Economic Development, Chairman
Joint Committee on Gaming & Wagering
Joint Committee on Life Sciences
Appropriations - Health, Mental Health & Social Services
Administration & Accounts
Appropriations - Revenue, Transportation & Economic Development
Tourism & Natural Resources
Interim Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness & Efficiency
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May 15, 2015
House members crossed the legislative finish line Friday evening with a long list of accomplishments meant to move Missouri toward a brighter tomorrow. However, the immensely productive session came to a grinding halt during what is normally a frantic final week as the Senate became bogged down in a filibuster. The shutdown of the legislative process left many bills in limbo but didn’t diminish from the fact the House and Senate had already sent most of their legislative priorities to the governor’s desk.
The quiet final week also took on a somber tone in the House as the Speaker stepped down from his position. The difficult moment brought members together to offer support to one another; and to regroup and refocus on the business of representing the best interests of their constituents. Members moved quickly to elect Floor Leader Todd Richardson as the new Speaker. As he then said to his colleagues and the members of the media, “It is time to get back to the important business we were sent here by Missourians to accomplish.”
As the gavel dropped for the final time at 6 p.m. the House and Senate had a significant list of legislative accomplishments to be proud of, including:
Fiscal Year 2016 State Operating Budget (HBs 1-13) – The legislature approved a $26.1 billion state operating budget that increases funding for K-12 education by $84 million to take total funding for public schools to the highest level in state history. The spending plan also increases higher education funding by $12 million and reins in the unsustainable growth of the state’s public assistance programs, including expanding use of managed care in the state Medicaid system. The budget bills have already been signed by the governor. The Senate Budget Chair proposed that the Health, Mental Health and Social Services budgets in HB 10 and HB11 be put into “block grant” form, and made a cut across the board. The House disagreed feeling that we would be abdicating our responsibility as legislators to give appropriation authority to the bureaucracy. Fortunately the House position prevailed and cuts were not made in those funds.
May 7, 2015
A Happy Mother’s Day to all our Mothers! Sunday, May 10th, we honor the grace, wisdom, and strength of all of our mothers, and all women who have made a difference in a child’s life.
I encourage you to take this day to celebrate the extraordinary contributions mothers make in the lives of their children and their families!
We are entering into the final week of the 2015 session. The pace of last minute bills, amendments and passing bills to be sent to the Governor for his signature or veto will be quicker than at any other time of session. There are 5 more legislative days until the Legislature is required by the Missouri Constitution to officially complete its work.
Missouri’s Economy Continues to Grow--The state received good news this week as the latest economic numbers show Missouri’s revenues continue to increase at a rate faster than anticipated. To date, revenues have grown by 7.7 percent compared to last year. The number represents a considerable increase over what had been predicted.
There have been several bills that have been passed this week. Here are some of them:
General Assembly Overrides Governor’s Veto of Welfare Reform Bill (SB 24)--The members of the Missouri House and Senate worked together this week to override the governor’s veto of legislation meant to reform Missouri’s system of welfare so that it does a better job of moving folks out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency.
The legislation will lower the lifetime benefits for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients to 45 months from the current limit of 60 months. In addition, it will add Missouri to the list of 37 other states that require welfare recipients to take immediate steps to seek employment in order to receive benefits. The legislation then takes the savings generated by the reforms and invests them in child care, education, transportation and job training assistance for participants in the TANF program. With the successful veto override, the bill is now set to become law on August 28. However, most of the provisions in the bill will not take effect until January 1, 2016.
April 24, 2015
Yesterday, April 23rd, many of my colleagues and I celebrated Administrative Professionals’ Day by honoring all the hard work the LA’s of the Capitol do on a daily basis. My legislative assistant, Clarissa Denkler, continues to go above and beyond her duties to ensure our office is always running smoothly. Without her, I would not be able to fulfill my obligations and her constant dedication, kindness, and encouragement to our constituents keep our doors open.
House and Senate Reach Agreement on Fiscal Year 2016 Budget (HBs 1 – 13)
After several long days of negotiations and discussion, the House and Senate finally worked out their differences and gave final approval to the Fiscal Year 2016 state operating budget. The bills now move to the governor’s desk a full two weeks ahead of the constitutionally-mandated budget deadline. By doing so, the Legislature has the chance to override any line item vetoes by the governor prior to the close of the 2015 legislative session.
During the budget process, the Senate made significant changes to the House version of the state spending plan, including a lump-sum budgeting approach that included 4 to 6 percent cuts to health, mental health and social services programs. These changes drew the scrutiny of some on the House side and even lost the backing of leadership in the Senate as negotiations progressed. The final version of the budget approved by both chambers moves much closer to the original House spending plan and takes some fiscally responsible steps to rein in the growth of the state’s social welfare programs. The final version of the budget does include the Senate’s plan to move Missouri’s Medicaid population to a system of managed care, but the transition will occur slowly and only after the plan has been reviewed.
April 17, 2015
Here are several bills that have passed in either the House or the Senate this past week:
Saving the Lives of Overdose Victims (HB 538)
Last year the Missouri General Assembly approved a new law to allow first responders to carry and use an antidote that has proven effective in saving the lives of individuals who overdose on heroin or other opioids. This year the House has moved to further increase access to this life-saving medication by authorizing legislation that would allow pharmacists to prescribe the drug to anyone. Supporters say increasing access to the drug, which is commonly referred to as Naloxone or Narcan, has the potential to allow parents and friends to save the life of a loved one who overdoses.
As the sponsor of the bill told House members during floor discussion, most overdoses occur in the home and oftentimes someone else is in the home at the time of the overdose. Because Missouri has seen a spike in the use of heroin, and heroin-related deaths, the sponsor said it is time to put this life-saving antidote in the hands of those who can quickly administer it before tragedy strikes.
Supporters of the bill noted that states that have increased access to Naloxone have seen deaths from overdoses drop dramatically. They also pointed out that the drug can be administered as a nasal spray and has no negative side effects.
April 10, 2015
Here are several bills that have passed in either the House or the Senate this past week:
Budget Bills Move to House-Senate Conference (HBs 1-13)
The Missouri Senate approved its version of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget this week and then sent the 13 bills back to the House for consideration. House members quickly voted to send 12 of the appropriations bills to conference where key negotiators will iron out the differences between the two chambers.
The key area of contention that will have to be worked out resides in the budgets for the departments of social services, health and mental health. The House used the normal budgeting procedure by putting in funding lines for specific programs within the departments. The Senate deviated from the script by using a lump sum budgeting method that gives the departments a pot of money they can spend in the way they choose. The Senate then took that lump sum total and cut between four and six percent from the budgets for health, mental health, and social services. To me, that gives authority to the bureaucracy rather than to the legislature. It is our job to appropriate funds according to priorities established by elected officials who represent the people of the state. I maintain that this is the job of the Legislature and I am working with my colleagues to assure those suggested changes are not made.