What’s Happening Report: March 18, 2019

If we were having coffee, I would ask you about your family. The legislature has spring break this week, which is a much needed break for me that comes right in the middle of session. My work will be limited this week, so I will not be responding to e-mail or phone calls as quickly. Instead, I’m spending time with family in St. Louis, laughing with my kids and (finally) spending some time outside.

Scroll to the bottom for information on a Veterans Writing Workshop and an Assistive Technology event coming to St. Louis.

I have received a number of questions about HB 1108, which would require individuals to purchase an AR-15. I strongly oppose this bill, but I also do not believe this bill would make it to the House floor. I will be sure to inform you if it does.
While we are on break, Missouri still has problems. Last Friday, the Director of Revenue resigned over the administration’s decision to change withholding tables without telling citizens. You are probably seeing the effects of this as you do your taxes this year. Unfortunately, instead of owning up to the problem, the Governor is name-calling in response to our Minority leader’s calls for him to provide relief for Missourians who are in a financial bind as a result of the tax changes.
Last Week
Last week, we heard some tough bills. One bill, HB 267, would allow schools to offer a course in the Bible. Personally, I don’t want my child’s social studies teacher teaching him religion–isn’t that why we have the First Amendment? Another bill, HB 763, would allow private religious schools to pay teachers less than the minimum wage. Less than 6 months after Missouri residents voted to increase the minimum wage, Republicans in the House are voting to roll that back.

We heard HB 677, which would provide up to $3 million for projects related to tourism infrastructure. While this bill had broad support and would provide needed investment into tourism, I cannot support it. Right now, our revenue is 6.3% below revenue estimates. Our budget is going to see major cuts, very soon. I think that investment in tourism, while a necessary investment, is beyond our reach and we need to focus on funding immediate needs first. To me, it is similar to putting money into a retirement account when we struggle to buy groceries.

We made the unusual move to send HB 374 back to committee after an amendment was added to lower the sales tax on diapers, period products and incontinence supplies. This move was based on a fiscal note, explaining this would cost the state $15-25 million. I understand we have a revenue problem in Missouri. I also understand that the majority party does not hesitate to reduce taxes on corporations and high-income individuals, and also does not wince at making this up on the backs of women, parents, and seniors. After break, this bill will be heard again in the Rules-Legislative Oversight committee.

On the education front, we did not hear the Charter schools bill. In addition, the Senate heard a bill on Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (vouchers) and put the bill on hold. Either bill could come up at any time.
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 — this week it will be about the budget. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmkHEMhTiTQThe Democrats are giving weekly press conferences on a variety of policy topics; you can see all press conferences on the MOHOUSECOMM Youtube Page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd6ymiL-IlKewSkyoocKcuw
This Week
As I said earlier, the Legislature has spring break this week. While I will be relaxing, I have some work that I need to do. There are 30 bills scheduled to hear or vote in my committees the week after break. These include:HB 183: Medicaid work requirementsHB 971: “Abortion survivors protection act”HB 899: reducing the time a tenant has to appeal a judgment to 5 days (we already voted to reject this bill, we will be voting again)Several tax credit bills in Ways and Means.