What’s Happening Report: May 13, 2019

If we were having coffee, I would talk with you about foster kids. Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and foster kids, generally, don’t get to spend that special day with their moms.

My first year here, I was asked to advocate in the budget for foster kids in public education (the “Public Placement Fund.”) It had been cut from about $13 million to $0, and we were able to get it back up to $5 million, where it is today.

I tell you this because of something I said on the floor that day: foster kids are our kids.

Foster kids are the state’s responsibility–not their caregivers, not their parents; they are the responsibility of all of us to take care of and make sure they grow up with the ability to be independent and productive citizens.

For those who do get to celebrate Mother’s day with their moms, they almost certainly don’t see them the day after. As a state, we owe them a special duty of care.

This is the last week of session. I expect to see a bill that will significantly impact attorneys who advocate for foster care, and not in a way that will improve their ability to practice. I expect to see bills that will limit women’s bodily autonomy and bills that will make it harder for people to get Medicaid. Anything that doesn’t pass before this week is over has to start all over with filing in December, but bills that do pass will become law.

This past week, the House third read and passed 7 bills. As of today, 227 bills have been third read and passed by the House, and 29 House bills have been passed by both houses (this last number did not change this week). 3 bills have been signed by the Governor. We will be hearing a lot more bills as May 17th approaches.

Since this is the last week of session, I will not be sending out a newsletter next week. I do plan to send a newsletter to wrap up the session before the end of May.

Scroll to the bottom for information on upcoming St. Louis Area fishing festivals, as well as several public appearances I will be making after session ends.
Last Week

We had a busy week and things are moving fast. The big news this week was that the Budget passed. The constitutional deadline was to pass the budget by 6PM on Friday; it was completed in the House about Midnight and passed the Senate at around 2 AM on Friday morning. One of the big points of discussion on the budget on Thursday was whether to allow DACA students to take advantage of in-state tuition at public universities; current budget language requires them to pay international tuition even though they have lived in Missouri for a number of years and graduated from a Missouri high school. They cannot take advantage of scholarships. In-state tuition is not charity, it is an investment in our people and our future. DREAMers have lawful status and are residents of our great state. They are not going to leave. If we choose not to give them tools to be productive, they will drain our resources.

We also had a lengthy discussion this week on a resolution that would have Missouri oppose the Green New Deal (HCR 43). It was very discouraging to hear Republicans, one after another, deny that climate change is man-made and insist that we can do nothing to stop it. And they are right–as long as the party in power is not willing to try to stop climate change, we will not be able to.

I am on the Joint Committee for Public Assistance, which had an organizational meeting this week. Rep. Jeff Messenger and Sen. David Sater are co-chairs. This committee will be meeting over the interim to discuss ways to make public assistance more efficient and effective. I got a report this weekend that 9,000 children were kicked off the Medicaid rolls in April. I am very concerned about this and hope this committee will do some digging into this issue.

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 at this point in the session is to keep abreast of the Calendar (to see what is coming to the floor).

Democrats and Republicans are giving 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
One thing the Legislature has been looking into is how to fund transportation infrastructure. See below for an update (as of Sunday night) on the Jefferson Barracks Bridge closure, lanes on I-44 closed at Grand, and an update on the I-44 construction at Shrewsbury.

We are still scheduled to be debating and voting on HB 581, a charter schools expansion bill.

We are scheduled to debate Medicaid Work Requirements, which turns a program that is designed to make people healthy so they can be productive into a requirement that people be productive before they can get healthcare.

I have been asked about HB 864, which would change teacher pensions. This bill has not yet been assigned to a committee, and I do not expect the bill to pass this year. I oppose this bill.

The Senate has passed the CAFO bill that will make it easier for large factory farms to operate in Missouri (and restrict local counties and municipalities from regulating them). This bill, SB 391, will head to the House this week.

Both the Senate and the House will debate abortion this week, either HB 126or SB 279. I expect this will be a lengthy and contested debate in the Senate, ending with a controversial previous question to end debate. In the House, debate will last until House leadership decides to end it, which could be 5 minutes or 2 hours.

I also expect there will be bills passed to overturn the Clean Missouri initiative–or at least take that to voters.

As of this writing, Children and Families and Ways and Means do not have a committee meeting scheduled this week.
RealID Update
RealID compliant drivers and nondrivers licenses are now available with properdocumentationYou can go to the DMV and request a replacement for your current license with the Real ID for a $5 processing fee. If you renew your license at the time of the request you will be charged the renewal fee. You need a RealID compliant Identification Card to board an airplane and enter federal buildings; Missouri issued Identification Cards (including drivers’ licenses) will be accepted in lieu of RealID until October 1, 2020.
Emergency Bridge Closure
Emergency closures on Interstates 255 and 44 to impact Monday morning commute 

ST. LOUIS – Drivers heading west on I-44 in the city and west from Illinois on I-255 at Jefferson Barracks Bridge need to consider alternate routes or prepare for extended delays Monday.

A collapsed storm drain in the westbound lane on I-44 near Grand has all but one lane closed. Crews are working to replace the drain as soon as possible.

An emergency bridge closure on westbound I-255 at the Jefferson Barracks Bridge has all lanes closed, after cracks were found during a routine inspection earlier today. The bridge will remain closed for further inspections and repairs. At this time it is unknown when westbound I-255 will reopen.

I-255 is closed from Illinois Rte. 3 in Columbia, to Koch Road, in St. Louis County. Traffic should use westbound Poplar Street Bridge at Illinois Route 3 as a detour. The Jefferson Barracks Bridge was constructed in in 1985. About 60,000 vehicles a day travel the eastbound and westbound lanes of the bridge.
I-44 Update
MoDOT I-44 project near Shrewsbury now to be complete by fall 
ST. LOUIS – After finalizing an agreement with the contractor, MoDOT has an updated schedule to complete the work on eastbound and westbound I-44 over the BNSF railroad near Shrewsbury.

According to the latest contractual agreement with the contractor, all lanes will be in their final configuration by mid-July, with all work on the project completed before September 1. This includes completing the eastbound bridge, repairs on the westbound bridge, and the new driving surface on I-44 in the area near Shrewsbury.

As part of the agreement, the contractor has covered the costs of all additional design and construction, and will pay MoDOT more than $500,000 to cover the cost of the in-depth analysis and damages for the delay.

The construction on the project was delayed in November 2018 due to a concern with greater than usual cracking on the westbound I-44 bridge in the area. After hiring a third party to analyze the situation, the department determined that the bridge, as designed, was not able to appropriately handle the thermal expansion forces – the forces when bridges expand and contract due to heating and cooling. Since the report was issued, the contractor team updated designs for the eastbound bridge, restarted construction on the project and designed repairs for the westbound bridge.“Through this all, the contractor has been working very hard to remedy the situation, and get this road back open to traffic while meeting the standards that Missouri taxpayers expect of work on their roadways. We appreciate the patience of the residents near the project and the daily commuters on I-44 as we worked through the process to ensure that this was fixed, and fixed correctly,” said said Tom Blair, MoDOT St. Louis District Engineer.
MODot Update: Missouri travelers should use caution, heed closure signs, during flooding JEFFERSON CITY — Moving barricades or driving over flooded roads could be deadly. With flooding impacting roads and bridges across the state, the Missouri Department of Transportation wants to remind travelers to pay attention to all posted signs.

“The phrase ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown’ is the best advice we can give drivers,” said Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT’s chief safety officer and maintenance engineer. “With major rivers rising and flash flooding covering routes throughout the state, motorists need to check the Traveler Information Map before heading out.”

Travelers should heed barricades barring travel across flooded roads. Several water rescues have already occurred across the state. Almost all of them could have been avoided if the driver had not attempted to cross a flooded route.

“I’m always flabbergasted to learn someone has driven around — or even moved — a barricade to get across a flooded route,” Allmeroth said. “They are literally putting their lives, and the lives of their passengers, in jeopardy. It’s not only dangerous, it’s illegal.”During flooding the road may have collapsed under the water. Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed out road surfaces, electrical wires and chemicals.

According to the National Weather Service, it takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away almost any vehicle. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters. Downed power lines, hidden debris or one false step can lead to injury or even death.

With more rain forecast across the state for the next few days, MoDOT advises all travelers check the Traveler Information Map before heading out, even if your current location appears not to be affected by flooding. You can also call 1-888-275-6636 (Ask MoDOT) to talk to a MoDOT customer service representative 24-hours a day. For more information, call MoDOT at 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or visit www.modot.org. To receive the latest statewide news and text alerts, signup for e-updates.
Capitol Construction
The Missouri Capitol will be under construction for the next two years. Many streets around the Capitol are closed, with signs directing an alternate route. The Capitol Dome is also closed. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2020.
Please stop by my office if you are in Jefferson City. If you have an issue to talk with me about, it is best to make an appointment through my assistant, Nancy, at 573-751-1285.

I enjoy opportunities to meet with people in the community and participate in local events. It’s one of the best parts of my job!
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!