February is Career and Technical Education month and Derek Lark, Director of the Saline County Career Center, members, and students made their annual visit to share information about their school, student organizations, along with current career and technical issues. (Contributed image)
Appropriations for Elementary and Secondary Education passed its recommendations to the full Budget Committee today. The recommendations include an additional $77 million for the Foundation Formula from increased revenue projections. We also had movement with several bills this week.
HB 2241 would expand teaching of the Constitution
This week I had a hearing on HB 2241, which would require that the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions, including the Bill of Rights, to be taught in historical context. This bill requires that original intent, interpretations over time, and current applications be included in this course of instruction (already included in RSMo 170.011). My informal polling in District 51 revealed that most school districts follow this format in their curriculum. However, with increased pressure to teach other disciplines and with testing requirements, I believe that this method of teaching needs protection. I know that higher education already has changed some of the approach to meeting this requirement, and this is a loss for our students. To be good future citizens, students need to understand how government changes over time. The process of change is critical, (let's face it-things such as technology changes all the time), and students should have a solid foundation of useful knowledge to make good choices for change in the future. Adding depth to critical thinking is my primary motivation for filing the bill.
House approves bonding plan to provide funding for new veterans home (HJR 54)
Also this week, the House approved legislation that would allow voters to decide if the state should issue bonds to provide funding for a new veterans home. Members gave bipartisan support to the proposed constitutional amendment that would generate $50 million in funds through bond sales. The state currently has seven veterans homes located in Cameron, Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Mount Vernon, St. James, St. Louis and, of course, Warrensburg. The homes provide approximately 1,350 long-term skilled nursing care beds. However, there is a glaring need for more beds as the state currently has more than 1,900 veterans on a waiting list. The Missouri Veterans Commission also anticipates an increase in the number of veterans needing nursing care in the years to come. The pressing need has prompted the legislature to look for solutions that will provide adequate care for the 15th-largest population of veterans in the nation. This legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration. If approved there, it would go before voters on the November ballot.
Ensuring welfare recipients are properly verified (HB 1795)
The House advanced legislation that would allow the state to more efficiently and proficiently verify applicants and recipients of welfare services. The bill would allow the Missouri Department of Social Services to hire an outside vendor to conduct the verification process for applicants for the state's various welfare programs. In addition to screening applicants, the company hired by the state would work to re-verify current enrollees. In effect, the vendor would work to ensure recipients and applicants are in fact eligible for programs such as food stamps. In cases where the vendor finds suspected cases of fraud, it would then notify the department, which would investigate.
Providing life-saving medication to overdose victims (HB 1568)
Legislation is now on its way to the Senate that would allow friends and family of heroin overdose victims to administer life-saving medication. The Missouri House gave bipartisan support to HB 1568, which would allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone, or Narcan, to individuals. The drug, which has no side effects or addictive qualities, is used to temporarily counteract the effects of opiates.
FFA President Adam Kirby reminds legislators of the importance of agriculture
The members of the FFA State Officer Team made the trip to the Missouri State Capitol Tuesday to represent the nearly 26,000 FFA students in Missouri. Keeping with House tradition, FFA President Adam Kirby addressed the members and talked about the progress the organization has made in recent years. Kirby described how the organization has been proactive in promoting agriculture in an ever-changing society, and how "agriculture has developed into a vast industry of opportunity in areas encompassing everything from biotechnology, to international marketing and trade." Several FFA members from District 51 were in attendance. Members also took time to celebrate Thank a Farmer Week. The event runs from Feb. 7-13 and is designed to remind Missourians about the vital role the agriculture industry plays in the state.
United States Supreme Court issues stay on federal Clean Power Plan
Efforts by the federal government to implement new carbon emission standards are now on hold following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court granted an application for stay of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which would require a reduction of approximately 28 percent in carbon dioxide emissions from Missouri power plants by 2030. Missouri was one of 21 states to sue the EPA for exceeding its authority in issuing new, burdensome regulations on energy providers. Producers in Missouri have said complying with the EPA's deadlines would cost the state more than $6 billion. However, Ameren has said its own plan will allow it to meet the new standards five years later in 2035 at a far more affordable rate. The stay will remain in effect pending all legal action, including up to any appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Missouri Supreme Court clarifies that nonviolent felons cannot carry guns
It was in 2014 that Missouri voters approved Amendment 5 to strengthen and protect the firearms rights of all law-abiding citizens. The amendment made the right to keep and bear arms "unalienable" and required any law that restricts gun rights to be held to a higher legal standard. However, the amendment made it clear that lawmakers can restrict the gun rights of violent felons. At the same time, the wording of the amendment led to a court challenge regarding the gun rights of nonviolent felons. Lower court rulings actually threw out the convictions of three nonviolent felons for gun-related offenses. The case then went to the Missouri Supreme Court, which this week ruled that the constitutional amendment does not allow nonviolent felons to carry guns. Going forward, Missouri law that prohibits all felons from having firearms will continue to be valid. The Court noted, "The constitution does not prohibit the legislature from regulating nonviolent felons' possession of firearms, and (current law) is a constitutional restriction of a nonviolent felon's right to bear arms."
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.