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Greetings Friends of the 144th Legislative District!
I am pleased to hear that the City of Greenville in Wayne County has been awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in the amount of $750,000 for Wastewater Improvements. My office is always willing to assist with letters of support as well as make calls, when municipalities and organizations are applying for these grants.
Despite the ice and snow that landed across the state, members of the House returned to Jefferson City following the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to get to work on Tuesday with a flurry of activities. This week my School Protection officer bill was voted due pass in committee. This bill allows local schools the authority for their school boards to determine; who is the most qualified person to serve in this position. We all know that there is no one size shoe fits all, so this will give school districts more flexibility.
Two dozen House committees met in this past week, as more than two hundred bills have now been referred to committee. Here’s a breakdown on some of the bills passed out of committee this week:
- Veterans’ Suicide
The Missouri House Veterans Committee this week passed HB 1495, which aims to address the issue of veteran suicide. The bill seeks to involve the Missouri Veterans Commission in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Mental Health to develop recommendations and implement measures, programs, treatment options, and aid to prevent veteran suicide, subject to available funding. The discussion was prompted by a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report, revealing an increase in veteran suicides nationwide. In 2021, 185 military veterans died by suicide in Missouri, with the state’s veteran suicide rate surpassing the national average, as highlighted by a 2023 federal report. The bill sponsor emphasized the urgency of addressing the alarming trend of veteran suicides, and in response, the committee voted the bill out with a received “Do Pass by Consent” vote of 8-0.
- Childcare Tax Credit Package
The Missouri House Committee on Workforce and Infrastructure Development has approved a tax credit package, House Bill 1488, to address the state’s childcare crisis and boost economic development. The proposed package includes three components: Child Care Contribution Tax Credit Act, Employer Provided Child Care Assistance Tax Credit Act, and Child Care Providers Tax Credit Act. These aim to provide tax credits to childcare providers, donors to daycare centers, and businesses supporting employee childcare costs. The bill responds to the workforce crisis, with only one childcare slot available for every three children under five in Missouri. The estimated cost of the tax credits is $70 million, justified by potential economic growth. The proposal is set to be valid for six years for impact assessment. The committee passed the bill out with a unanimous vote of 10-0 on Wednesday, January 17.
- Private Trust Companies
HB 1938 this week received a “Do Pass by Consent” vote (9 to 0) from the Standing Committee on Financial Institutions. The bill aims to exempt private trust companies, specifically those described under Section 361.160, RSMo, from certain residency requirements imposed on the board of directors of a corporation. This exemption would benefit a Missouri-based family trust company, the only known example of its kind in the state, which handles the business of one family’s trust. Currently, a majority of the board members must be residents, but the proposed change would allow non-resident family members to serve on the board, preserving the business in Missouri. Supporters of the legislation believe that this change could attract new private family trusts to establish themselves in Missouri.
Children and Families Committee Looks to Enhance Protections and Rights
In a recent session of the House Committee on Children and Families, members heard testimony on three bills seeking to address crucial aspects of child protection, legal rights, and welfare.
HB 1537 broadens the definition of “special victim” to encompass any staff member of the Division of Youth Services within the Department of Social Services who is assaulted while performing official duties or as a result of such duties.
Similar to HB 1034 from the 2023 legislative session, HB 1835 focuses on amending procedures related to child placement. It requires the Children’s Division and foster care agencies to consider the religious faith alignment when placing a child, extending the current practice of placing a child with an individual or agency sharing the same religious faith as the child’s parents.
HB 1950 seeks to transform the “Foster Care Bill of Rights” into the “Foster Youth Bill of Rights.” Under this bill the Children’s Division would be required to inform school-age foster children and their foster parents about grievance procedures and pursuing equitable relief. It outlines various rights, including a safe place, family communication, minimal disruptions in placements, belongings, educational stability, attendance in court hearings, privacy, contact with case managers, reporting violations without fear of retaliation, and timely permanency and case plans.
Looking to Healthcare Reform Solutions
The Committee on Healthcare Reform heard bills this week looking to ease restrictions and increase protections and access to healthcare in Missouri.
HB 1632 seeks to address the continuously rising costs of insulin and epi-pens and relieve some of the cost burden on Missourians. 8.5 million Americans rely on insulin to live, and insulin costs have roughly tripled in the last decade. It is estimated that Americans spent about $22 billion on insulin, up from $8 billion in 2012.
In that amount of time, the actual medication has not changed, but the technology surrounding it has vastly changed, particularly in monitoring equipment and delivery methods. This legislative proposal hopes to address this by requiring insurers covering epinephrine auto-injectors or prescription insulin drugs to cap the insured’s payment for a 30-day supply at $35 for insulin and $100 for epinephrine injectors.
Vetoed Public Safety Bill Returns with Fixes in 2024
A comprehensive crime prevention and public safety proposal that failed to become law in 2023 has returned once again as a top priority in the 2024 legislative session.
HB 1659, mirroring the SB 189 legislative package vetoed by the governor this past summer, was brought before the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety this week in an effort to address the concerns expressed by the governor in his veto letter.
Notable changes include altering jurisdiction rules for juvenile offenders and raising the age range for adult certification from 12-18 to 14-18 years. The bill emphasizes physical separation and education programs for offenders under 18 and introduces parole ineligibility for second-degree murder under specific conditions.
Other provisions address bench warrants for non-moving traffic violations, changing wrongful conviction procedures, and expanding the definition of persistent offenders. A new “Stop Cyberstalking and Harassment Task Force” is established to protect Missourians online, comprised of law enforcement, victim advocates, stalking victims, and forensics experts.
The bill extends the offense of endangering the welfare of a child, introduces “Blair’s Law” for firearm discharge penalties, and classifies unlawful possession of a firearm as a class C felony. “Max’s Law” introduces penalties for assaulting law enforcement animals and removes exemptions for certain offenses.
Drug trafficking offenses are redefined, creating new felony classes for delivering controlled substances causing serious injury or death. The bill amends programs for firefighters and allows civilian oversight divisions for police agencies. The creation of the “Public Defender-Federal and Other Fund” ensures proper fund utilization for local State Public Defender offices.
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