Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, Feb. 3, 2014
Senate Moving Quickly to Address Issues Facing Missouri

Legislative News

Despite yet another winter storm hitting Jefferson City this week, the Missouri Senate was in session every day as scheduled. Numerous bills were heard in committee, and we continued debating measures on the Senate floor.

The Senate Appropriations Committee began holding hearings on the next fiscal year’s budget. State agencies have presented their funding needs to committee members, which will be taken into account as we craft a responsible budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

Shown above, Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, speaks on the floor of the Missouri Senate during debate.


The Senate Education Committee met Wednesday afternoon to continue considering legislation related to Missouri’s school transfer law. One of our highest priorities this session is finding a solution to a problem affecting thousands of families in our state. This is a complicated issue, though, and it will take time. It’s important that we find a true, long-term fix. I’m hopeful all sides will come together to do what’s best for the children of our state.

The Senate held extensive debate this week on Senate Bill 518, which would extend MO HealthNet managed care statewide for only the current managed care populations as of Jan. 1, 2014. MO HealthNet managed care plans provide health coverage to only certain enrollees through privately contracted insurance organizations.

These groups work diligently to see that taxpayer dollars are used effectively. They are cost efficient without sacrificing the quality of care provided to enrollees. Currently, the three groups contracted with the state provide health coverage for nearly half of all of Missouri’s Medicaid participants.

Despite this, managed care plans are only used in 54 counties, out of 114. Extending this program to eligible enrollees statewide would reportedly save our state an estimated $15 million a year. Supporters believe the measure would improve our Medicaid system while also saving taxpayer dollars.

While the bill has a long road ahead through the legislative process, I believe it’s part of a wider conversation we need to continue having—how do we, as a state, provide quality Medicaid coverage in a way that is fiscally responsible to taxpayers and financially sustainable for participants.

Also on Wednesday, I was honored to sponsor the appointment of local resident Donald G. LaFerla to the Southeast Missouri University Board of Regents during the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee hearing. Mr. LaFerla’s extensive experience in higher education will make him an excellent member of this board. I wish him the best of luck in his future position.

District News

Missouri has one of the best departments of conservation in the country. The state agency consistently reaches out to the public in an effort to foster a love and respect of Missouri’s nature and wildlife. The department also regularly holds informative workshops on how landowners can manage their property in a responsible way. 

If you’re interested in learning how to use focused burning as a land management tool, the Missouri Department of Conservation is holding a local prescribed burn workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 20, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center, located at 201 W. Riviera Dr., in Joplin.

The workshop is completely free and will teach participants how to safely conduct prescribed burns on their land to improve wildlife habitat. I urge any local citizens interested in this method of land management to attend the event.

To register for the program, or to receive more information, contact the Department of Conservation at (417) 629-3423. The registration deadline is Feb. 19.

To learn about local events held by the Missouri Department of Conservation, visit www.mdc.mo.gov.