The General Assembly continues on Spring Break until Tuesday. When we return, we will be ready for the end of session sprint to pass legislation that is beneficial for Missouri. I have a few bills that might make it across the finish line. Of these, two are moving swiftly.
Last week the House passed out my HB 2429 by a vote of 146 yes-2 no-1 present. This bill will add to the list of exemptions from the required workers' compensation list all volunteers of veterans' service organizations (American Legions, VFWs, etc.). This is a helpful bill for about 95% of the VSOs in Missouri with smaller budgets and depend on volunteers to keep the doors open.
Also, my HB 2234, which allows the Dept. of Higher Education to establish a website containing information directing students to resources including academic programs, financial aid, and transferability of coursework for participating institutions of higher education, should be coming up for a vote on the House floor shortly after spring break. This legislation will help consolidate college information for entering and transfer students in one site; one stop shopping if you will! The money for the site's operation is already in the House version of the budget.
House Makes History by Exercising Constitutional Authority to Override Governor's Budget Restrictions
For the first time in state history, the Missouri House has successfully moved to override budget withholdings made by the governor.
Voters approved Amendment 10 to the state constitution in 2014, which gives the legislature the authority to ensure programs receive funds that were appropriated by the General Assembly but then restricted by the governor. The legislature's authority works in a similar fashion to its ability to override a gubernatorial veto and requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. The House received bipartisan support with more than 120 votes for each of the motions approved this week.
The governor, who has the authority to restrict spending if revenues are insufficient to fund the budget, continues to withhold more than $46 million in funds from the state operating budget for the current fiscal year. However, House budget estimates show the state's revenue situation is healthy and that the governor has no reason to withhold funds to balance the budget. The vice chair of the House Budget Committee told his colleagues on the House floor that, due to a reduction in the supplemental budget of more than a million dollars, the funds are available to pay for the appropriation withhold overrides.
As a result, the House exercised its constitutional authority to release $575,000 in withheld funds for the Missouri Scholars Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy. The Missouri Scholars Academy is an academic program for Missouri's most gifted high school students, and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy is a program for highly motivated student artists in visual arts, theatre, dance, creative writing, and music. The state has traditionally provided funding for the academies, but the governor has both vetoed and withheld funds from the programs in recent years. The funds the House voted to release would allow students to attend the programs without having to pay an additional charge.
Also, the House also voted to release $350,000 to the Brain Injury Waiver Fund that is used to help provide care to Missourians with brain injuries, who are currently on a waiting list. The waiver model includes early intervention and treatment options to provide critical services while reducing long-term costs. The program is meant to provide access to rehabilitation that allows people to successfully regain daily life skills and vocational potential. Both motions now move to the Senate for consideration. If they receive two-thirds votes there, the governor will be required to release the funds.
Creating Stricter Requirements for a Minor to Obtain an Abortion (HB 1370)
The members of the Missouri House sent legislation to the Senate this week that would create stricter requirements for a minor to obtain an abortion in Missouri. Under current law, a minor must obtain the written consent of a parent or guardian in order
to have an abortion. The legislation approved by the House would add the requirement that the consenting parent or guardian first notify in writing any other custodial parent or guardian. The intent is to encourage families to have discussions before an abortion is undertaken.
This legislation does waive the consent requirement in an emergency situation. The bill also clarifies that a parent or guardian is not required to receive notice if he or she has been found guilty of certain offenses, is listed on the state's Child Abuse or Neglect Central Registry, Sexual Offender Registry, has an order of protection against him or her, had their rights terminated, cannot be located, or is incapacitated.
Requiring High School Students to Learn Lifesaving First Aid (HB 1643)
Before Spring Break, the House also took time to approve legislation that would require high school students to obtain lifesaving first aid training. Under the bill, students would not be able to graduate until they receive 30 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation instruction and training in the proper performance of the Heimlich maneuver or other first aid for choking. If signed into law, the requirement would begin for health and physical education classes in the 2017-218 school year. The American Heart Association is available and waiting to provide funding and training kits to schools.
House Approves Meet in Missouri Act to Attract More Conventions (HB 1698)
Missouri already sees a significant economic boost from millions of convention attendees each year, and now the members of the Missouri House want to give cities a new tool to help attract even more conventions to the state. This week House members approved the Meet in Missouri Act to provide grants that would help large conventions that take place in Missouri to recover some of their costs.
Specifically, the act would authorize grants that would cover up to half the operating expenses of a large convention. To be eligible, a convention would have to draw at least half of its attendees from out of state. The grants would then be tied to the number of hotel rooms filled by attendees. The program would have $3 million each year to award in the form of grants. The bill also includes safeguards to ensure the convention meets its attendance goals. If it falls short, it would have to refund a portion of the grant money. The convention industry is very competitive, and a new grant program would allow Missouri to more effectively compete with other states for conventions.
￼￼Easter is the central event of the Christian calendar, but do you know how we determine the day of celebration? Unlike most holidays, it does not fall on a set date every year. Instead, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21. This means that Easter is observed anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year. Of course, this year Easter is on March 27th. Happy Easter!
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.
Serving the Constituents of the 51st District,