Monday, September 05, 2016

Reiboldt explains new laws

(From Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Seneca)

On August 28, more than 100 pieces of legislation approved by Missouri’s General Assembly became law. These bills covered a wide range of topics and received the Governor’s signature. In all,139 pieces of legislation were approved by the General Assembly during the 2016 session. The Governor vetoed twenty bills, some of which the legislature will attempt to override when the House and Senate convene for the annual Veto Session on September 14. It is obvious there are many constituents following some of the vetoed bills, as I am currently receiving numerous contacts from concerned individuals voicing their opinions on the override attempts. However, in this week’s Capitol Report, I want to take a closer look at three of the bills that took effect in August.

Senate Bill 607 will allow the state to more efficiently verify applicants and recipients of welfare programs. The bill will authorize the Missouri Department of Social Services to hire an outside service provider to conduct the verification process for applicants of the state’s various welfare programs. In addition to screening applicants, the independent company will also re-verify current enrollees. This provider will work to ensure that the recipients and the applicants are, in fact, eligible for programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Childcare Assistance Program (CAP), and Missouri HealthNet. In cases where the service provider finds or suspects fraud, it will then notify the Department, which will begin an investigation.

SB 607 legislation is meant to help the Department of Social Services ensure the accuracy of the distribution of welfare benefits, a process in which the Department has readily admitted to falling behind in when performing their duties. The new law has the potential of saving the State an estimated $20 million over the next three years by just eliminating waste and fraud from the system. Other states have passed third-party vendor legislation to help in screening their welfare programs and are showing good success with it. As a result of the programs, their taxpayers have saved millions of dollars.

Another bill that took effect of August 28 is House Bill 1550, the Shared Parenting Law. This legislation seeks to equalize custody and visitation rights for divorced parents with children and is meant to address the fact that some courts in our state routinely award less parenting time to fathers. The legislation will ensure that the courts do not presume a parent is more qualified to be a guardian simply based on gender. In effect, the law will put the best interest of the child first, so that the child may maximize their time with both parents.

Supporters of HB1550 have maintained that shared parenting is important for the healthy growth and development for young people from broken homes. They also noted that federal statistics show single parent homes account for 63% of teen suicides, 70% of juvenile incarceration in state facilities, 71% of high school dropouts, and 85% of children in prison. With this new law courts will now begin custody proceedings with the assumption that parents should share custody and parenting responsibilities of raising their children.

The legislature also approved additional funding for the Amber Alert system. State and local law enforcement agencies will soon be able to get Amber Alerts out more quickly because additional money budgeted to the Highway Patrol—the ones who issue Amber Alerts—is to be used to improve the present system. The goal is to allow local law enforcement agencies to enter information into only one system and not have to enter it into multiple systems (as is currently required), thus saving precious time. It was noted that when a young Springfield girl was abducted in February of 2014, it took almost two hours before an alert went out, and, unfortunately, it was then too late.

While it is questionable if all vetoed bills will be brought up for an override attempt, there are ongoing efforts to determine which ones have the necessary two-thirds majority votes from both the House and the Senate in order to even begin the process. After September 14, that question will be answered.

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