What’s Happening Report: February 18, 2019

If we were having coffee today, we might be discussing etiquette rules of the Missouri Legislature.

Senators refer to each other as “Senator.” Representatives refer to each other as “Representative,” “Lady,” or “Gentleman.” On the floor, we refer to each other as “the Lady from St. Louis County” (or whatever county they are from).

Members are expected to avoid personality and derogatory personal comments. The penalty is that the speaker or committee chair calls that member to order and the member shall sit down. You can see this in Rule 85 of the Rules of the House.

If we were having coffee, I would also share some exciting news about what is happening in my life. On Tuesday, the Children and Families committee will hear my bill defining a maternal mortality review committee in Missouri. This coming Friday, I will travel to New Madrid, Missouri, to speak at a conference on maternal mortality. The bootheel has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in Missouri. On Saturday, I will be recognized as a disability advocate at the UCP Heartland Gala — I am honored to receive this recognition!

I was asked to be on a national taskforce to discuss the future of work opportunities for individuals with disabilities. This task force is a partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability and Employment’s (ODEP) State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and the Council of State Governments (CSG). I am excited to be part of this task force, although I am sad I will miss some days of session (and some votes) to do so.
In the area of Missouri income tax, the Department of Revenue discovered an error in how they calculate tax withholdings. Because of this, they changed the tax tables. People who were expecting tax refunds this year will likely get either a smaller refund this year or end up owing money to the state. The Democrats have filed HB 378 to give people who owe an unexpected tax bill a longer time to pay it. This error was discovered in relation to the federal tax cut of 2017. Here is more information about the changed withholding tables:https://dor.mo.gov/business/withhold/
Last Week
Last week was a busy week that had very little excitement on the floor. We did pass HB 188, a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This program builds on the successful program in St. Louis County and other counties in Missouri and keeps a database of prescriptions that pharmacists can use to help reduce opiate abuse. That bill now (hopefully) goes to the Senate.

You can see the growing list of bills that have been perfected(final version is complete and ready to vote on) and third read (bills we have voted on) on the House webpage under “Legislation”.

While it is interesting to see what we have been doing, a better way to be involved in what is coming up is to track the upcoming hearings (to see what committees are working on) and Calendar (to see what is coming to the floor).

The Missouri House Democrats gave a weekly press conference — last week it was on criminal justice reform. See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhcF55OZMww. The Democrats are giving weekly press conferences on a variety of policy topics; you can see all press conferences on the MOHOUSECOMM Youtube Page athttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd6ymiL-IlKewSkyoocKcuw
This Week
This week, we are discussing some substantial bills in my committees.
In Children and Families, we will be voting on HB 126, the Fetal Heartbeat Abortion act. This bill prohibits abortions after a heartbeat is detected. The fiscal note on the bill lists a risk that Missouri can lose all federal Medicaid funding if the bill passes as written.

We will be hearing HB 474 – SNAP AND TANF; HB 254 – MAINTENANCE ORDERS; HB 540 ABORTION RISK FACTORS; and HB 664 – HEALTHY MOTHERS INITIATIVE

I am very excited to have a bill heard! HB 664 expands the current PAMR board to look at why women are dying in such high numbers from pregnancy and childbirth and make recommendations on how to reduce them. I find it ironic that this bill will be heard on the same day as we vote on the most restrictive abortion bill in the country.

Abortion is a contentious topic, and we spend a lot of time and energy on it in the Legislature. When we spend this time and energy on abortion, we are not addressing issues that could significantly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies–issues such as Medicaid expansion, comprehensive sex education for teens, and foster care issues.

Thank you,
Sarah