|On Jan. 20, 2021, Americans came together to witness the swearing of a new presidential administration. While each presidential inauguration is special and historic in its own right, this one holds a special place in my heart. It was incredibly inspiring to witness the swearing in of not only the first woman, but also the first Black American and the first South Asian American vice president in U.S. history. This trio of firsts highlights some of the progress we have made in our country, but we all know more barriers remain to be overcome. I look forward to seeing what the next four years bring, but understand that a lot hard work lies ahead of us.
In the same vein, the Missouri General Assembly is already back in Jefferson City for the 2021 legislative session. I am now serving my third year in the Missouri Senate, and I am deeply appreciative for every day I get to serve the people of St. Louis in the General Assembly. I want to thank my constituents for their continued support and encouragement as we work to find solutions and move our state forward. I would also like to thank the law enforcement officers who have been working in and around the State Capitol to keep lawmakers, staff and the public safe during these challenging times.
Bills and Committees
Senator May’s Legislation:
Several of the bills and proposals that I have sponsored for this legislative session have already been referred to a Senate committee:
This week, we heard three bills, two of which deal with COVID liability. While there are some differences between Senate Bill 42 and Senate Bill 51, they both generally seek to shield health care providers, businesses and certain manufacturers from COVID related lawsuits, as long as they were following certain health guidelines. While proponents of the legislation argue it is meant to protect those who were doing the best they could during the pandemic from frivolous lawsuits, there is a concern among some that the legislation could inadvertently protect bad actors who jeopardize people’s health. The committee has not taken action on either of these two bills as of yet. The committee also heard testimony on Senate Bill 52, relating to Supreme Court discovery rules.
In the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, we heard testimony on Senate Bill 1, dealing with Missouri’s federal reimbursement allowances (FRA). For those unfamiliar with it, the FRA is a fee paid by hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies and other health care providers that is then used to help draw down federal dollars to help pay for MO HealthNet, our state’s Medicaid program. The FRA is actually a major funding source for MO HealthNet. Despite its importance, the FRA is currently set to expire later this year on Sept. 30. Senate Bill 1 simply seeks to extend the FRA until 2023 and ensure Missouri has access to this funding for several more years. As we plan to implement voter-approved Medicaid expansion, I believe it is essential to continue the FRA and pass SB 1.
As of Jan. 21, 2021, the Missouri COVID-19 Dashboard reports an average of 1,594 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded block grant program to assist low-income households with paying their utility bills. Administered by the Missouri Department of Social Services, LIHEAP can help in two ways: through a one-time payment for a heating bill from November through March, or through the winter Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP). ECIP helps pay up to $800 toward fuel bills when a household’s energy is shut off or at risk of disconnection. Payments are generally made directly to the utility company or fuel provider.
To apply for LIHEAP assistance:
Medical Marijuana Update:
The Section for Missouri Medical Marijuana Regulation at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has announced that it has begun rolling out a new online function that will allow physicians to submit patient certifications electronically. This added feature offers a secure account for physicians, whose identities will be verified by the Department at the time of account creation. The Department anticipates having the medical marijuana certification process transitioned to fully electronic submission by June of 2021. Additional information will be posted at medicalmarijuana.mo.gov.