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Missouri lawmakers poised for 100th session

Missouri lawmakers poised for 100th session

Mid-Missourians pre-file more than a dozen bills

January 6th, 2019 by Bob Watson and Joe Gamm in Local News

As of Friday afternoon, Mid-Missouri lawmakers had pre-filed 13 bills for their colleagues to consider during the legislative session that begins Wednesday.

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Incoming Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and third-year Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, each pre-filed one bill, while Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, pre-filed seven measures.

In the House, Mid-Missourians pre-filed four measures — two from Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, and one each from Reps. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, and Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark.

But those 13 measures are barely 2 percent of the total 630 bills — and 32 proposed constitutional amendments — that were pre-filed in the House and Senate since Dec. 1.

Beginning Wednesday afternoon, all those proposed bills will be read into the official record and become proposals that committees can hold public hearings on, make changes to and recommend that they be debated and passed — or ignored and forgotten.

And those initial numbers contain some duplication, both of similar proposals introduced in the same chamber, and of companion bills introduced in both houses at the same time.

Oftentimes, by the March deadlines for filing new bills in each chamber, around 1,000 bills total will have been filed in both chambers.

But there rarely are more than 200 proposals — including the package of bills making up the state budget — that make it through both chambers and to the governor's desk for his signature or veto.

House proposals from Mid-Missouri lawmakers

On Dec. 3, Walsh offered up House Bill 37, which would extend by 10 years (to Aug. 28, 2029) the deadline for Missouri's DNA Profiling Analysis Fund to receive money collected by the courts.

Also on Dec. 3, Miller pre-filed House Bill 127, which would change laws regarding any required parental notification for a minor to obtain an abortion. Current law allows a physician to perform an abortion on a female younger than 18 if the girl and a single parent or guardian have provided written consent. The proposed law would require (in most cases) that the parent or guardian notify any other custodial parent or guardian in writing.

The bill, or similar ones, have been offered in four consecutive General Assemblies. Last year, the same bill passed out of the House and was assigned to the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children.

Wood said both of his pre-filed proposals came at the request of the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS).

On Dec. 10, he submitted House Bill 219, which would extend the sunset provisions for the Ticket to Work Health Assurance Program. The program provides health coverage or assistance paying for health insurance premiums for employed people who meet definitions of being disabled. The program is scheduled to end Aug. 28; the extension would delay that for six years.

Legislators put sunset clauses in laws to give them chances to evaluate the statutes and see if they continue to be beneficial for the state, Wood said.

"This is a program that has worked very well," he said. "It's something we need to keep going."

He pre-filed House Bill 256 on Dec. 14, which would change the specified $1 donation for blindness education and organ donation matters that is found when applying for motor vehicle registrations or driver licenses. The new donation amount is to be specified by either the DSS or the Department of Health and Senior Services.

"It's up to the department. They are going to set a specific value," Wood said. "They'll figure out pretty quickly that if they set it too high, they'll lose donations."

For example, he said, if the department sets the donation at $10, it would probably be too high for consumers.

Incoming Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, hasn't filed any legislation yet. But, he intends to this week.

During the run-up to the November election, Griffith said the first legislation he intended to file would have to do with providing a treatment court for veterans.

Veteran treatment courts seek to intervene in veterans becoming entangled in the legal system because of issues involving mental health, substance abuse or other crises.

"I was at the Capitol (Wednesday) checking with research. I'm going to file a bill on expanding veterans courts throughout the state," Griffith said. "Currently, we only have 11. In Southeast Missouri, there is only one."

The bill will come with a fiscal note, explaining how much it will cost to expand the courts, Griffith said. But, it wouldn't be as great as some other proposals because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to pay for a portion of the expenses, such as providing some drug testing.

Cole County's other incoming House member, Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, said he didn't pre-file any bills and wanted to wait to see what direction the General Assembly takes. Veit said Gov. Mike Parson is providing strong leadership on the direction Missouri should be taking in terms of economic development, education and health care.

"I have read parts of the hundreds of bills that have been pre-filed," Veit said. "A lot of them we know aren't going anywhere."

Do the bills that have been pre-filed have chances of being signed into law? Do they address issues the government should be involved with?

"I think it's time we had less bills and see what's going on before we jump the gun," Veit said.

Meanwhile, he said, lawmakers are faced with resolving major issues in the state while maintaining a balanced budget.

Mid-Missourians' Senate bills

After eight years in the House, Bernskoetter is no stranger to the legislative process.

But, as of Friday, he had pre-filed only one bill — which would authorize the state Natural Resources Department to award grants to preserve, protect or restore historic county courthouses. If passed, the department would administer the grant program and act as its fiscal agent, and would be responsible for receiving and reviewing all grant applications, as well as awarding grants.

Rowden's lone pre-filed bill would give intervenors in a court case — including insurance companies — the same rights as defendants already have in that case.

And Riddle's seven proposals would:

  • Change the law related to coroners.
  • Prohibit certain sex crime offenders from being near athletic facilities used primarily by children.
  • Change the provisions relating to immunity of real estate licensees.
  • Allow a person who is injured by a product to have 15 years after the sale or lease of the product to bring a suit for damages.
  • Establish a statewide hearing aid distribution program.
  • Authorize a motorcycle or motortricycle to be operated on the shoulder of a roadway, under certain circumstances.
  • Require the state auditor to make suggestions or recommendations, to the extent allowed under governmental auditing standards, to any auditee that requests them following the issuance of a report or an audit that deemed a practice of the auditee to be inadequate.

Proposed constitutional amendments

Proposals in both chambers would return impeachment trials to the state Senate, where they occurred until the current, 1945 Missouri Constitution gave them to the state Supreme Court.

Those proposals also would have the Supreme Court's chief justice preside over an impeachment trial involving the governor.

The Constitution currently requires the Supreme Court to try lawmakers and five of the six statewide elected officials, and says that impeachment trials for governor or Supreme Court judges are to be done by seven jurists selected by the state Senate.

Other resolutions would create a constitutional early voting period and set requirements for early voting sites.

Two proposed amendments would change the approval needed from voters to create a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60 percent.

Others would create amendments to authorize construction of toll roads, limit powers of people appointed to boards and commissions until after they've been confirmed, and adjust motor vehicle licensing fees for inflation.

Several resolutions — including those that would raise the percentage of votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment — concern procedures for passing initiative petitions or referendums.