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2016 Legislative Session Comes to a Close

 

 

Productive 2016 Legislative Session Comes to a Close

After more than four months of hard work, late nights and lengthy discussions, the Missouri House of Representatives concluded the 2016 legislative session with a long list of accomplishments. The session began with a focus on substantive ethics reform, and the legislature pushed several measures across the legislative finish line that will help to improve the culture at the State Capitol. The House and Senate also worked together to approve a fiscally responsible spending plan that makes a record investment in K-12 education, significantly boosts funding for Missouri’s colleges and universities, and provides new spending to help improve and repair the state’s transportation infrastructure.

 

In addition to ethics reform and the state spending plan, the legislature moved to protect the integrity of the elections process by implementing a system of voter identification, and approved legislation to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in the state’s welfare programs. Lawmakers also adopted several economic development measures to reduce bureaucratic red tape for Missouri’s small businesses, and invest in Missouri’s system of ports. Additionally, the legislature passed bills addressing issues ranging from suicide prevention to CPR instruction to tax relief for active duty members of the military.

 

With the completion of the regular session, the many bills passed by the General Assembly now head to the governor for his consideration. Legislators will next return to the State Capitol in September for the annual Veto Session when they will have the opportunity to consider overriding any vetoes made by the governor.

I've listed several below but will send out an "End of Session" report that you will receive via mail.  Too many to list in this report!

 

Strengthening Second Amendment Rights (SB 656)

The Missouri General Assembly advanced legislation this session to strengthen the gun rights of law-abiding Missourians. The bill will allow Missourians to carry a concealed weapon without the need for a permit. Commonly referred to as constitutional carry, the bill would allow any person to carry a concealed firearm anywhere that isn’t expressly prohibited by law. The bill is meant to build on the constitutional change made by Missouri citizens in 2014 that allows Missourians the right to permit-less carry.

 

The bill also ensures that individuals who do want to obtain a five-year concealed carry permit will not be charged a fee in excess of $100. The bill specifically prohibits additional fees that may be charged, including any fee for fingerprinting or criminal background check. Additionally, the bill will allow Missouri citizens to obtain 10-year, 25-year, or lifetime permits for $200, $250, and $500 respectively.

 

The legislation also contains a provision commonly referred to as “Stand Your Ground” law. The measure removes the requirement that a person who is any place they are legally allowed to be can use force without retreating first. The bill also expands the state’s castle doctrine law. Current statute allows individuals to use deadly force to defend themselves and their property against intruders. The bill approved by lawmakers will extend the protection against lawsuits to house guests who use deadly force. 

 Famous end of session paper toss!  2016

 

This is the famous end of session paper toss!  I didn't get to participate this year, as I had to leave a couple hours early due to family duties.  Fun photo showing the beauty of the House chamber and the end of the legislative session.

 

Ethics Reform - Changing the Culture in Jefferson City

  • HB 1979 – Revolving Door Ban.  Requires a waiting period for elected officials seeking to become lobbyists after leaving office.
  • HB 1983 – Ban on Elected Paid Political Consultants. Prevents elected officials from working as paid political consultants.
  • HB 2203 – Limits the investment of campaign funds and prohibits anyone from working as a lobbyist while they have an active campaign account.

 

Voter ID (HB 1631 and HJR 53)

 

The House and Senate reached final agreement on two measures designed to require a valid form of photo identification in order to vote. One is a proposed constitutional amendment that will go on the November ballot for voter approval. The other is a statutory change that is now on the governor’s desk for his consideration.

 

HJR 53 will allow voters to decide if the Missouri Constitution should be changed to allow a system of voter identification. If approved by voters, HB 1631 would then implement the system of voter identification. The bill would require voters to present a specified form of identification in order to vote in a public election. Valid forms of identification would include photo IDs issued by the state, the federal government or the military. The bill also would require the state to pay for individuals to obtain a valid ID if they do not have one, or to obtain documents necessary for an ID. Additionally, the final version of the HB 1631 contains a provision that would allow a voter without a valid photo ID to vote with a regular ballot by showing another form of identification.

Big Government Get Off My Back Act (HB 1870)

The General Assembly approved legislation meant to cut the bureaucratic red tape that too often stifles the growth of small businesses in Missouri. The bill revives the Big Government Get Off My Back Act for tax years 2016 through 2021.

 

The act originally ran from 2009 to 2014 and was instrumental in prohibiting new rules and regulations on small businesses, as well as unnecessary fee increases. The act also gives a $10,000 tax deduction for any small business, with 50 employees or less, that hires additional employees and pays them at least the average county wage. A business can claim a $20,000 deduction if it also pays for at least half of its employees’ health insurance premiums.

 

In its final year in 2014, the act provided tax relief to 196 small businesses throughout Missouri. Supporters hope to provide assistance to even more businesses by reviving the program.

Welfare Reform (SB 607)

As you know welfare reform is one of the things in government that I'm quite passionate about.  I feel we must continually work on this program to ensure that we are helping those who truly need it, but by helping I mean to get to a point of standing on your own two feet through education and job training.  Simple hand-outs only prevent recipients from being able to see and obtain their true potential.  Over the years government has actually hurt people with the way they have tried to help.  

Legislation is now on its way to the governor’s desk to allow the state to more efficiently and proficiently verify applicants and recipients of welfare services. The bill will 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 such as the supplemental nutrition assistance program, temporary assistance for needy families, child care assistance, and MO HealthNet. The bill is meant to help the department ensure accuracy in the welfare rolls, which is a process it has admittedly fallen behind in performing. The bill has the added benefit of possibly saving the state more than $20 million over the next three years by eliminating waste and fraud from the system.

 

The legislation also creates the Joint Committee on Public Assistance to study, monitor, and review the efficacy of Missouri’s public assistance programs. The committee will also determine the level and adequacy of resources needed for the state’s programs, and develop recommendations on the public assistance programs and on promoting independence from safety net programs.

 

 

Suffering Some Set-Backs

Two of the pieces of legislation that I sponsored, and you heard the most about, were Paycheck Protection and The Narcotics Control Act.  Both died the second to the last day of session.

Paycheck Protection was veto'd by the Governor and returned for an in-session over-ride.  This bill is vehemently opposed by the unions as it would make the union bosses work to provide a service to their members.  The House successfully completed the over-ride with no room to spare.  The Senate went to it Wednesday night and after a few hours voted around 12:30 am and came up one vote short of the number needed.  

We will continue to work to revamp Missouri's antiquated labor laws.  We lost this battle, but it is too important to give-up on.  Unions continue to shrink in Missouri and they don't seem to understand when you do the same thing over and over you cannot expect different results.  In the meantime our factories will continue to close and our jobs will continue to go to states with better labor laws.  What you can do right now is help me work to get a governor that will sign labor law reform bills.  An over-ride isn't necessary when you have a governor that will work with the legislature and pass laws that increase business in the state - union and non-union jobs.  We need them all.  Right now we get neither.

The Narcotics Control Act as you know would implement a prescription monitoring program in Missouri as in all the other states.  Right now Missouri medical professionals cannot see what medications another doctor has their patient taking.  We have forced our doctors to be investigators, therefore those with chronic pain have a harder time obtaining their medication and those with addictions are not noticed until social services, law enforcement or desperate family members get involved. I was very hopeful this would be the session that we would get this life-saving piece of legislation over the finish line.  I'm so very disappointed that is not the case.  However, giving up is not within me.  

I am so pleased that St. Louis County has passed an ordinance to have a prescription drug monitoring program within their county and other surrounding counties are working to join in.  We will have prescription drug monitoring programs in Missouri.     

 

 

One thing is always certain, God's love for us.  He knows our hearts and is always present.  With The Narcotics Control Act dying on Thursday, and Paycheck Protection, I woke up Friday morning with a heavy heart.

However, it was Kayden's first time to come to the Capitol!  He has waited patiently for years now to see where I worked.  In this photo Kayden is standing with me during our opening prayer.  He was a bit overwhelmed at first but it certainly made my heart smile to have him next to me.

 

Thank you for allowing me to represent you.  Always know I don't take it lightly and I put my whole heart into it.      

Please share with your friends and encourage them to sign up for our reports.  Stop by or contact us anytime by calling (573) 751-5471 or via email at holly.rehder@house.mo.gov or lynn.overton@house.mo.gov.   

Kindest regards,

 

 

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Updates From Last Week

Updates from Last Week

Last week we wrapped up a few ongoing items as well as the budget.  Many good things to be proud of in this year's budget.  Please see below for details.  Have a blessed week!

House and Senate Complete Fiscal Year 2017 State Operating Budget

After long hours of discussion and compromise, the Missouri House and Senate came to a final agreement on the state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July of this year. In its final form the budget checks in at $27.26 billion. Because the House had based its original budget on a more conservative revenue estimate than was used by the governor and the Senate, the House version also contained a surplus revenue fund to capture any additional revenues that would come in above the estimate. The compromise version of the budget does away with the surplus revenue fund and instead is based on a slightly higher revenue estimate than was originally used by the House. The end result is a fiscally responsible spending plan based on realistic revenue projections that makes wise use of taxpayer dollars.
 
Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2017 state operating budget as it now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law:

• $70.3 million increase for the Foundation Formula, which funds K-12 public schools
• $5 million increase for K-12 transportation
• $537,000 in additional funding for the Parents as Teachers Program to be dedicated to struggling school districts
• $37.2 million increase in performance funding for Missouri colleges and universities, which includes approximately $17.8 million in new funding for the University of Missouri System. The budget also includes a $3.8 million cut to the MU system’s administration.
• $750,000 to fund a commission to review the MU system’s administrative structure, campus structure, auxiliary enterprises structure, degree programs, research activities, and diversity programs.
• $3 million to assist the University of Missouri – Kansas City and Missouri Southern in a joint project to create a dental school in southwest Missouri
• $4 million increase for the Access Missouri need-based scholarship program.
• $2.5 million increase for the A+ Scholarship program
• $500,000 increase for the Bright Flight scholarship program
• $2.5 million for 2015’s Dairy Revitalization Act
• $4.55 million increase for business startups through the Missouri Technology Corporation
• $1 million to open five new trade offices to help promote international trade and Missouri agriculture
• $20 million to revive the state cost-share program to fund transportation projects
• Increase Medicaid provider rates by three percent
• $4.3 million for the Alternatives to Abortion program
• Two percent pay increase for state employees
• $500,000 for a pilot project to utilize current technology to allow for better monitoring of offenders on probation and parole
• $600,00 for the Missouri State Highway Patrol to hire and train 10 additional troopers
• $4.1 million to improve technology for local sheriff’s departments 

Ethics Proposals Continue to Move Forward (HB 1983 and HB 1979)

The Missouri House continued to make good on the promise made by the House Speaker as it saw another piece of ethics reform legislation signed into law this past week. During his Opening Day Address, House Speaker Richardson made it clear that the top legislative priority for the House would be substantive ethics reform. House members then moved quickly to send seven single subject ethics bills to the Senate.
 
The bill that is set to become law on August 28 will prohibit statewide elected officials, members of the General Assembly, and candidates for those offices from receiving compensation as political consultants who are paid for profit to engage in specified political activities on behalf of other individuals holding office as statewide elected officials or members of the General Assembly.
 
The sponsor of the bill said the measure is essential to “safeguard public trust in elected officials” and called the bill an important first step. He added that he thinks it is important for people to trust that their public servants are “here for the right reasons, not to profit and make personal gain from their public office."
 
Also this week, the Senate gave final approval to another piece of ethics legislation and sent it on its way to the governor’s desk. The bill requires members to wait six months after their term expires before becoming a lobbyist. If signed into law, the bill will add Missouri to the list of more than 30 states that require a waiting period before a lawmaker can become a lobbyist.

Missouri House Moves to Ban Donation of Fetal Tissue from Abortions (HBs 2069 & 2371)

The Missouri House advanced legislation to prevent fetal tissue from abortions from being donated for medical or scientific use. The bill specifically prohibits an individual from knowingly donating the fetal organs or tissue resulting from an abortion to any person or entity for medical, scientific, experimental, therapeutic, or any other use.
 
The bill stems from the recommendations made by two House committees that met during the interim to investigate allegations that Planned Parenthood sold the tissues and organs from aborted fetuses. It was last year that an anti-abortion group released video that appeared to show a Planned Parenthood executive discuss how the organization disposes of the tissues and organs from aborted fetuses. Pro-life activists claim the video proved that Planned Parenthood sold the tissues for profit, which is illegal. Planned Parenthood claims the allegations are not true and any costs associated with the tissues are there to cover related expenses.
 
In addition to the ban on the donation of fetal tissues from abortions, the legislation approved by the House would establish a tracking system for fetal remains. Specifically, it requires all tissue removed from an abortion to be sent to a pathologist. Currently, only a representative sample of tissue removed at the time of abortion must be sent to a pathologist. Each fetal tissue specimen must be given a unique identification number to allow the specimen to be tracked from the abortion facility or hospital where the abortion was performed to the pathology lab and its final disposition location.
 
The bill also requires the department of health and senior services to conduct annual, unannounced, on-site inspections and investigations of abortion facilities.
 
Julie Braden stopped in the Capitol week before last on her break from college.  She was a breath of fresh air and Rep. Shelley Keeney Taylor and I had a blast showing her around.  This photo is Julie and Shelley at the top of the Capitol dome. 

Providing Children with Dyslexia with Adequate Resources (HB 2379)

The House approved legislation to provide additional resources and assistance to young people with dyslexia. This bill requires each public school to screen students for dyslexia and related disorders at appropriate times. In addition, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must develop guidelines for the appropriate screening of students and the necessary classroom supports. The requirements and guidelines must be consistent with the findings and recommendations of the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia, which is also created by this bill.
The bill also requires that the school board of each district and governing board of each charter school must provide reasonable support for any student determined to have dyslexia or a related disorder.
 
The bill establishes the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia to make recommendations for a statewide system for identification, intervention, and delivery of supports for students with dyslexia including the development of resource materials, professional development activities, and proposed legislation. The task force must hold its first meeting before October 1, 2016 and must submit a report within 12 months of the meeting.
 
The bill is necessary because many children with dyslexia are seeing their educational opportunities adversely impacted due to a lack of proper treatment. Currently, many schools don’t or can’t screen for dyslexia. Proponents say the bill will be a step toward ensuring proper screening and resources for children with dyslexia, which will lead to improvements in school and in other aspects of their lives.

Missouri House Approves Bill to Help Veterans Suffering from PTSD (HB 1428)

The Missouri House gave overwhelming bipartisan support to legislation that would provide additional assistance to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). House members approved HB 1428 to change Missouri law to recognize mental health service dogs on the same level as traditional service dogs.
 
The bill would revise the definition of "service dog" to include animals that provide support or therapeutic functions for individuals with psychiatric or mental disabilities. The sponsor said the change is necessary to provide additional support to the many combat veterans who returned home with PTSD or a traumatic brain injury. The sponsor also noted that the global war on terror has created 2.7 million veterans with 20 percent of these individuals estimated to have post-traumatic stress disorder, and more than 300,000 estimated to have a traumatic brain injury.
 
By adding the definition of the mental health service dogs to current statutes, the Missouri House hopes to help returning veterans suffering from PTSD, as well as individuals struggling with Alzheimer’s, brain injuries, and an array of mental health diagnoses. Mental health service dogs are individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the psychiatric disabilities of their disabled partners. Therapy dogs can guide a disoriented handler to safety, find a family member for assistance, and stop obsessive compulsive disorder actions.
 
Despite their benefits, mental health service dogs have not been recognized and treated on the same level as traditional service dogs. However, mental health services dogs are already recognized by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Please share with your friends and encourage them to sign up for our reports.  Stop by or contact us anytime by calling (573) 751-5471 or via email at holly.rehder@house.mo.gov or lynn.overton@house.mo.gov.   

Kindest regards,

 

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Holly Rehder, state representative, 148th District paid for by friends of Holly Rehder, Lisa Neumeyer, Treasurer
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