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Home » Opinion » Gary L. Cross’s Capitol Update September 30, 2017

Gary L. Cross’s Capitol Update September 30, 2017

Gary L. Cross’s Capitol Update September 30, 2017

September 30, 2017

Gary L. Cross

House and Senate Leaders Work Toward Solution to Preserve Care for Disabled Missourians

Two weeks ago Senate and House leadership tasked their members with developing a solution to preserve in-home and nursing care for disabled Missourians who are impacted by a change in the point system that determines eligibility. Now, House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick and Senator Mike Cunningham say they are close to unveiling a solution they will be able to present to their colleagues as soon as next week.

On the last day of the 2017 legislative session, legislation was approved by the House in an attempt to preserve nursing 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.

With the Senate being unwilling to negotiate and no other options on the table, the House then approved the Senate solution and sent it to the governor’s desk. The governor then vetoed the bill calling it a “one-time gimmick” that drained funds from programs to prevent child abuse and neglect, assist injured workers, and to train police officers and firefighters. As the legislature did not have enough votes to override the governor’s veto during the annual Veto Session, House and Senate leaders tasked Fitzpatrick and Cunningham to develop a bipartisan solution to the problem.

House Speaker Todd Richardson and Senate Leader Ron Richard asked Fitzpatrick and Cunningham to develop a solution within a three-week timeframe that would preserve in-home and nursing care for disabled Missourians. They also asked the legislators to find a way to restore provider rate cuts, including cuts to private duty nurses who administer in-home neonatal care. Legislators now await details of the plan before deciding what steps to take next.

House Budget Committee Members Take Issue with the Methods Used to Create a New Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

The House Budget Committee met recently to examine the methods used by the executive branch to create a new prescription drug monitoring program. The hearing resulted in several members taking issue with the way the program was created.

The governor created the program with an executive order issued in July.  It includes a $250,000 no-bid contract with Express Scripts, under which that company provides data to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.  The Department uses that data to try to identify prescription drug abusers.

Legislators on the budget committee are frustrated that the administration created and found a way to pay for that program without their input or approval.  One member of the committee noted that it looks bad for the new program to have been announced at a time when the governor has withheld money from other state programs, and after the legislature refused to fund many things saying the state is in a tight budget year.

The Office of Administration’s budget director told legislators the money came from additional federal funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that the state had not anticipated it would get.  He said the administration was free to use that money as it saw fit, and used it to address what it sees as a crisis: prescription drug abuse.

Another member of the House Budget Committee pointed out that the administration circumvented the legislature’s authority and used money that could have supported other state needs, including some the legislature voted to pay for but then later saw the governor withhold the funding.

As the member said, “Now we could have that discussion of whether it is more deserving to go to the kids, or whether it’s more deserving to go to the seniors, or whether it is more deserving to go to those with disabilities, but at the end of the day you are taking that money from one of these other groups.”

Criticism came from both supporters and opponents of prescription drug monitoring with those on both sides saying their problem was not with the program the governor launched, but with how he launched it.

Criticism also came from both political parties as one Democratic member said it was “extremely frustrating” that CHIP money was used without any approval or authorization from the legislature. She said, “I hope that as you all continue to come up with these new ideas to address this crisis that you bring them to us before you start moving money around.”

The House Budget Committee Chairman suggested the administration should not move forward with its drug monitoring program, and to instead bring it as a proposal to the legislature during the next budget process.  He urged administration officials to halt the transfer of that CHIP money to pay for the program, and to not sign a contract with Express Scripts. He called the use of that money, without the legislature’s approval, a “breach of trust.”

Convoy Honors America’s Veterans

Missourians who live along historic Route 66 were recently reminded of the important contributions made by America’s veterans. The “longest veteran’s parade in America” made up of 60 vintage military vehicles made its way through the Show-Me State as part of a 2,400 mile multi-state tour. Sponsored by the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, the convoy is made up of jeeps, ambulances, and trucks that were used to transport soldiers and supplies during World War II, as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Meant to celebrate veterans and demonstrate how the Army utilized its vehicles, the convoy started in Wheaton, Illinois on September 16 and will conclude in Santa Monica, California on October 14. The group covers between 100 and 180 miles each day at an average speed of roughly 35 miles per hour. During its trip through Missouri, the convoy made stops in many communities including St. Louis, St. Clair, Sullivan, Cuba, St. James, Rolla, Ft. Leonard Wood, Marshfield, Ozark, Branson, Mt. Vernon, and Carthage.

About two-thirds of convoy members are veterans. As the convoy commander said, the effort is an important way to reach out to the public to preserve history and celebrate veterans.

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