(The following newsletter was sent out Thursday and today by numerous Republican members of the Missouri House of Representatives, ranging from Speaker of the House Todd Richardson to first-term legislators. All of them claim it as their own work.)
With the close of session Thursday, the House of Representatives has entered spring break. Every year, the legislative session seems to go by faster and faster. This year is no exception. Before spring break though, the House made some state history this week and passed a few more pieces of impactful legislation. Check out some of the things we completed this week as well as an overview of the accomplishments we have already achieved this year.
House Makes History by Overriding Governor’s Budget Restrictions
For the first time in state history, the House successfully moved to override budget withholdings made by the governor. In 2014, voters approved Amendment 10 to the state constitution which gives the legislature the authority to ensure programs receive funds that were appropriated to them by the General Assembly but withheld by the governor. This authority works in a similar fashion to overriding a gubernatorial veto with a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate required.
The governor has the ability to withhold spending only if revenue levels are below their estimate. In the current fiscal year, this is not the case. Revenue growth has surpassed projections. The governor is holding back money for vital state services illegally and is denying the General Assembly its constitutionally-mandated power of the purse.
The decision received bipartisan support in the House with more than 120 votes to release $575,000 in funds for the Missouri Scholars Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, as well as $350,000 for the Brain Injury Waiver Fund. The Missouri Scholars Academy and Missouri Fine Arts Academy have traditionally been funded by the state to offer programs for students who are academically gifted or highly motivated in visual arts, theatre, dance, creative writing, or music. The funds would allow students to attend without having to pay an additional charge. The Brain Injury Waiver Fund helps to provide care for Missourians with brain injuries, who are currently on a waiting list. The model includes early intervention and treatment options to provide critical services while reducing long-term costs and allowing people to successfully regain daily life skills and vocational potential. Both motions now move to the Senate for consideration. Should they receive approval by two-thirds vote there, the governor will be forced to release the funds.
Creating Stricter Requirements for a Minor to Obtain an Abortion
The House gave approval to House Bill 1370 this week creating an additional requirement before a minor may obtain an abortion in Missouri. Current law requires that a minor must receive written consent from a parent or guardian in order to have an abortion. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Rocky Miller, would add the requirement that the consenting parent or guardian must first notify in writing any other custodial parent or guardian. The bill waives the consent requirement in emergency situations and does not require that a parent or guardian receive notice if he or she has been found guilty of certain offenses, had their rights terminated, cannot be located, or is incapacitated. This bill is intended to start a conversation among family members and explore all options before the choice of abortion is decided. It now moves over to the Senate for deliberation.
House Achieves Many Priorities before Spring Break
The House has passed a substantial amount of legislation so far this year. Ethics reform bills to impose a lobbyist gift ban, create a cooling off period for legislators becoming lobbyists, ban legislators from serving as political consultants, restrict the investment of campaign funds, and create additional personal financial disclosure requirements have been sent over to the Senate. Paycheck protection legislation was passed with a veto-proof majority. Welfare reform requiring a third party to verify eligibility for public assistance was approved by the House to help create more efficiency in our social service programs. Legislation has been sent to the Senate to streamline charter school regulations and allow easier expansion of high performing schools. The House passed legislation making access to bio-similar medication easier providing more people with lifesaving, cutting edge medication and saving the state millions of dollars. Voter ID legislation has been sent to the Senate which would put the matter to a vote of the people. The House has also passed a balanced budget that spends over $200 million less in General Revenue than the governor. We still face many priorities in the weeks to come but I am proud of the work our caucus has done to make Missouri a better place to live, work, and raise a family.