Sen. Nasheed: Legislative Column for the Week Ending March 17, 2017

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On the Floor

This week’s progress remained slow in the Missouri Senate, with the Senate hearing only two bills. House Bill 251 was laid over after long debate, and Senate Bill 10 passed through the Senate and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

HB 251 – This bill would continue to change Missouri’s labor laws surrounding unions. It would require public employees to provide their permission, annually, before unions can withdraw dues from their paychecks. Senator Nasheed fought against this bill after hearing the voices of her constituents. With her efforts, HB 251 was laid over after a late night of filibustering.

SB 10 – This act would modify the Missouri Works and its training programs. SB 10 would allow the Department of Economic Development to provide funding up front through appropriations for Missouri Works job training. It would also change three definitions in the provisions of current laws. With these changes, a job would no longer be considered a “new job” because of a change in ownership in the company. Moreover, “project facility base employment” would be changed so that awarded benefits would not apply to base employment.

Bills and Committees

SB 451 – On Thursday, March 16, the Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety heard SB 451. This act would specify that the office of the Sheriff of the City of St. Louis is a law enforcement agency. This would make the officers eligible for training and licensure by the POST commission.

“Responsibility and accountability are two standards that we cannot afford to neglect,” said Sen. Nasheed. “We must ensure that those whose job it is to protect us have the necessary educational training and discipline to do just that.”

SB 52 – On Tuesday, March 14, the Committee on Health and Mental Health Policy in the House heard SB 52. It passed by consent and was placed on the consent calendar on Thursday, March 16. This bill would require higher education institutions to provide resources to students for suicide prevention and awareness.

“I am pleased that my colleagues are taking suicide prevention seriously. And it means a lot, personally, that SB 52 has received great support. Senate Bill 52’s vast support is evident how important suicide prevention is not just on college campuses but also in all corners of Missouri,” voiced Sen. Nasheed.


SB 526  – In Appropriations this week, the committee heard SB 256, which would change the standards of the Missouri HealthNet program. This bill would require the program’s monitoring to be unscheduled and occur in person when the personal care attendant is scheduled to be at the person’s home. It would also require vendors to notify their costumers that falsification of attendant time sheets will be reported to the Department of Health and Senior Services as fraud. Lastly, SB 256 would require an annual cost report to be submitted to the department.

Other News

House approves statewide charter school expansion

The House of Representatives, on March 16, sent legislation to the Senate that would allow for the statewide expansion of charter schools. The measure, House Bill 634, passed 83-76-1, getting just one more vote than the 82 required to advance.

Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of most state education regulations. A charter school’s operating revenue comes from funding redirected from the local public school district in which it is located. Since first being authorized in the late 1990s, charters have only been allowed in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Proponents say charter schools provide students an alternative to low-performing public schools. Opponents note that, to date, most Missouri charter schools have performed worse than schools in the districts they are located.

House Bill 634 would allow an unlimited number of charter schools to operate in any Missouri school district that has at least one low-performing school — even if the district itself is high-performing. Based on current school performance ratings, the bill, if it becomes law, would allow charters to be established in dozens of districts across the state.

Plan embodies reduced amount for full school funding

A year after the Republican-controlled Legislature rewrote state law to slash more than $400 million from the amount of new money required to fully fund local public schools, the majority party in the House, on March 15, unveiled a state budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year that would provide $48 million in additional money for K-12 schools — the new amount needed to claim full-funding under the law.

In 2005, lawmakers of the majority party enacted a new education funding distribution formula, but never came close to fully funding it. So last year, members of the majority party revised the formula to drastically reduce the amount needed for full funding. The former governor, a Democrat, vetoed the rewrite, saying it would drastically shortchange public schools, but the majority party overrode the veto.

The House budget plan would restore $36 million in state funding for local school districts’ transportation costs that the new governor, a Republican, had proposed eliminating when he presented his proposed FY 2018 state budget to the Legislature in February. The House will complete its work on the budget when the Legislature returns from its annual spring recess on March 27.

Court dodges ruling that could have upended laws

The Missouri Supreme Court, on March 14, decided not to apply a ruling that could have rendered unconstitutional scores of state laws that affect only St. Louis County. In a unanimous decision, the court said the underlying issue in the case – whether state law allowed a water company to impose a special surcharge on St. Louis County customers – had been rendered moot by subsequent actions taken by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

The law in question says that water companies may impose a special surcharge in counties “with more than one million inhabitants.” At the time the law was enacted, in 2003, St. Louis County was the only county in Missouri to fit that requirement. In the 2010 U.S. Census, however, the county’s population dipped to 998,954 inhabitants, putting it outside the range covered by the law.

Although another state law had long been read as providing a “once in, always in” protection to any  jurisdiction that experiences population changes that otherwise would affect their legal status, the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District ruled last year that the law only applies to the city of St. Louis. If the Supreme Court had upheld the lower court’s decision, laws applying solely to St. Louis County based on the 1-million resident requirement would become inoperative.

In sidestepping the issue, the Supreme Court advised to Legislature to consider statutory changes that would achieve its intended result. Such a bill has already cleared the House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate.

House majority-party members advanced tax hike on elderly and poor

The House of Representatives, on March 16, voted 85-72 in favor of legislation that would impose a tax increase on many low-income elderly and disabled Missourians who rent their homes. This legislation would eliminate for renters the “circuit breaker” tax credit, which provides poor recipients an average break of $535 a year.

The majority-party backers of the measure, House Committee Bill 3, say the budgetary savings from eliminating the circuit breaker for renters is necessary to avoid cutting in-home and nursing home care for some disabled Missourians, as the governor has proposed.

The minority party opposed the bill, saying with the state annually forgoing as much as $700 million a year in lost revenue from tax credits, most of which benefit corporations and wealthy developers, a relatively modest tax break for the elderly and disabled isn’t the first place lawmakers should target for savings.