Legislative Actions and Information for the Week of April 22, 2019
|On The Floor
It was a shortened week in the Missouri General Assembly, as members observed the Easter holiday on Monday, April 22. While the Senate was closed on Monday, it was still a productive week, with several of Sen. Nasheed’s priorities moving forward and the Senate passing its version of the state’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Two bills co-sponsored by Sen. Nasheed were perfected by the Missouri Senate this week. Senate Bill 1 expands the opportunity for expungement for certain crimes. It is Sen. Nasheed’s hope that by providing these opportunities, we can remove barriers for individuals who have reformed themselves to live successful and productive lives. Senator Nasheed also co-sponsored Senate Bill 37. This bill will allow the state to go after those who operate websites that facilitate sex trafficking. Senator Nasheed is a strong leader in the fight against sex trafficking. She spearheaded Sex Trafficking Awareness Month at the Capitol and has worked over the years with numerous elected leaders to find ways to stop sex trafficking. She is committed to targeting those who would exploit others and bring them to justice, no matter where their crimes occur. Both SB 1 and SB 37 have been perfected by the Senate, meaning it will take one more vote of approval before these bills move over to the Missouri House of Representatives for further consideration.
Also perfected this week was an important piece of legislation involving our state’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. Senate Bill 29 reauthorizes Missouri’s federal reimbursement allowance (FRA) program. This program taxes certain health care providers and uses that money to draw down matching federal dollars at a higher rate. These funds help cover some of the costs of the MO HealthNet program. Initially, SB 29 included language to incorporate managed care into the program, but that provision was later removed after some members of the Senate balked at the idea of expanding taxes. An amendment to require Medicaid recipients to comply with work requirements was also proposed, but was withdrawn after fierce opposition. Ultimately, SB 29, in its current form, extends the current FRA program into September of 2020. After being perfected, this legislation now heads to fiscal oversight for further examination.
Rounding out the week of legislative activities, the Missouri Senate approved its version of the $29.75 billion state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. One major accomplishment of this budget is that it includes a three percent pay raise for all state workers. It also provides an additional $61 million for K-12 education, fully funding the Foundation Formula for the next fiscal year. The Senate budget allocates $16.3 million for the MO Excels Workforce Initiative and $10 million for the Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant Program. These programs are meant to prepare the next generation of Missouri workers to meet the needs of high-in-demand jobs.
While the Senate has passed its version of the budget, the changes it made to the House’s plan must be approved by the House. If the House does not agree to the changes, members from both chambers will meet in conference committees to find funding compromises, before sending the budget to the governor.
Bills and Committees
Senate Bill 203 – This legislation deals with nuisance actions in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. This bill has been referred to the House’s Local Government Committee.
Senate Bill 108 – This legislation deals with tax increment financing (TIF). Senator Nasheed amended a portion of her Senate Bill 311 to this bill, modifying the definition of blighted in St. Louis. The amendment specifies that a blighted area in the City of St. Louis would be an area where the median household income was less than or equal to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Senate Bill 108 was recently re-referred to the House’s Downsizing State Government Committee.
Senate Bill 152 – This legislation initiates a pilot program in Kansas City and St. Louis that will fund services aimed at reducing homelessness with the support of donations made via text messages. Senator Nasheed co-sponsored this legislation and believes this program will help reduce homelessness in St. Louis. Senate Bill 152 has been heard by the House’s General Laws Committee.
Senate Bill 342 – Another bill that Sen. Nasheed has co-sponsored, SB 342 names two portions of Interstate 70 after two former Missouri state senators. The bill designates the stretch of Interstate 70 in Jackson County from the Blue Ridge Cutoff overpass continuing west to the Troost Avenue overpass as the “Senator Phil B. Curls Memorial Highway” and from the Salisbury Street overpass continuing west to the Goodfellow Boulevard overpass in St. Louis City as the “Senator Paula J. Carter Memorial Highway.” This bill is on the Senate calendar for perfection.
As mentioned before, the Missouri Senate approved its version of the state’s operating budget this week. Senator Nasheed successfully secured around $15 million for the St. Louis area in the first round of the budget process. As the differences between the House and Senate budgets are worked out in conference committees, Sen. Nasheed will continue to fight to bring additional funding home to St. Louis.
Missouri House Moves Forward with Plan to Undo Redistricting Reform
The Missouri House of Representatives granted initial approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would ask Missouri voters to dismiss the new process for redistricting state legislative seats they ratified in November. House Joint Resolution 48 seeks to undo the restricting process outlined in Amendment 1, dubbed Clean Missouri, which requires a nonpartisan demographer to oversee redistricting and draw maps that maximize the number of competitive districts. This system is slated to be used for the first time during the next redistricting cycle in 2021. House Joint Resolution 48 seeks to largely restore the use of partisan commissions for redistricting with some modifications, for the upcoming redistricting cycle. A second House vote is required to send HJR 48 to the Senate. Even if approved by both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly before the end of the legislative session on May 17, this proposed constitutional amendment would have to be ratified by voters in order to go into effect.
Governor Calls for Special Election to Fill House Vacancies
On April 22, the governor announced that special elections to fill two Missouri House seats will be held on Nov. 5, 2019. The 158th District seat in southwest Missouri became vacant in early January after its previous occupant was appointed state treasurer. The 99th District seat in west St. Louis County opened shortly thereafter when its occupant resigned just weeks into her second term to become executive director of the Missouri Republican Party.
House Votes to Limit College Instructor Free Speech
College instructors at public universities could be sued for expressing opinions in class that some students disagree with or find offensive under legislation the House of Representatives approved on April 24. While House Bill 576 also includes provisions intended to protect the free speech of students and visiting campus speakers, the provision restricting the free speech of college instructors and exposing them to lawsuits was the focus of most of the debate. Supporters of the bill said instructors should keep their classroom comments on topic and not stray into personal and political views. Opponents said legally mandating instructors to refrain from expressing or eliciting opinions stifles their ability to teach and is the very definition of an infringement of free speech. The bill won first-round approval on a voice vote. A second, recorded vote is necessary to advance the measure to the Senate.
Social Services Department Director to Resign June 3rd
Missouri Department of Social Services Director Steve Corsi will resign June 3 to take a position with a faith-based non-profit. Corsi has been a subject of controversy since it was discovered in February 2018 that he had been drawing a salary nearly $14,000 in excess of what was allowed by law. After the news became public, Corsi’s annually salary was reduced to $128,244, which at the time was the statutory maximum pay for the position. The governor hasn’t yet announced who he plans to appoint to replace Corsi.