The eighth week of the 2016 Legislative Session marked another busy one in the halls of the Capitol building in Jefferson City. Many expected the Missouri Senate would take up controversial Voter ID legislation this week, but the anticipation continues to build into the weekend.
Another controversial issue did however come to the Senate floor on Tuesday. The debate over House Bill 1891 came to a close after eight hours, ending just before midnight. Senator Nasheed was the first senator to speak against the “paycheck deception” bill.
”This bill is an all-out attack on the middle-class, on the people who built this country and keep it strong every day. It’s a shame that so many people in our Capitol building make it their priority to destroy the proud legacy of the American worker,” Sen. Nasheed said after the debate.
Despite the opposition, the bill passed the Senate. However, Sen. Nasheed and her colleagues were able to make changes to the legislation, which will require it to go back to the House of Representatives before it makes the governor’s desk.
The halls were again busy with visits by organizations from throughout the state. On Tuesday, the General Assembly hosted National History Day celebrations. Thursday marked STEM Day at the Capitol. “Science and technology are the future of our economy. We must increase funding for math and science education, or we risk falling behind the rest of the country,” Sen. Nasheed Said. Last session, Sen. Nasheed was able to include $250,000 in the state budget for STEM tutoring targeted at inner-city youth.
On the Floor
On Tuesday, the Senate debated House Bill 1891 for approximately eight hours, through the evening and until nearly midnight. Senator Nasheed was the first senator to rise and speak against the “paycheck deception” bill. After the long discussion, the bill was amended in a 23-7 vote before being perfected.
The Senate stalled on another bill that would modify several provisions relating to the sale and storage of intoxicating liquors. Senate Bill 919 would allow breweries to sell refrigerators to the retail establishments that sell their beer. Senate Bill 919 was heard on Tuesday and amended multiple times before being placed on the Informal Calendar for the debate to resume the following day. The bill was third read and finally passed by the Senate on Thursday.
Bills and Committees
Senator Nasheed had two bills heard in committee this week:
- Senate Bill 976—Fair and Impartial Policing Act — this act prohibits law enforcement from engaging in biased policing. “The Fair and Impartial Policing Act will help police officers know when and how to properly interact with suspects in a manner that respects their dignity and civil rights,” Sen. Nasheed stated, continuing, “This act is good for police and civilians alike.” Senate Bill 976 was presented to the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee for a public hearing on Tuesday, March 1 at 1:00 p.m. Several witnesses came to testify on the bill, including: Rod Chapel of the NAACP, Sarah Rossi from the ACLU, and Vanessa Crawford Aragon—the director of the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates—among others.
- Senate Bill 626 – Affirmative Consent — would require colleges and universities to inform their students and employees about the “affirmative consent” standard used for determining consent to sexual activity. “Campus sexual assault is a problem that has been brought into the national spotlight recently. I introduced this bill to ensure that colleges in Missouri are doing all they can to keep their students safe,” Sen. Nasheed said. Senate Bill 626 was be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. Several survivors and survivor-advocates came to testify in favor of the bill, and among those who testified, support was unanimous.
The Senator also will also have three bills heard in committee in the coming weeks:
- Senate Bill 1038 – Exoneration Compensation — Changes the amount per year an unlawfully convicted person can be paid for time spent in jail. According to Sen. Nasheed, “My bill would allow individuals who have been wrongly accused to rebuild their lives.” This bill will be heard in Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence on March 15.
- Senate Bill 724—Ban the Box — this act makes it an unlawful employment practice for certain employers to inquire into the criminal record of an applicant before the applicant has received a conditional offer of employment. Once the position has been offered, the employer may inquire into whether the applicant has been found guilty of a felony or a misdemeanor. Senate Bill 724 will be heard by the Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee on March 15.
- Senate Bill 725—Minimum Wage — this piece of legislation would gradually raise the minimum wage in the state of Missouri from $7.65 to $12 an hour over the next five years. The first increase would occur at the beginning of next year, raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. “Workers in Missouri, despite putting in regular hours, are struggling each and every day to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families. That’s unacceptable,” Sen. Nasheed stated. Senate Bill 725 will also be heard by the Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee on March 15.
It was a busy week in the budget world, this week saw a full schedule of Senate Appropriations Committee hearings on department budgets, as well as the House Budget
Committee marking-up the budget bills.
The departments testifying this week included Public Safety, Higher Education, Natural Resources, and Corrections. While much of the budget presentations are of routine matters, one of the matters that caught the attention of the committee was the proposed addition of ten state troopers. Five would serve to increase highway enforcement, while the other five would serve on special investigations. The House has decreased the recommendation to only five highway troopers.
Discussion of Higher Education’s budget raised several questions about the equality of funding levels among the state-funded universities. Two universities that are historically African-American, Harris-Stowe and Lincoln, are the bottom of the funding list. Proposed funding for Harris-Stowe is $10 million, and $19 million for Lincoln University. Harris-Stowe was established 1857, and Lincoln is an 1890 land grant university.
In comparison are regional schools Missouri Southern ($24 million), Missouri Western ($22 million), Northwest Missouri ($32 million), and Southeast Missouri ($47 million). The discrepancy was explained by the department as a difference in the cost of degree programs, for example an engineering degree requiring physical labs and instructor cost is more than an English degree. The committee requested a breakdown of per pupil cost.
The most important information that came from the Department of Natural Resources’ budget presentation was confirmation that the lead crisis currently occurring in Flint, Michigan could not occur in Missouri. The director cited a variety of tests, oversights and checks that would trigger immediate action should any harmful substances be detected in Missouri water supplies.
The budget hearing of the Department of Corrections revealed a very large backlog of extradition reimbursements, which is important to the funding of local police and corrections agencies, as they are reimbursed the cost of an inmate’s transportation when a citizen is extradited from another jurisdiction. During the first nine months of the fiscal year, the department reimbursed $129,000 to the local agencies. The backlog is $1.2 million worth of reimbursements – local agencies that have spent the money out of their budget and are awaiting repayment. The department agreed to look into the matter further.
The House Budget Committee held their mark-up hearings this week, which refers to amending the budget. Mark-ups (amendments) included a reversal of the House Committee’s earlier decision to fund a portion of the education formula from a surplus fund. The surplus fund would only have money to spend if economic projections are exceeded in fiscal year 2017. The restored education funding, along with several other restorations, leaves the surplus funding at $127 million, and much less controversial.
The University of Missouri had its salary cuts of $400,000 restored, but efforts to restore an $8 million cut to the University System administrative budget failed. The House Committee discussed the lack of a communicated plan to address several issues, including how to increase research dollars, how to increase enrollment, and to address teaching waivers.
After several years of media coverage, the cost of the death penalty, including cash payments, will have its own line item. The transparency amendment in the House Committee passed by a unanimous voice vote.
It is expected that the House will take up the budget on the floor beginning next week. The Senate Appropriations Committee could begin its mark-up process as early as the week of March 21st.
ST. LOUIS HEALTH DEPARTMENT ISSUES INFLUENZA ADVISORY: CDC urges Rapid Antiviral Treatment of Very Ill and High Risk Suspect Influenza Patients without Waiting for Testing
Influenza activity is increasing across the country and CDC has received reports of severe influenza illness. Clinicians are reminded to treat suspected influenza in high-risk outpatients, those with progressive disease, and all hospitalized patients with antiviral medications as soon as possible, regardless of negative rapid influenza diagnostic test (RIDT) results and without waiting for RT-PCR testing results. Early antiviral treatment works best, but treatment may offer benefit when started up to four-five days after symptom onset in hospitalized patients. Early antiviral treatment can reduce influenza morbidity and mortality.
For more information, see:
- Summary of Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report: (cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm)
- People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications
HOUSE COMMITTEE REVISES FUNDING BUMP FOR EDUCATION
On Monday, the House Budget Committee approved the 13 appropriations bills that make up the $27.1 billion state operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2017, which begins July 1. The House of Representatives is expected to debate the bills in the coming week.
The committee approved a $70 million increase in state funding for local public school districts, abandoning an earlier proposal that would have guaranteed K-12 schools only a $23 million increase with up to $47 million in additional funding possible if the revenue collections meet certain benchmarks. However, the funding hike approved by the Republican-controlled committee falls short of the $85 million increase recommended by the governor.
Although the committee restored a $400,000 cut symbolically targeting the salaries of now-fired Mizzou professor Melissa Click and two of her supervisors, it defeated an attempt to reverse part of a $7.67 million punitive cut to the administrative budget of the four campus University of Missouri System and its governing Board of Curators. The cuts are in retaliation for administrators’ handling of student protests last year over racism at the Columbia campus and related fallout.
Click became a key figure in the protests due to separate videos of her getting into altercations with students and police on two different occasions. More than a 100 Republican lawmakers had demanded for weeks that she be fired, and the curators finally obliged on Feb. 26.
SUPREME COURT PUNTS SUNSHINE LAW CASE AGAINST SENATE
A lawsuit claiming some Senate committee chairmen violate the state’s Sunshine Law by prohibiting video recordings of hearings suffered another setback on March 1, when the Missouri Supreme Court kicked the case down to an intermediate court without a decision. The high court heard oral arguments in the case on Feb. 23 but later decided it didn’t properly have jurisdiction since the case should first have been decided by the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District.
Progress Missouri, a liberal advocacy group, sued the Senate last year after being blocked from recording some committee hearings. Although the Sunshine Law generally requires governmental bodies to allow citizens or the media to record public meetings, Senate rules leave the decision up to the discretion of individual committee chairmen.
Progress Missouri argues the Senate rule conflicts with the Sunshine Law and is invalid. However, because the state constitution grants the Senate and House of Representatives the power to determine the rules of their own proceedings, the Senate maintains its rules trump the Sunshine Law in this instance. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem agreed with the Senate and ruled in its favor year, prompting Progress Missouri to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
The case must now be argued before the Western District appellate court. Once that court issues a ruling, it could again be appealed to the Supreme Court for a final decision. The case is Progress Missouri Inc. v. Missouri Senate.
HOUSE APPROVES MONITORING PRESCRIPTION DRUG USE
On March 3, the House of Representatives voted 87-66 to establish a prescription drug monitoring program that would allow purchases of prescription narcotics to be tracked. Missouri is the only state in the nation that hasn’t yet established such a database.
Database supporters say it would make it more difficult for prescription drug abusers to obtain multiple prescriptions from several doctors and could help reduce overdoses. Opponents say the bill treats all people with prescriptions as criminals and that putting their personal medical information in a government database threatens their privacy.
The measure, House Bill 1892, now advances to the Senate, where similar legislation repeatedly has been blocked in the past.
NIXON VETOES RESOLUTION ON HOME HEALTH WORKER PAY
On Feb. 26, the governor vetoed a resolution, which would block a pay increase for home health care workers employed by companies under contract with the state. It was the governor’s first veto of the 2016 Legislative Session.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 46 seeks to prevent the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services from implementing an administrative rule raising home health care worker pay from a minimum of $7.65 an hour to between $8.50 and $10.15 an hour.
Since SCR 46 passed with veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers, an override attempt is expected. The resolution originally passed 27-4 in the Senate and 125-43 in the House. A veto override requires 23 Senate votes and 109 House votes.
Since taking office in January 2009, the governor has vetoed 137 bills. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has overruled him on 34 of those bills.
NET GENERAL REVENUE UP 3 PERCENT SO FAR IN FISCAL YEAR 2016
Net state general revenue collections increased 3 percent during the first eight months of the 2016 fiscal year compared to the same period in Fiscal Year 2015, going from $5.29 billion last year to $5.45 billion this year. Year-to-date collections had been running 3.4 percent ahead of the previous year through the first seven months of Fiscal Year 2016.
Net general revenue collections for February 2016 increased by 0.5 percent compared to those for February 2015, going from $486.6 million to $484.3 million.
Sen. Nasheed Congratulates St. Louis Reentry Organizations Awarded Appropriations
Last Session, Sen. Nasheed worked to include $750,000 in the state budget to fund programs to help those recently released from incarceration re-enter the community and rebuild their lives. “Reentry is a major concern in the St. Louis area. I am proud to say that I fought to ensure that these organizations have the resources they need to serve our community and empower individuals to rebuild their lives,” Sen. Nasheed said. The following organizations have been awarded funds:
- Center for Women in Transition – Mentoring and Advocacy – St. Louis, MO
With Community Reentry funding, the program will be maintained to serve 50 female offenders in Fiscal Year 2016, providing transitional housing, basic needs such as food cards, one-on-one mentoring, linkage to employment services and substance abuse treatment, transportation and restorative justice activities.
Carrie Coats, Project Director
- Center for Women in Transition – Restorative Reentry for Women – St. Louis, MO
Designed to increase success rates of sex-offenders by helping with healthcare costs, rental deposits and sex offender counseling to women.
Carrie Coats, Project Director
- Employment Connections – Bridging Barriers – St. Louis, MO
This program will address recidivism and self-sufficiency in high-risk offenders. Employment Connection will connect 40 high-risk offenders to employment, counseling, transportation, education, housing, and supportive services.
David Kessel, Chief Operating Officer
- Criminal Justice Ministry – Release to Rent-Housing & Startup – St. Louis, MO
Release to Rent-Housing & Startup provides needed assistance to 15 clients released from incarceration including assistance with deposit, utilities, cell phone, monthly bus passes, clothing, food, medical services, personal hygiene items and other needs that are identified.
Carleen Reck, Executive Director
- Criminal Justice Ministry – Entry Essentials – St. Louis, MO
“Entry Essentials” allows the Criminal Justice Ministry to assist parolees who are returning to St. Louis without resources. Funding will include continued partnering with Probation and Parole officers to meet basic needs of the offenders.
Carleen Reck, Executive Director
- Criminal Justice Ministry – Release to Rent Housing – St. Louis, MO
This program will serve 15 clients released from incarceration. Services will include placement in a furnished apartment with individualized services and intensive supervision. The security deposit will be paid and rent will be paid for the first three months and then the client will “step down” each month thereafter by 10 percent until the twelfth month when the client will take over paying rent in full.
Carleen Reck, Executive Director
- Mission Gate City Outreach Job and Trauma Program – South St. Louis City
This program will provide 75 male and female residents in Mission Gate’s City Outreach aftercare program with an enhanced employment program. It will include a job coach who will assist residents with job applications, resumes, job search activities and developing partnerships with local employers. A job readiness class will be taught to develop soft skills and hard skills to include GED instruction and life skills. Resources will be used to ensure the residents have all of their basic needs met including adequate food, clothing, identification and initial housing. Residents will receive two free weeks of housing to alleviate their stress levels while they seek employment. Transportation will be provided to and from work, job interviews and treatment. In addition, counseling will be provided for clients who have suffered past trauma.
Trish Mathes, Program Director