the felony record removed. It can still be accessed by law enforcement but will allow them to apply for and hold jobs that are now out of their reach. There are certain felonies that do not apply, but for many offenders, there is now hope for a normal life. SB711 was also a personal favorite for me. It provides that schools provide training in CPR. This is one of those little changes that will save innumerable lives in the future. SB997 deals with dual credits for high school students taking college courses, HB1936 allows Sheriffs to assist in other counties in emergency situations, HB1646 requires civics to be taught in all public schools, and SB700 allows volunteer firefighters to be covered under Workers Comp.
We delivered the finished budget to the Governor last week and he signed it without taking his usual withholds. He has been the first Governor to abuse the practice of withholding certain budget items and never restoring them to the budget when revenues exceed his expectations. These withholds have been in some critical areas such as school bus transportation so the Legislature passed a bill last year allowing us to review and restore withheld funds when the anticipated revenue levels are there. He signed several bills into law including some ethics reform bills. We have now sent him three ethics bills, which he has signed into law, and there are at least two more working their way through. I’m sure there will be more next session as this is a priority for the Speaker. In the finished budget is a provision where Planned Parenthood is defunded by the state. This has been an ongoing battle between Planned Parenthood and several Senators and Representatives. I believe the final straw was when Planned Parenthood officials refused to answer a subpoena to testify on the sale of fetal parts.
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.