Legislative Column for the Week Ending Feb. 27, 2015
Legislative Update

JEFFERSON CITY— This week at the Capitol was marked by passionate discussions on education and public safety legislation. Senator Nasheed voiced her concern for elementary school students during a conversation about social promotion by asking, “Do we want our children to go to Penn State, or the state pen?!”

Senator Nasheed also spoke passionately about the Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 42 dealing with deadly force. STL Today published more about the hearing and debate: Deadly force changes get airing in Missouri Senate.

Bills and Committees

Wednesday (2-25) began with Sen. Nasheed presenting her legislation, Senate
Concurrent Resolution 1
(SCR 1), which would designate January as “Sex Trafficking Awareness Month,” to the House Trade and Tourism Committee.

Sen. Nasheed also presented three bills to the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee this week in a hearing in Senate Committee Room 1:

  • Senate Bill 155 would create a Neighborhood Watch Fund for the creation of neighborhood watch organizations throughout the state. At the hearing, Senator Nasheed testified about the Neighborhood Ownership Model program that has already been implemented in some communities with success;
  • Senate Bill 156 would name a stretch of Highway 115 the “Theodore McNeal Highway” in honor of Missouri’s first African-American State Senator. During her testimony, Sen. Nasheed said “I think it is extremely important that we are doing this during Black History Month”;
  • Senate Bill 166 would secure language for special Missouri license plates in
  • honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The “Dare to Dream” plates allow citizens to honor Dr. King, and will also generate revenue for the state of Missouri.

Senator Nasheed’s anti-bullying and social promotions bill, Senate Bill 161, was rescheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee next week due to time constraints this week.

Senator Nasheed co-sponsored Senate Bill 519 to help keep National Geospatial Intelligence Agency jobs in Missouri. The Senator also secured the votes necessary to get her Ban the Box legislation, SB 44 out of committee and to the Senate floor. The committee will hold that vote within the next two weeks.

Appropriations Information

The budget for the Department of Social Services was split into two hearings. The committee reviewed the Medicaid budget this week with the rest of the department’s budget set for review next Monday.  Five major issues were discussed – Ferguson Commission; Engagepoint (outsource computer system contractor forSocial Services case handling); Sovaldi (Hepatitis C drug); managed care; and dental care.               

During the discussion on the Ferguson Commission it was noted that the Commission has received a total of $3.5 million. The Department explained that no programs were cut; rather, this is federal money that was reserved for unanticipated needs.

Managed care cost savings were also discussed. It was noted that the initial savings typically come at the front end of the program switch, and narrow over time. The Department admitted that given enough time, the savings (measured against the cost of the state self-administering) could become costs.

Dental care for adults through Medicaid was expanded last year with bipartisan support, but the money was withheld by the Governor. By withholding $17.8 million in state funding, the Governor also caused the state to miss out on almost double that amount in federally matched
funds. The FY16 budget does not carry forth the expanded budget.

Proposed money for capital improvements in higher education was also reviewed. Those funds would be divided on the same percentage basis as the general appropriations to those entities. The schools then choose their own projects. St. Louis projects include:

  • STL Community College; $5.2m – repair/update 19 science labs
  • UMSL; $13m – Benton Hall update and repair.

The previous two capital improvements bills were passed in 2006 and in 2003. The 2006 measure went to the construction of a new prison in Chillicothe, while the 2003 bill went toward the Bond Life Sciences building at Mizzou, and several other projects around the state.

Other News

Thursday was a sad day at the Capitol upon learning that Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich passed away. The General Assembly came together for a joint prayer Service to honor Tom Schweich that consisted of verse reading, prayer, and a moment of silence.

Senator Nasheed was disappointed by the news that Dr. Daniel Isom would be
resigning from his position as Director of Public Safety. When asked, Sen. Nasheed stated, “I am extremely disappointed that Dr. Isom must not have been given the leeway to make reforms necessary after the unrest in Ferguson.”

This week, Sen. Nasheed showed Juan Galvan from CORO what a day in the life of a Missouri State Senator is like. Juan shadowed Sen. Nasheed during committee
hearings, meetings, constituent discussions, and during session.

Senator Nasheed was visited by several 4th grade students from St. Louis- area gifted programs that came to show their support for SB 290. The students wrote letters to the senator, and voiced their opinions on the fairness of the “gifted” label for all AP students. “It is good to see young people taking an interest in the legislation that affects them,” the senator said.

Senator Nasheed also expressed excitement this week upon receiving the news that St. Louis had recently been named the No. 1 city for start-up businesses by Popular Mechanics Magazine. St. Louis ranked above cities like Oakland, Cleveland and Austin, Texas.