This week included several visits from district career center students, dental hygienists, nurse practitioners, and libraries from the district including Boonslick Regional and Trails Regional Library. An interesting new program is currently being implemented in local libraries called the Remote Electronic Access for Libraries (REAL) program. REAL strives to connect public libraries with each other and with schools and universities through the Internet to ensure that public libraries are the center of excellence for information service to local communities.
Back at the Capitol, the House and Senate took action on several topics this week including paycheck protection, right-to-work, and newborn screening, among other matters. I discuss these topics throughout the rest of the report.
Governor Unveils Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2018
Governor Eric Greitens held a press conference Thursday to reveal his budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July. Because of lagging revenue and faster-than-projected growth in health care expenditures, the governor's budget makes more than $572 million in cuts across state government, and reduces the state workforce by 188 positions.
The House Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Fitzpatrick, reacted to the governor's proposal by saying, "It is the obligation of the General Assembly and the governor to balance the state budget in good times and bad. I commend Governor Greitens for making tough decisions. Over the next two months, the Budget Committee and entire House of Representatives will scrutinize the proposed cuts and increases and determine the greatest good that can be done for Missourians with the revenues available. Furthermore, I commit to working with the Senate and the executive branch to advance long-term solutions that will provide greater stability and viability to future budgets while maintaining the state's Triple A credit rating."
Some of the highlights of the governor's budget proposal include:
$3.3 billion for the school foundation formula, ensuring that classroom funding is protected.
$2 million to expand course access through the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program so that children across the state
can use technology to access Advanced Placement classes.
$13 million to cover the costs of providing special education services to students with disabilities through the High Need Fund, which provides instruction, tuition, assistive technology, supportive services, and transportation.
$10.7 million to care for children who have been abused or neglected and removed from their homes, including services for children with emotional and psychological difficulties, and expenses for children in adoptive and guardianship care placements.
Additional funding totaling $33.8 million to serve 1,472 additional individuals with developmental disabilities through case management, transitional services, and crisis residential placements.
$750,000 to provide additional services for victims of sexual and domestic violence, and their children.
$250,000 to establish a Blue Alert system so the state can find and bring swift justice to anyone who assaults a law enforcement officer.
$1 million to decrease the backlog of cases at the state's Crime Lab.
$690,000 to provide TASERs and body armor to ensure troopers are protected and have the nonlethal tools they need.
$11 million to coordinate efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in Missouri.
$2 million to enhance cyber security and protect against potential threats, attacks, and breaches.
$115.5 million to participate in the Excellence in Mental Health Act to develop a system to serve individuals with serious
mental illness and substance use disorders while promoting the delivery of efficient and effective care.
$5.5 million to ensure veterans' home residents are provided the quality care they deserve and veterans with service-related disabilities have access to services, and to build needed ancillary facilities at veterans' homes and cemeteries.
$2.5 million to expand drug courts and veterans' treatment courts in Missouri to help adults and veterans struggling with mental health and substance use issues.
$2 million to reduce recidivism rates by assisting offenders in partnering with agencies and community groups so they transition successfully from custody to productive citizens.
House Approves "Paycheck Protection" Legislation (HB 251)
Members of the Missouri House of Representatives continued their labor reform efforts this week as they passed legislation commonly referred to as "paycheck protection." It's a change supporters say would allow union members to ensure their dues aren't used for political purposes they oppose.
The bill is meant to give public employee union members the right to opt-in annually to have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. The current system requires a public employee to opt-out. If they fail to do so, their dues are automatically deducted.
Specifically, the bill would require annual written consent from a public employee before any amount could be withheld from the employee's earnings for the payment of any portion of dues, agency shop fees, or other fees paid to a public labor organization.
The legislation also would require public employee unions to obtain annual written consent in order to spend a portion of the fees on political activities.
In addition, the bill is designed to increase transparency by requiring public labor organizations to maintain financial records identical to those required by federal law. The reports must be made available to employees in a searchable electronic format.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Missouri General Assembly approved a similar bill last year, but the legislation was vetoed by the previous governor. The current governor is expected to sign this year's version of the bill into law if it reaches his desk.
Right-to-Work Legislation Signed into Law (SB 19)
Missouri will now become the nation's 28th Right-to-Work state as Governor Eric Greitens recently SB 19 into law. This week the governor traveled to Springfield and Poplar Bluff before returning to Jefferson City for a series of ceremonial bill signings to tout the benefits of the new law that will take effect August 28.
As Greitens told a group of legislators and onlookers before signing the bill in the State Capitol, "Passing Right-to-Work sends a very clear message that the people of Missouri are ready to work and Missouri is open for business."
House Gives Initial Approval to Legislation Expanding Screenings of Newborns (HB 66)
The Missouri House gave first-round approval this week to legislation that would expand screenings of newborns in Missouri to look for two more life-threatening diseases.
The bill would require that infants be screened for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and mucopolysaccharidosis II (MPS II), otherwise known as Hunter syndrome. Both are genetic diseases that can be fatal. Supporters say the earlier they are detected, the better outcomes can be.
The sponsor said the bill, "gives families hope and it gives us a chance to save the lives of even more babies here in Missouri."
SMA results in a loss of physical strength that can include a lessened ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the leading genetic cause of death for infants. Hunter syndrome is caused by an enzyme deficiency that results in the buildup of harmful molecules that can affect a person's appearance, mental development, organ function, and physical abilities. An estimated 2,000 people have Hunter syndrome worldwide, with about 500 of those living in the U.S.
No drugs have been approved for SMA, but one could be approved by April. There is no cure for Hunter syndrome, but earlier detection could improve the lives or increase the lifespan of those children who have it.
The sponsor of the bill believes there should be little or no additional cost to screen for SMA, and screening for Hunter syndrome can be done "very reasonably." The bill would make the additional screenings subject to annual funding by the state, and would allow the Department of Health and Senior Services to increase its newborn screening fees to pay for the additional tests.
The bill now requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
FFA President Colton Spencer Reminds Legislators of the Importance of Agricultural Education
The FFA State Officer Team visited the State Capitol Tuesday to remind legislators of the importance of agricultural education in the state. The group was on hand to represent the more than 26,000 students who are currently involved in FFA. They provided
legislators with information showing that 342 high schools and career centers currently offer agriculture classes, and that more than 28,000 students are enrolled in agricultural education programs. In 2015, there were more than 5,400 agricultural education graduates in Missouri. Ninety-five percent of the graduates either went on to continue their education or secure employment, with 64 percent of them pursuing agriculture as a career.
In keeping with tradition in the Missouri House of Representatives, FFA President Colton Spencer addressed House members to discuss the mission of the organization. Spencer noted that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act that led to the creation of Career and Technical Education in the United States. Eleven years later in 1928, 33 high school students from 18 states met in Kansas City Missouri, for the first ever National FFA Convention. Their efforts created what is now the nation's largest school-based youth organization boasting nearly 650,000 members.
As Spencer said in his address, "For 89 years the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, has given individuals an opportunity. An opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills in the areas of applied science, technical and employability skills, while learning about our nation's #1 industry: agriculture."
Spencer also noted the three goals of FFA, which are to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture. He concluded his remarks by thanking legislators for their dedication to Missouri and its residents, and by asking that they work together to advance the three goals of FFA.
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,