House Sends Fiscally Responsible FY 2020 State Operating Budget to the Senate (HBs 1-13)
This week the members of the House of Representatives put their stamp of approval on a balanced, fiscally responsible state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that starts in July. The 13 appropriations bills that make up the state spending plan contain approximately $29.25 billion in funding allocated among the state’s departments and programs.
One of the key points of emphasis in the budget is funding for the state’s K-12 public schools. As it heads to the Senate, the budget fully funds the school foundation formula with $3.94 billion in funding. The total represents an increase of more than $61 million in funding for the formula. The education budget also includes a $5 million increase for a total of $108 million in funding for transportation expenses for local school districts. Additionally, the budget includes a $3 million increase for the Parents as Teachers program. In total, funding for pre-K-12 education is increased by $116 million in the spending plan approved by the House.
Another priority expressed in the budget is a commitment to workforce development. The spending plan funds the reorganization of the Department of Economic Development so that the department can streamline and improve efficiency. It also provides approximately $18.5 million in funding for a new Fast Track Scholarship Program that will target adults over 25 who are working toward certification or a degree in a high demand field. The budget plan includes $30 million for the Missouri One Start program that will help businesses train their workers and upgrade their skills. Additionally, the budget proposed by the House provides $19 million in funding for the Missouri Excels Workforce Initiative that provides funding to institutions of higher education to develop and expand employer-driven education and training programs. Furthermore, the budget provides $8.5 million to support Missouri’s adult high schools that were created by legislation passed in 2018.
Other budget highlights include:
· $1 million of spending approved to make improvements to the Missouri School for the Blind
· Funding of Missouri scholarships
o $500,000 increase for A+ Scholarships
o Nearly $1 million increase for Access Missouri Scholarships
· $11 million to perform maintenance and repairs at Missouri colleges and universities
· $100 million for statewide bridge repairs (according to the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program)
· $8 million for major water reservoir projects
· $440,000 to initiate new plant industries program (industrial hemp)
· $300,000 for the new Missouri Military Community Reinvestment Program
· $13.5 million of Volkswagen settlement funds appropriated to clean air projects and grants
· $2.5 million to expand access to broadband Internet service in unserved and underserved areas of rural Missouri
· $6.4 million for port projects along Missouri rivers
· $5 million for alternatives to jail program (pre-trial electronic monitoring to save counties and the state millions in prisoner per diem costs)
· $9 million in rebased rates for developmental disability providers (improving access to services)
· $1 million to start an Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes (ECHO) for autism
· $153,000 to fund the Time Critical Diagnosis Unit inside the Department of Health & Senior Services
· $500,000 increase of the State Public Defender’s Office to address a backlog of cases in some counties
· $1.1 million to fund juvenile justice offices (in Kansas City & St. Louis) operated by the State Public Defender’s Office
· Consolidation of two prisons in Northwest Missouri
· Savings of prison closure to fund critically needed pay plan adjustments for Department of Corrections personnel
Legislation to Honor Former Rep. Cloria Brown Signed into Law (HBs 448 & 206)
Missouri House members have taken time this session to honor one of their own.
The House and Senate have agreed on legislation to rename a portion of U.S. 61/67/50/Lindbergh Boulevard in St. Louis County the “Rep. Cloria Brown Memorial Highway.” Brown was a state representative representing part of south St. Louis County for more than five years. She died in March of last year after a battle with cancer.
The legislation was signed into law by Governor Mike Parson, who was accompanied by Brown’s family and approximately 100 legislators.
Parson said it was significant that so many lawmakers stepped away to witness the signing while the busy legislative session is still underway. “What she accomplished, the goals she had in mind, with the representation she made of her family that are here today, and a representation of you – of all of us that work in this building when you have people like that come along sometimes and show us all that there’s a higher road to take,” he said.
Brown has been remembered by colleagues and even political rivals as hard working, tough, and compassionate. She worked on the House’s budget committee; proposed a ban on texting while driving; and backed measures aimed at fighting human and sex trafficking.
In 2017, Brown sponsored a bill to require the development and display in certain workplaces of posters with the Human Trafficking Hotline. The posters are meant to provide information on how victims can be helped and how to fight trafficking. A similar bill became law last year, with Brown considered one of the driving forces behind its passage. Brown also co-sponsored legislation that expanded Missouri’s law against sex trafficking to include advertising a child participating in a commercial sexual act.
The sponsor of the bill to name the “Rep. Cloria Brown Memorial Highway” said, “As a State Representative, Cloria Brown served with strength and grace as a legislator for her district and state. She leaves a legacy, for others to follow, in her work against human trafficking.”
Brown was buried in St. John’s Cemetery, which overlooks Lindbergh Boulevard, a portion of which will now be named for her.
The sign designating that section of road in her name will be paid for by private donations.
House Approves Fresh Start Act (HB 564 and HB 472)
Legislation approved in recent weeks by the House would make it easier for people with criminal records to reintegrate into society by getting a job. The bill is also designed to save Missourians from spending time, effort, and expense to get a job only to find out their offenses will disqualify them.
Known as the “Fresh Start Act of 2019,” the bill would keep people from being barred from a job for committing crimes that have no relation to the work of that job.
The sponsor of the legislation said, “If you want to cut hair and be a cosmetologist, the cosmetology board can’t say you will not be allowed to get a license because you were convicted of mortgage fraud ten years ago. It just doesn’t make sense and it prevents people that want to get to work from getting to work.”
The bill would also require applicants to be told in a timely manner whether their record will preclude them from getting a given job.
“We’ve actually had specific examples in this state where people have gone through the training, spent the time, energy, and money to get the training and go through the courses to get a license, and at the very last step they apply to the board and they are denied the license,” said the bill’s sponsor. “In some cases people have spent six months to a year and tens of thousands of dollars to get that training only to find out later that they don’t qualify. Well, I think that’s wrong. I think we need to fix that.”
The sponsor noted that Missourians now must be licensed in order to work in one out of five jobs. He said while licensure is supposed to be about protecting the health, safety, and wellbeing of the public, industry groups have turned it into something of a “protectionist strategy.” “These occupational licenses have gone far beyond the original scope and intent of what they were created for,” he said.
Two bills passed by the House contain the “Fresh Start Act of 2019” provision. Both bills are currently under consideration by the Senate.
Other Bills Sent to the Senate
HB 341 allows certain marijuana-related offenses and violations to be expunged if the offenses or violations occurred in Missouri prior to the issuance of a patient identification card. Supporters say the bill allows qualified patients who have received a marijuana card and have previous marijuana offenses to have the records for those offenses expunged.
HB 451 modifies the inspection requirement for non-commercial motor vehicles which is currently required in order to renew a motor vehicle license. New motor vehicles after being sold will not have to have an inspection until after 10 years or the vehicle odometer reads 150,000 miles.
HB 677 modifies provisions relating to certain tourism infrastructure facilities.Supporters say the bill is necessary to keep Missouri’s tourism infrastructure facilities world-class venues to attract events such as collegiate sports tournaments, concerts, and other unique events. Supporters say the facilities could use the improvements for public safety reasons. They also claim the bill would have a positive fiscal effect for the state, because these facilities bring in tourists that spend money that turns into tax revenue.
HB 107 revises the term “service dog” to include a “psychiatric service dog” or “mental health service dog” that is trained to do work or perform tasks for an owner with a psychiatric disability, medical condition, or developmental disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Supporters say the bill provides clarification about the laws relating to service and assistance animals and protects those with invisible disabilities who use a service animal.
HB 257 allows the Board of Pharmacy to enter into a voluntary compliance agreement with a licensee, permit holder, or registrant to ensure compliance with statute and the rules of the board, in lieu of discipline. Supporters say the bill will give the board an alternative option for enforcing compliance before a patient has been harmed or has been put at risk for harm.
HB 80 reduces the maximum term for probation for a misdemeanor or municipal ordinance violation to 18 months. The bill prohibits a person sentenced to serve probation with a private entity providing probation services from being required to submit to drug or alcohol testing unless the person is on probation as a result of a drug or alcohol related offense or unless ordered by a judge for good cause shown. Supporters say the bill expands on legislation passed last year and this provides much needed reform to the private probation sector. This limits arbitrary drug and alcohol testing.
HB 169 establishes the “Internet and Social Media Awareness Program” to increase awareness of appropriate online behavior and skills among students in public schools. Supporters say the bill is important for all students and would empower teachers to do the right thing regarding the instruction of online classes. Supporters also indicate this is an example of real world learning and that allowing school boards to develop policies is an important aspect.
HB 763 defines “private schools” as any non-public school or school operated by a religious organization and specifies that private schools shall not be required to increase their minimum wage to $8.60 or the applicable federal rate on January 1, 2019 or increase it annually as required by current law. Supporters say private schools often have a smaller budget and less room to absorb annual increases to payroll. Supporters point out that often the costs are passed on to the consumer, so private school tuition costs might be increased to cover the minimum wage worker’s pay raise.
HB 472 adds several new provisions, relating to medical marijuana card disclosure; applicants for license with a criminal record; apprenticeship programs; the use of occupational fees; cosmetologists; plumbers; and licensure of spouses of active military members. Supporters say the bill will make it easier for people who want to work to be allowed to work. Supporters say the current dietitian law creates a monopoly and prevents nutritionists and practitioners from practicing their profession without a license, even though there has never been a case of harm from an unlicensed person providing nutritional information. The bill would allow apprentices to train and learn a trade locally.
HB 356 extends the expiration date, from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2026, for the state law that allows a brewer to lease portable refrigeration units to a retail licensee. The bill allows employees of licensed wholesalers to unload liquor for retail delivery if under the supervision of a vehicle driver who is at least 21 years of age. Supporters say the bill is an agreement by many parties to reasonably satisfy customer demand for craft brewing. Retailers retain control over the content of their refrigeration units and are not bound by advertising on such units.
HB 655 defines the term “landowner’s agent” for the purposes of who may take, attempt to take, or kill a feral hog with the use of an artificial light. Supporters say the definition needs to be clarified. Many farmers and landowners work all day and cannot be up all night searching for feral hogs. Many times landowners bring others in to combat the damage the hogs cause and they need all the tools possible to eradicate the hogs.
HB 450 allows a donor to make an anatomical gift by placing a donor symbol sticker authorized and issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services on the back of the donor’s driver’s license or identification card. Supporters say the bill will bring awareness to organ donation and the lives that can be saved. Only about half of the people who could sign up to donate do so.
HB 694 allows qualified entities, under certain circumstances, to receive individuals’ criminal history information from the central repository as part of the “Missouri Rap Back Program” as well as the National Rap Back Program. The Missouri program includes automatic notifications made by the State Highway Patrol about whether an individual, specifically an applicant who is employed, licensed, or otherwise under the purview of the entity, has been arrested for a reported criminal offense in the state. Supporters say the bill cleans language up from legislation that was passed last year. It separates out public and private entities and this was language approved by the FBI.
HB 438 lowers the minimum age requirement to 21 years for holding various county offices and special district board memberships. Supporters say the bill tries to streamline the minimum candidate age for many elected offices and reduces the filing fee to make it easier for people to run for smaller boards and offices.
HB 267 allows a school district to offer an elective social studies unit on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, or the New Testament of the Bible. Supporters say adding Bible literacy courses will bolster education and make society a better place. Current trends in college indicate that students need Biblical literature as understood by American founders as alliterations that are referenced during that time were greatly influenced by the Bible, along with the impact on arts and philosophy in western civilization.
HB 240 creates the Joint Committee on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment. Supporters say that the committee will provide a more comprehensive way for the legislature to better understand and investigate ways to positively impact this major issue.
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