Greetings Friends of the 144th Legislative District!
This past week I attended the Iron County Commissioners meeting. The commissioners are working on their budget for the upcoming year and updated us on obstacles that they are facing as they look to the future. Times are tough for rural communities and ours is no different. I look forward to working with our county commission to find solutions to overcome obstacles that prohibit our county from being able to grow and progress.
Legislature Gives Final Approval to Spending Bill for Coronavirus Relief Efforts (HB 14)
A special session called by Gov. Mike Parson to allocate nearly $1.3 billion in supplemental spending has concluded. This week the Senate gave final approval to the spending bill that started in the House. The legislation will provide access to Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, which is intended to provide additional resources to respond to COVID-19.
The bill, which was originally passed by the House in November, received strong bipartisan support in both chambers. The largest item in the nearly $1.3 billion spending plan is $764 million for the state’s efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Other items of note in the spending plan include:
- $140 million for testing, tracing, reporting and other expenses related to mitigating the virus.
- $96.8 million to transfer child support debt intercepted from federal stimulus payments to custodial parents who are due the money.
- $75.7 million for school food service programs that have been extended through the end of December.
- $34 million for assistance to businesses/employees participating in the Shared Work Program.
- $19.6 million for homeless prevention grants.
- $5.1 million in additional funds for ongoing long-term behavioral health effects in both adults and children caused by natural disasters in our state in 2018 and 2019.
- $93 million for ongoing pharmacy expenses in the Medicaid program due to increased utilization during the pandemic.
With the approval of the legislature, the bill now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Passage of the bill marks the end of the legislature’s work during the special session. The governor had called for the session to be expanded to include legislation to provide liability protections for health care providers, manufacturers, businesses, schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations, among others. While the Senate had started work on the bill this week, Gov. Parson asked the legislature to table discussion on the bill for now. The legislature will now take up the issue of COVID-19 liability protection when the regular session begins in January.
Bill Pre-Filing for the 2021 Legislative Session Begins
Lawmakers have begun preparations for the 2021 legislative session that begins January 6. Tuesday, Dec. 1 marked the first day legislators could introduce legislation for the upcoming session. The first day of bill pre-filing saw members of the Missouri House introduce their legislative priorities in near-record numbers. The day resulted in 288 bills pre-filed in the House, which is the second highest total seen in the House in the last decade. Legislators pre-filed their highest total last year when opening day resulted in 315 bills introduced. In comparison, the first day of pre-filing saw 161 bills introduced in 2018 and 195 bills in 2017.
Legislators filed legislation dealing with a wide variety of topics. Issues addressed by the pre-filed bills range from limiting the ability of local officials to implement lockdowns to improved transparency for local government spending to protections for Missourians’ Second Amendment rights. I have currently pre-filed three bills. House Bill 73 prohibits the use of a wireless communication device (cell phone) within a school zone unless you are using a hands-free option. I think this is very important as we see the number of auto accidents increase due to distracted drivers. We need to make sure our students are safe as they hurry to and from school. House Bill 72 is a tort reform bill for inherent risks. Tourism is the number one industry in our district and this is an important reform that we can do to help our area. The third bill was brought to my attention by Wayne County Clerk Kent Sisco. Currently Missouri has a statute in place that allows a100% service connected disabled veteran a property tax exemption. However, the way it is worded the disabled veteran must also be a POW. This bill would change it to allow any 100% service connected disabled veteran the tax emption. We do not do enough for our veterans and this is yet another small way we can repay them for their service. I have several other bills that I am working on getting drafted to file. To keep informed on the bills that are pre-filed in the House, please visit the official website of the Missouri House of Representatives at www.house.mo.gov and click on the “2021 Regular Session” link.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112. Please do not contact me via social media. These messages are easy to overlook and may not be responded to in a timely manner.