Friday, March 11, 2016

House sends state operating budget to the Senate

(The following capital report was sent out by dozens of Missouri representatives, with all of them claiming it as their own.)

The members of the Missouri House of Representatives spent all day Tuesday and then several more hours Thursday working on the Fiscal Year 2017 state operating budget. The 13 appropriations bills that make up the state spending plan are now on their way to the Senate for consideration.

During discussion on the House floor, the approximately $27.3 billion spending plan saw House members offer and adopt several amendments to move funding from one program to another.

Changes to the budget on the floor must either be revenue neutral or revenue positive. In effect, if a member wants to increase funding in one area of the budget, he or she must first reduce corresponding funds in another area. With this, the size of the budget cannot grow on the House floor. So these changes do not represent increased spending; they represent re-prioritized spending.

Some of the major changes made to the budget on Tuesday include:

· A $1 million increase to the Foundation Formula that provides state funding for K-12 public schools. The money was moved from the Facilities Management Reserve Fund.

· An additional $55,000 for the Foundation Formula that comes from a cut to the Missouri Department of Social Services. House members made a cut of $379,000 to ensure no state dollars are used for nonemergency abortions. The majority of the funds are federal, but the $55,000 in state funds were reallocated to education.

· A $214,000 increase to the Parents as Teachers program. The money was cut from the budget for the governor’s office.

· An additional $50,000 to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that is designed to increase interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers among middle school and early high school students. The money was moved from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

· A funding increase of $1 million for agricultural research at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. The funds, which were taken from the University of Missouri – Columbia campus, will allow Lincoln to receive matching federal land grant funding.

· $500,000 for the creation of an Urban Education Institute at Harris-Stowe State University. The money was moved from the funding increase for the state’s institutions of higher education.

· $750,000 for the Brain Injury Waiver to draw down federal funds to help provide care to Missourians with brain injuries who are currently on a waiting list. The money was moved from funds allocated for the Missouri Technology Corporation.

· $300,000 in funding for the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center to offer shop and lab training and classroom instructional opportunities to high school graduates and dislocated workers. The money was moved from funding for the Department of Natural Resources.

Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2017 state operating budget as it moves to the Senate:

· $70.3 million increase for the Foundation Formula, which funds K-12 public schools

· $9.4 million increase in performance funding for Missouri colleges and universities

· $5 million increase for K-12 transportation

· $4 million increase for the Access Missouri need-based scholarship program.

· $2.5 million increase for the A+ Scholarship program

· $500,000 increase for the Bright Flight scholarship program

· $1.3 million for 2015’s Dairy Revitalization Act

· $2 million increase for river ports

· $1.25 million increase for business startups through the Missouri Technology Corporation

· $30 million to revive the state cost-share program to fund transportation projects

· Increase Medicaid provider rates by three percent

· $500,000 increase for the Alternatives to Abortion program

· Two percent pay increase for state employees

Creating Stricter Requirements for a Minor to Obtain an Abortion (HB 1370) (This bill received first round of approval, Perfected, by the House but must have another vote, Third Read, before it can be referred to the Senate)

The members of the Missouri House took action this week to create stricter requirements for a minor to obtain an abortion in Missouri. Under current law, a minor must obtain the written consent of a parent or guardian in order to have an abortion. The legislation approved by the House would also require the consenting parent or guardian to first notify in writing any other custodial parent or guardian.

The sponsor of the bill said his intent is to encourage families to have discussions before an abortion. As he told his colleagues on the House floor, his goal with the bill is not to stop anything, but instead to start a conversation among family members.

The legislation approved by the House does wave the consent requirement in an emergency situation. The bill also clarifies that a parent or guardian is not required to receive notice if he or she has been found guilty of certain offenses, is listed on the state's Child Abuse or Neglect Central Registry, Sexual Offender Registry, has an order of protection against him or her, had their rights terminated, cannot be located, or is incapacitated.

Improving Health Care Outcomes for Infants (HB 1875)

The Missouri House gave approval this week to legislation meant to provide a better system of care for at-risk newborns. The bill would allow for the creation of a perinatal network in Missouri to act as a resource for physicians whose patients have high risk pregnancies or complications after birth. The goal of the network is to ensure risk-appropriate care is provided to children in need.

According to the March of Dimes, one in every four at-risk newborns is born at a facility that is not equipped to meet their needs. Approximately 1,100 infants are born at very low birth weight each year in Missouri, and around 1,500 infants are born very preterm. Up to 26 percent of these babies are born at facilities that do not have a NICU specially equipped for their care.

In 2011, the Missouri General Assembly approved House Bill 555 to create the Missouri Task Force on Prematurity and Infant Mortality. In December of 2013 the task force submitted its findings and recommendations to the governor and the legislature. One of the key recommendations called for regionalized perinatal care. The legislation approved by the House seeks to implement the recommendation in order to ensure high-risk pregnancies and low birth weight, preterm, or otherwise at-risk neonates receive consultation and access to risk-appropriate care.

House Approves Legislation to Allow Good Samaritans to “Rescue the Forgotten” (HB 1649)

The Missouri House gave approval to legislation meant to expand Missouri’s Good Samaritan law to allow conscientious citizens to break into a hot vehicle in order to rescue a forgotten child. Known as the “Rescue the Forgotten” bill, the legislation is similar to law already in place in other states such as Tennessee. In effect, the bill would protect individuals for damages caused while trying to rescue a child in danger.

According to, in the last 20 years more than 700 children have died from heatstroke in vehicles in the United States. Missouri ranks as the 13th among states for most child vehicular heatstroke deaths. As the sponsor of the bill said, “It’s time for Missouri to join the many other states that have made the safety and well-being of their young people a top priority. It’s common sense to empower people to do the right thing in what could be a life or death situation.”

House Members Approve Bill to Expand Services for Deaf-Blind Individuals in Missouri (HB 1696)

The members of the Missouri House gave bipartisan support this week to legislation meant to help deaf and blind Missourians live more independently. The legislation allows the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to issue grants to provide necessary services to deaf-blind individuals and their families.

Under the bill, the commission will be able to issue up to $300,000 in grants each year. The grants will be utilized for the training and certification of new support service providers, and will help offset the costs to organizations that provide support services to deaf-blind persons.

Supporters said that additional providers, who help with tasks such as getting to work or shopping, will allow more deaf-blind individuals to become independent. The bill also is meant to decrease the reliance of deaf-blind individuals on public assistance.

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