Tomorrow (Friday, May 12) is the last day of the 2017 legislative session! We have had some early wins by sending a few bills to the governor, but passing legislation in the last few months has been cumbersome. However, there is still a little time to pass some important pieces of legislation, such as Real ID, in the next day before session ends. The budget has also been a major topic this year. Each year we must develop a balanced budget and the process is always complex. However, this year has been a particularly difficult budget year. I’ll begin with one of the sticking points of the new budget.
HCB 3 – Circuit Breaker
The state operating budget that was approved last week is partially dependent on a standalone piece of legislation that would create the Senior Services Protection Fund. The fund is important because if it is created and funded it will allow several services for the elderly and disabled to continue at their current levels.
The budget, as it was passed, has a partial restoration of a cut proposed by the governor to in-home care and nursing home services for some of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. The governor had recommended increasing the eligibility requirements for these services (21 points of eligibility criteria to 27 points), which would have resulted in approximately 20,000 seniors and disabled Missourians no longer qualifying for the state-funded care. The House then moved to fully restore them to their original levels so that no one would be cut off from care. The final version of the budget represents a compromise that increases requirements slightly (24 points), but also includes a provision that would restore all of the governor’s proposed cuts if the House and Senate can pass the Senior Services Protection Fund (HCB3).
The House and Senate are now trying to reach an agreement on the bill. The version passed by the House would end the renter’s portion of the senior citizens property tax credit in order to generate funds that would be used to protect the existing level of service to Missouri seniors and disabled citizens.
The version passed by the Senate does away with the circuit breaker change and instead generates funds by “sweeping” the unexpended monies from several state funds associated with regulatory boards and commissions. The $35.4 million the Senate’s plan would generate would be one-time dollars, which means legislators would need to seek other options for funding the plan in future years. Also, this approach seems to have some constitutional issues concerning the timing of the proposal.
If approved, the bill would also restore funding for brain injury services provided by the Department of Health that have been withheld in previous budget cycles; restore a portion of a cut proposed by the governor to reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers; and provide additional funding for the state’s Area Agencies on Aging for use in the Meals on Wheels program that provides meal assistance to seniors.
Real ID (HB 151)
HB 151, which offers Missourians the option to obtain photo identification that complies with the federal REAL ID Act, is continuing to make its way through the legislative process. To briefly recap, Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. The purpose is to enhance security procedures by establishing new minimum standards for driver’s licenses. Because the state has not complied with the requirements, Missouri licenses are no longer a valid form of identification at federal facilities and military bases (including Whiteman AFB), and will no longer be valid at airports as proof of identity for domestic flights beginning January 22, 2018.
The bill to bring Missouri into compliance was initially approved by the House in March and would require the state department of revenue to issue Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards to those who want them. Most recently, the bill has been voted out of the Senate with four amendments and is now back in the House for review. The amendments did not substantially change any components of the bill other than specifying that the documents retained in obtaining the ID shall be stored solely on a system not connected to the Internet. Also, important to note, the ID will be opt out, meaning that those who do not want the ID will need to specify they wish to have a non-Real ID compliant license. In essence, the bill is designed to provide a solution that will ensure Missourians aren’t burdened with having to get alternative identifications to access federal facilities or to visit family members on military bases, or to travel. The bill is about giving Missourians the option to decide what type of license they would like to have. The bill originally passed 99-40, and should come up for a final vote tomorrow.
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 email@example.com. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.