The House passed 20 bills last week. Most of them are just small changes in current law, but a few of them are really good additions. We increased the allowable asset limits for Medicaid assistance from $1 thousand to $5 thousand over the next 5 years. The $1 thousand dollar limit was set many years ago and is keeping many disabled people and seniors from using Medicaid benefits. House Bill 1433 allows a parent to appoint an “attorney in fact” for their children for up to one year. For parents who realize that they have serious problems in their life, such as an addiction that needs treatment, they are able to appoint someone to care for their children while they battle the addiction. This measure would allow them the time needed away from their family without their children being put in a foster facility. HB2155 provides resident status for National Guard troops deployed to our state so that their children can attend schools without resident status. HB1612 allows high school students beginning in 2017 to earn a Career and Technical certificate, which would ready them for the work force upon graduation. HB1964 adds survivor benefits to several occupations. Air ambulance personnel and EMT’s would be covered if killed on duty for their children to get college grants. HB1419 allows schools to continue gifted programs even if the enrollment numbers should drop. HB 1613 would require that 9th. Graders have a personal plan of study to prepare them for either college or a vocation. With HB1449, we added utility vehicles to the “Move Over” law. Many of the bills we are passing now will be simply added as an amendment to an existing law or simply allowed to die in the Senate.
As usual, there are several “Hot” topics flying around that cause people to blow up my phone with emails. One such question is the budget for Missouri University. Because of all the controversy, the House and Senate Budget Committees have had to spend extra time looking at the numbers. Committee members have studied the requests and looked at individual line items when they seemed to be excessive. The end result is that we will not be appropriating one lump sum for the entire University of Missouri system. There will be a separate allocation for each institution. This seems to be a more fair way to distribute the funds and insures that each of the seven campuses are treated equally. It’s always interesting when you take a close look at the allocations. In the budget lines for MU’s expenditures for employees were $150,000 for the Assistant Chancellor for inclusion, diversity, and equity and $175,000 for the Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology. Because it’s time for the Budget to be finalized, we are also getting daily pressure to increase funding for Education. The Education budget has to be one of the most complex parts of the entire process. We are Constitutionally bound to provide education with 25% of the General Revenue to elementary and secondary education. An early look at the numbers for this year shows nearly 38% of the revenue going to education. Social Services are up to 42% largely because Governor Nixon directed the Department to actively pursue new participation in Medicaid. That only leaves 20% for all the other departments such as Prisons, MoDot, DNR, etc. Until we find a way to increase the revenue, we are hard put to fund increases in any department. I, and many others in the Capitol, are dedicated to economic development in our state. We are currently 47th in industrial growth. When we solve the problem of jobs growth, the tax revenues will increase and we can solve the other problems we are experiencing.