House Moves to Override Four Budget Vetoes during Annual Veto Session
Lawmakers converged on the capital city Wednesday for the annual Veto Session where they had the opportunity to override vetoes made by the governor to various pieces of legislation passed during the regular session. House members used the opportunity to approve motions to override four line-item vetoes made by the governor on spending items in the Fiscal Year 2019 operating budget. Each override required the support of at least 109 House members, and each received bipartisan support with at least 118 votes.
As he made the motions to override the governor’s vetoes, the House Budget Chairman said he wanted to make sure the actions were not perceived as the General Assembly versus the governor. “I want to make it clear that I have a lot of respect for the governor. He came into office in a very turbulent time and did not have much time to review the budget before he had to take action on it. This is simply just trying to correct something that we think was a decision made with not enough information.”
House members voted to override the governor’s vetoes on the following appropriations:
• $45,000 for the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for a new position to manage grant programs meant to benefit deaf-blind Missourians. The General Assembly approved HB 1696 during the 2016 legislative session to allow the commission to provide the grants. The commission hoped to have the new staff member focus on finance to help the office improve reporting and make data-driven decisions when creating and developing future programs.
• $100,000 for the Office of Child Advocate to fund two positions necessary to fully implement independent reviews of foster care case management concerns. The reviews were authorized by SB 341 that was approved by the General Assembly during the 2015 legislative session. With the two additional positions the office could conduct the reviews authorized by SB 341 while maintaining full caseloads and improving the timeliness of all reviews.
• $153,546 to provide funding and staffing for the Time Critical Diagnosis (TCD) Program that designates hospitals as trauma, stroke, or STEMI centers. The designations are utilized by the ambulance industry so they may transport patients meeting certain criteria to the right hospital to receive the right care at the right time. House members supported restoring the funding for the TCD Program in an effort to prevent patient care from being adversely impacted.
• $487,000 for the State Public Defender System to create a Children’s Defense Team that would work with the state’s juvenile indigent population. The team would be made up of an administrative assistant, an investigator, a legal assistant, and six attorneys. Without the funding kids would continue to go either unrepresented or under-represented, which will often cause them to receive a sentence that is disproportionate to their conduct and increase the likelihood they will commit future offenses. Reports by both the U.S. Department of Justice (2015) and the National Juvenile Defense Center (2013) concluded that Missouri’s juvenile system is in crisis because children are going without adequate representation.
While House members gave their support to overrides of the vetoes on the four appropriations, the Missouri Senate did not attempt to complete the override motions. The Senate Appropriations Chairman told his colleagues the governor has pledged to fund the items through existing budgets or through supplemental spending requests that would happen when the legislature returns in January.
House Approves Legislation to Improve Access to Treatment Courts (HB 2)
Following their work in the annual Veto Session, lawmakers shifted their focus to the Extraordinary Session called by the governor to address two pieces of legislation he vetoed. The first bill passed by the House would expand access to treatment courts with the goal of rehabilitating more Missourians so they can return to being productive members of society.
The legislation would consolidate Missouri’s treatment courts – adult treatment court, DWI court, family treatment court, juvenile treatment court, and veterans treatment court – and update state statute to reflect the reality of the treatment court system today. It would allow for the expansion of treatment courts to counties that don’t have them, and it would allow an individual in a county without a treatment court to be transferred to one with a court as long as all parties agree to the transfer.
Additionally, the bill would require the Treatment Court Coordinating Commission to establish standards and practices for treatment courts, and would require each court to adopt policies and practices that are consistent with the commission’s standards. The standards and practices would be those proven through research to reduce recidivism, save public money and resources, and improve outcomes.
The sponsor of the legislation noted that “Missouri treatment courts have been a great success at changing lives for the better, lowering criminal recidivism rates, saving tax-payer dollars by reducing incarceration, all the while making our communities safer and aiding our citizens in their quest to be more productive and improve their quality of life.” Proponents of the bill added that allowing for existing types of specialized courts to be consolidated under the “treatment court” heading will facilitate communication among judges, prosecutors, and experts in order to solve problems more effectively.
The legislation now awaits approval in the Senate before moving to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
House Approves Legislation to Promote Careers in the STEM Fields (HB 3)
The second bill approved by the Missouri House of Representatives during the Extraordinary Session takes an important step to encourage more young people to pursue career paths in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The legislation (HB 3) is meant to better prepare tomorrow’s workforce for the many unfilled computer science positions in the technology industry. House members gave bipartisan support to the bill and sent it to the Missouri Senate for consideration.
The legislation would institute a STEM Career Awareness Program for 6th-8th graders designed to promote careers in these fields. It would introduce students to the STEM careers through an online-based curriculum, and requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to solicit proposals for a provider for the program. Gov. Parson vetoed the bill passed during the regular session because of the criteria for the selection of the provider. The bill passed during the Extraordinary Session provides criteria that meet with the governor’s approval.
The legislation would also require DESE to develop a high school graduation policy that allows a student to fulfill one unit of academic credit with a district-approved computer science course for any math, science, or practical arts unit required for high school graduation. In addition, it works to support teachers pursuing STEM training and professional development by creating the “Computer Science Education Fund”, and creating a special license endorsement for teachers demonstrating sufficient STEM content knowledge.
Supporters of the bill say it will give all students access to a STEM curriculum, as well as provide a path for teacher certification. Proponents also say the bill will play an important role in preparing a capable workforce for Missouri technology industries.
The bill now requires approval in the Senate before moving to the governor’s desk. Once signed by the governor, the bill will require DESE to have the program in place by the 2019-20 school year.
Real ID Grace Period Granted
Missouri recently received a grace period that will allow Missourians to continue using their current forms of identification to fly domestically and enter federal facilities. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had granted an extension until October 10, 2018, but informed the Missouri Department of Revenue of a new grace period that will run through January 21, 2019.
It was during the 2017 legislative session that Missouri General Assembly approved legislation to allow residents to obtain a photo ID that is compliant with the federal REAL ID Act. Because the current version of the Missouri driver license is not compliant, DHS announced in January of 2016 that Missourians would not be able to enter federal facilities and would not be able to fly domestically beginning in 2018. The federal government has since granted multiple extensions to give Missourians additional months to utilize their existing licenses.
The new licenses that are compliant with the REAL ID Act will not be available until March of 2019. Because of this, the state has applied for an additional extension, which the department expects to be approved, that will allow Missourians to use their existing identification until the new forms of ID are ready.
As the Missouri Department of Revenue Director said in a statement, “Between the grace period that’s now in place and the anticipated extension, Missourians should have no issue using their state-issued driver licenses and ID cards when boarding a domestic flight or for other official purposes after Oct. 10.”
I do appreciate your input on matters of importance to you, your family, and community. If, at any time, you have questions, concerns or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for Missouri citizens, please feel free to contact me at 573-751-1459 or e-mail me at email@example.com. Thank you for taking an active role by voicing your opinions on our state and national government issues. Thank you for the honor to serve the 35th District.