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2017 Summer Capitol Report Contact:
Janson Thomas—(573) 751-2420







The First Regular Session of the 99th General Assembly concluded Friday, May 12. By the time the final gavel fell, Missouri lawmakers had voted to send roughly 70 bills to the governor. I am very pleased to report that two measures I sponsored are among those currently awaiting his consideration. The first will go a long way toward sustaining the future of the Saint Louis Zoo, while the second will help ensure Missourians’ end-of-life and other critical health care decisions are honored.

Pictured above, Sen. Walsh discusses legislation on the Senate floor during the 2017 session.

Senate Bill 49 provides a common-sense solution to multiple long-term infrastructure repair and replacement needs at the Saint Louis Zoo. Rather than creating a new sales tax authorization for counties in the St. Louis metropolitan area, I worked with stakeholders at the state and local level to reform a 1980s sales tax law by adding more transparency and taxpayer protections.

Under current law, any county has the ability to levy a general sales tax up to one-half of 1 percent with voter approval, which can be dedicated for any purpose at the discretion of the respective county. However, only in St. Louis County and only for issues where local governments were partnering with county government, five-eighths of the revenue collected has to be redistributed to local municipalities in the county. Senate Bill 49 will exempt the county from this distribution requirement and reduce the eligible tax rate in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis from one-half of 1 percent to one-eighth of 1 percent if the tax is being used for zoological activities.

In addition, this legislation allows the St. Louis Zoo to implement an admission fee for guests who do not live in St. Louis County or the City of St. Louis for any new facilities, programs or events not currently part of the Zoological Museum Sub-District. It also caps general sales taxes at the municipal and county level because current law does not limit how many times a city or county places a general sales tax on the ballot. This will add clarity to the state’s tax code to ensure the interpretation of local taxing authority is not left up to the courts.

Senate Bill 49 is a great example of how the Legislature is supposed to function, and I commend my colleagues for working across party lines to help the St. Louis Zoo and to clean up Missouri’s tax code. This legislation means our world-class zoo will remain free to the people of St. Louis for generations to come.

Senate Bill 50 establishes a statewide health care directive registry to provide a secure place to electronically store an advance health care directive and to give authorized health care providers immediate access to them when a patient is admitted to a hospital. This is the fourth year I have sponsored some version of this legislation, and I am hopeful this will be the year it is signed into law.

Advance directives identify a representative to speak for you and make decisions for you if you would become unable to as a result of an accident or illness. Without them, decisions about your medical treatment or end-of-life care may be left up to people who do not know you or your wishes. Advance directives give you a voice in your health care decisions, even if you are unconscious or too ill to communicate. I cannot stress their importance enough.

Senate Bill 50 would allow Missouri residents to store their advance health care directive so that medical providers, family members and anyone else they grant access will honor their wishes. The database of advance directives will be a confidential and secure site, protected by the most up-to-date web and database security standards. All submitted information will be used only by authorized individuals and will be kept completely confidential. Your information could not be shared or sold and would be exempt from the Sunshine law in order to protect your medical privacy.

The submission process is simple and secure. During a visit with their health care provider or attorney, an individual or his or her legal representative would have the option of submitting and signing their advance health care directive documents electronically — very similar to how a person opens a bank account today. States like Virginia have successfully contracted out this type of electronic registry, and several health technology information companies already exist around the country and compete to offer the best and lowest bid for this service, saving the taxpayers money.

We each have the right to make our own health care decisions. Senate Bill 50 simply provides people with an easy and confidential option for ensuring their end-of-life and other critical health care decisions will be honored.

Finally, state lawmakers returned to Jefferson City last week for a special session to consider legislation that could help attract two different metal manufacturers to Missouri’s Bootheel. Passed by the Legislature and now headed to the governor’s desk, House Bill 1 authorizes the Public Service Commission to offer lower electric rates to aluminum smelters, steel mills and other facilities that consume large amounts of electricity. If signed into law, this measure could help bring hundreds of well-paying jobs back to Southeast Missouri. House Bill 1 contains an emergency clause, which means it will take effect upon the governor’s signature.

As a supporter of Missouri’s steel workers and steel worker jobs, I was glad to vote for this legislation. When it comes to any future economic development projects in North St. Louis County, it is my hope the governor will show the same enthusiasm as he has with this opportunity.

July 14 is the last day the governor can sign legislation. If he takes no action on a bill, it automatically becomes law.

To view a list of all legislation passed by the Missouri General Assembly during the 2017 session, please visit the Senate website at or click here.


In the final minutes of the legislative session, the Missouri House approved the Senate’s version of House Committee Bill 3, representing a truly bipartisan agreement to protect critical supports and services for Missouri’s seniors and people with disabilities.
HCB 3 allows the state to tap into existing, unused funds in order to support an array of services in the FY 2018 budget, including the following:

  • In-home care and nursing home services for 8,000 Missouri citizens with disabilities and seniors (maintaining the current eligibility requirements for these services);
  • Programs provided for Missouri seniors and their families through the statewide network of Area Agencies on Aging;
  • Alzheimer’s grants and caregiver supports; and
  • The Family Support Partnership Program, which assists Missourians with developmental disabilities and their families.

Similar “fund sweeps” to those authorized by HCB 3 have been utilized in previous years. In the FY 2014 budget, funding yielded from the sweep supported K-12 education, the Missouri First Steps early intervention program and community health care services. The measure also provides time to develop lasting solutions to Missouri’s budget challenges.


The Legislature approved the state’s $27.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2018 the first week of May.

K-12 Education & Pre-K: Lawmakers increased funding for the Foundation Formula by $48 million. The formula determines the amount of basic aid each school district receives. The amount brings total formula funding to $3.4 billion. For the first time since the Foundation Formula was adopted in 2005, the level of funding in the formula will meet the required level.

Fully funding the Foundation Formula also triggers new funding for public preschool in Missouri. Approved in 2014, House Bill 1969 included a provision to add funding for preschool-aged children to the Foundation Formula. Specifically, the legislation allows schools to include children, ages three to five and who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch, into the calculation of the Foundation Formula. The amount is limited to 4 percent of the total number of students in the district (from Pre-K through senior year) who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. This provides a significant and important new investment in early childhood education for Missouri kids.

Higher Education: Funding for Missouri’s 2- and 4-year public colleges was cut by 6.58 percent. Unfortunately, this is likely to result in tuition increases for Missouri’s young adults.

Child Care: The budget included a nearly $3 million cut to child care assistance. The cut consisted of federal funds and was based on a “lapse in spending” — meaning the state was not expected to spend the full amount it was provided in the current year on child care services. The lapse is connected with lower-than-expected costs for the transitional child care assistance program.

Missouri provides full child care assistance for families with incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and transitional assistance based on a sliding scale for those families until their incomes reach 215 percent of the FPL. Most other states allow families to access transitional assistance if their income falls within the eligibility guidelines, regardless of whether they had previously received full child care assistance; however, Missouri does not and has very few families who are eligible for transitional assistance as a result.

House Committee Bill 3 (Circuit Breaker): With the passage of the fund sweep in HCB 3, funding for vital services for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as the circuit breaker property tax credit for seniors and people with disabilities who rent their homes, is protected for another year. Your calls and emails to lawmakers made a huge difference in protecting seniors and people with disabilities.

Fiscal Year 2018 begins July 1.


The final status of my sponsored bills for the 2017 legislative session is as follows:

Senate Bill 49

Allows St. Louis City and St. Louis County to propose a one-eighth cent sales tax to fund the St. Louis Zoo.

Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed.

Senate Bill 50

Establishes the Advance Health Care Directive Registry.

Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed.

Senate Bill 51

Establishes a language assessment program for children who are deaf or hard of hearing from birth through 8 years.

Referred to the Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee.

Senate Bill 309

Modifies provisions of the retirement system for prosecuting and circuit attorneys.

Senate bills with House Amendments.

Senate Bill 350

Prohibits any employer from paying any employee wages less than those paid to employees of the opposite gender for the same work performed under similar working conditions.

Referred to the Senate Small Business and Industry Committee.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 6

Urges the Department of Higher Education and Department of Health and Senior Services to encourage the dissemination of information about meningococcal disease and its vaccines.

Reported from the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee.


The Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is hosting several events during the month of June. Springtime in Missouri is the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy one of these fun and free activities. All three events will be held at the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, near the Confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Reservations can be made any time Wed.-Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (314) 877-6014.

Dog Day Out

When: Saturday, June 3, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Who: All ages

Find yourself barking up the wrong tree? Fetch your canine companion and take a walk before the dog days of summer get here. Our outing includes wooded and open trail. Current rabies certificate required. Only one dog per human please. Reserve by Jun 2.

Who Lives in a Rotten Log?

When: Tuesday, June 6, 10 a.m. to noon
Who: Ages 7-12

Get up close and personal with some weird looking critters who make their homes in rotting logs. Discover the important role they play and how they benefit our forests. Reservations begin May 23. Reserve by Jun 5.

Spring Senior Picnic

When: Tuesday, June 13, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Who: Senior adults

Visit Columbia Bottom, feel the warm breezes and enjoy the sights and sounds of a spring day at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Bring a sack lunch to eat in one of our covered pavilions. Water and dessert will be provided. Meet at the Visitor Center. Reserve by Jun 8.