Legislative Highlights from the Missouri Senate
Week of March 17, 2016
Last week, a group of students from the University of Missouri were recognized for their excellence in research and received Senate resolutions. The future is bright because of these hardworking students who will help move Missouri to the top. Those attending were Badr Almadi, Sarah Biehn, Nathan Coffey, Jonathan Gootee, Katherine Hobbs, Romanus Hutchins, Kirtan Joshi, Bailee Kain, Kathleen Kowalsky, Devin Petersohn, Khalil Rahman, and Chelsea Titus.
I was happy to host the Columbia Gifted Students and give them an insight into the Missouri Legislative process. It is always encouraging to see young people interested in government, and we hope that we can keep our best and brightest here to serve the state of Missouri.
SCR 66 – Creates the “University of Missouri System Review Commission.” The Commission would consist of eight members – four appointed by the Speaker of the House and four appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. This introduces an evaluation of accountability and transparency for the University’s system. Link to press release: https://www.senate.mo.gov/senator-kurt-schaefer-introduces-resolution-to-create-the-university-of-missouri-system-review-commission/
SB 915 – This legislation designates two memorial highways in Boone County in the name of fallen veterans, U.S. Army Specialist Steven Paul Farnen and U.S. Navy Lt. Patrick Kelly Connor. It was voted “do pass” in the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee. Representative Chuck Basye (R-47) has a similar bill in the House, HB 1958.
SB 785 – Requires that all civil litigation funding contracts meet certain requirements, including that the contract be completely filled in when presented to the consumer. Senate Bill 785 also requires contracts to have a right of rescission, the initials of the consumer on each page, and the consumer to give direction to his or her attorney to notify the civil litigation funding company when the legal claim has been resolved. The civil litigation funding company shall also notify the consumer’s attorney of the consumer litigation funding contract.
SB 875 – This interchangeable biological product bill was third read and passed by the Missouri Senate, and has been first read in the House, handled by Rep. Hubrecht. This legislation allows a pharmacist filling a prescription order for a brand name biological product to select a less expensive interchangeable biological product if the substitute has been approved by the FDA to be an interchangeable biological product.
SJR 39 – Senator Onder presented Senate Joint Resolution 39, which prohibits the state from imposing penalties on individuals and religious entities who refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies due to their sincerely-held religious beliefs. I, along with my Senate majority colleagues, stood in support of SJR 39 for almost 40 hours, while the Senate minority caucus filibustered the bill. The majority members called for a previous question motion, or a “PQ”, which ended the debate and brought the bill to a vote. Senate Joint Resolution 39 passed with a vote of 23-9.
The Missouri House has third read and passed the budget bills, and the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin state agency mark-ups on the 2017 budget, March 29, 2016.
Gubernatorial Appointments for Senatorial District 19 January and February this year are as follows:
- James Greer to the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund Board of Trustees;
- Anne K. Heyen to the Missouri State Board of Nursing;
- Daniel K. Atwill to the Missouri Workforce Development Board;
- Heather A. Koch to the Missouri Board of Occupational Therapy;
- Blake A. Naughton to the State Committee of Psychologists;
- James C. Ramsey to the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority; and
- Marvin Wright reappointment to the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.
The Missouri Senate will be in legislative Spring Break from March 18-25 and will also not be in session March 28 in observance of Easter.
Senate Stands Strong for a More Resilient Business Climate and Defends Citizens’ Rights
Over the past two and half months, the Missouri State Senate has crafted and advanced legislation that will improve the communities across our state. We have also fought to protect the rights of our citizens, and moved forward on ethics reform.
Early in session, the Senate approved two tort reform bills that will help foster a stronger, more resilient economy and addresses the state’s antibusiness legal environment. Missouri’s unfair and outdated civil judicial system has forced businesses and job creators out of the state. Senate Bill 591 will align Missouri’s outdated expert witness testimony standard to the federal standard. That modification will improve the business climate and safeguard the reliability of expert testimony. Senate Bill 847 will modify provisions relating to the collateral source rule and will provide that parties may introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value, of the medical care rendered. This bill will restore fairness to personal injury litigation and help reduce the cost of insurance for doctors and businesses.
To be competitive in a global economy, Missouri needs a strong, viable business climate and that includes reforming our labor policy. The Senate is diligently working on several labor reform bills. House Bill 1891, known as paycheck protection, prohibits any public employee from being required to pay dues or other fees to a labor organization. Paycheck protection ensures that public union employees are in control of their own hard-earned money and protects public union employees from losing portions of their take home pay to unions’ political gains.
The Senate also approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 46 which disapproves and suspends the final order of rulemaking for the proposed rule to raise wages for home health care attendants. We are not against the raise, but the way in which it was done was illegal. It is the Legislature’s job to set pay rates for providers. For the governor to promulgate a rule, he is deliberately violating the state statue. This is an example of executive action taking over the duties of the Missouri State Legislature. Reforming Missouri’s labor policy will strengthen the state’s business climate and make the Show-Me State more competitive at a global level.
Religious freedoms, the cornerstone on which our country was founded, are under attack. The Senate believes we have a right to protect our religious liberties. We are fighting for fairness and the right for people to freely live out their faith while not infringing on the rights of others. After days of debate, the Senate successfully advanced Senate Joint Resolution 39. The measure is viewpoint neutral and asks Missouri voters to consider a new Constitutional section protecting religious organizations and certain individuals from being penalized because of their sincere religious beliefs concerning marriage. It is a shield, not a sword. It allows the people of Missouri to freely practice their faith according to their conscience.
The Legislature also has made great strides in finding ways to reduce costs and find better access to health care, especially in rural areas of the state. As the cost of health care continues to rise, the discussion about how to offer better, more efficient and affordable care becomes more imperative.
The cost of welfare spending now takes up one-third of our state’s budget. Costs are reduced when best practice care is provided in a timely and coordinated fashion. The Senate has approved measures that aim to reduce costs, like Senate Bill 608, which authorizes MO HealthNet health care providers to charge a minimal fee for missed appointments and will create an emergency room co-pay system. Senate Bill 607 will help reduce fraud and abuse in Missouri’s welfare system. Senate Bill 875 removes barriers to lower cost of prescription drugs and ensures patient safety. Other bills will help improve access to health care especially in rural areas. Senate Bill 621 will allow for doctors to practice remotely via a computer or telephone connection, otherwise known as telehealth.
We are also moving forward on ethics reform. Our goal this session has also been to tackle ethics one step at a time to make sure we get focused and substantive ethics bills across the finish line. House Bill 1979 (revolving door) imposes a one session rule for lobbying by former members of the General Assembly, by former statewide elected officials, and by former holders of an office that required Senate confirmation. House Bill 1983 specifies that no statewide elected official or member of the General Assembly shall serve as a paid political consultant. House Bill 2203 changes the laws regarding the investment of campaign funds. House Bill 2203 will curb corruption of campaign funds.
We will continue to craft legislation that will create jobs across all industries and build stronger communities in the state. We need to work effectively and efficiently to protect the rights of our citizens.
Thank you for your interest in the issues that affect the citizens of Boone and Cooper counties. If you have any questions or concerns throughout this session, or plan on coming by the Capitol, please contact my office at (573) 751-3931.