Another round of legislation is now on its way to the Senate after yet another busy legislative week at the Capitol.
This week, the House approved a bill meant to protect the state’s unemployment system from insolvency in the event there is another economic downturn. The legislation is designed to make sure the state has enough money in its unemployment trust fund so that businesses don’t have to pay a penalty. In addition, the House approved a bill that would ease state law to allow organizations to give clean needles to users of illegal intravenous drugs. Some say the bill will help combat a potential outbreak of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C caused by the sharing of used needles and will get more people into drug treatment. Needle exchange or syringe access programs already exist in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. The legislation would relax state law to allow the programs to operate and to expand to other regions in the state. Both bills now move on to the Senate for consideration. More on these and other bills below.
Also, this week, I had one of my bills, HCR 53, which urges Congress to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Ghost Army from WWII, voted unanimously out of the Rules Committee. Hopefully, the bill will be brought to the House Floor in the coming days. Moreover, as I mentioned last week, I had a hearing on my HB 1942, which allows institutions of higher education to designate one or more faculty or staff members as campus protection officers. The Council on Public Higher Education and Missouri Community College Association testified in favor of the bill. This week the bill was voted favorably out of committee and is on its way to the Rules Committee before heading to the House Floor.
House Passes Important Reforms for State Unemployment System (HB 1409)
Members of the Missouri House gave final approval to a bill meant to protect the state’s unemployment system from insolvency in the event there is another economic downturn. The legislation is designed to make sure the state has enough money in its unemployment trust fund so that businesses don’t have to pay a penalty. Specifically, it would increase the minimum amount of money in the fund by $120 million before employers’ contribution rates decrease. For example, Missouri businesses would see their contribution rates decrease by 7 percent if the fund has a balance greater than $720 million. Rates would drop by 12 percent if the fund sees a balance in excess of $870 million.
The bill would also tie unemployment benefits to the average unemployment rate so that more benefits are available when unemployment is high. If the state were in a position of high unemployment (9 percent or higher), benefits would be available for 20 weeks. In periods of low unemployment (lower than 6 percent), benefits would be available for 13 weeks.
The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration. The House and Senate approved similar legislation in 2015 only to see then Governor Nixon veto the bill. The House approved a veto override during the regular session that year, and the Senate then completed the override during the annual Veto Session. The law was later struck down by the Supreme Court because of the fact the veto was not overridden in the same session.
House Approves Needle Exchange Bill (HB 1620)
The Missouri House approved legislation this week that would ease state law to allow organizations to give clean needles to users of illegal intravenous drugs. Some say the bill will help combat a potential outbreak of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C caused by the sharing of used needles and will get more people into drug treatment. Needle exchange or syringe access programs already exist in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. The legislation approved by the House would relax state law to allow the programs to operate and to expand to other regions in the state.
The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Other Bills Moving to the Senate
HB 1413 would require the authorization for certain labor unions to use dues and fees to make political contributions and requires consent for withholding earnings from paychecks.
HB 1367 would allow licensees to obtain duplicate licenses from the board of cosmetology and barber examiners.
HB 1420 would extend the sunset for the early learning quality assurance report pilot program from August 28, 2016 until August 28, 2019.
HB 1930 would include political subdivisions and special districts in the list of entities prohibited from regulating the exhibition of a properly displayed United States flag. Rules, regulations, and ordinances of all kinds are subject to the requirements of the bill. The bill does not apply to purely private associations or restrictive covenants. Federal requirements for the use and display of the flag are not mandatory and there is no penalty for improper display.
HB 1267 would add approved virtual institutions to the Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program. HB 1691 would modify the appeal procedure for decisions by the public service commission.
HB 1838 would authorize and empower the governor to convey all interest in specific property, described in the bill, located in Jefferson City, Missouri.
HB 1653 would modify provisions of law relating to certain incentives offered by manufacturers and retailers of intoxicating liquor.
HB 1251 would change the laws regarding foreclosure proceeds. Currently, the owner of a home could improperly receive the proceeds of a tax sale, instead of the proceeds going to the lien holder on the home.
HB 1879 would change the laws regarding financial transactions by public entities. This bill would also reduce administrative hassle and burden.
HB 1859 would allow law enforcement agencies to assist other law enforcement agencies. Currently, only adjoining counties may enter into mutual aid agreements, but sometimes counties need help from, or can offer help to, counties outside the adjoining areas.
HB 1389 would exclude autocycle operators from protective headgear requirements.
HB 1460 would authorize a tax deduction for any prize or award won by an Olympic medalist.
HB 1685 would exempt short-term major medical policies from several health insurance mandates and allow such policies to have a term of less than one year. The change could help families get more affordable health insurance coverage.
HB 1690 would modify provisions of the Missouri life and health insurance guarantee act. It would give increased support for long term care insurance and strengthen and add protections for health maintenance organizations.
This week I received several visits at the Capitol. Among the visitors were, Mr. Mitch Holder and students from the Saline County Career Center (left), FBLA and DECA students from Warrensburg (center), and Missouri Dental Hygienists’ Association President Linda Hoffmann and a State Fair dental student (right). Several important topics and legislation was discussed.
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.