What’s Happening Report: January 27, 2020

If we were having coffee, I would talk with you about how the Missouri Legislature is trying to weaken public participation in your government.

I’m sure you’ve heard about “Dirty Missouri” — the effort to undo the redistricting provision of Clean Missouri. The proposal would put on the ballot an initiative to change the way redistricting is done in Missouri, to make it more partisan than it was in 2010. Voters approved the Clean Missouri provision with 62%, and the argument I’m hearing in favor of this provision is that “voters didn’t know what they were voting for.” The Senate bill, SJR 38, was voted out of committee last Wednesday. The House bills, HJR 76 (Trent) and HJR 101 (Plocher) have both been assigned to the General Laws committee; HJR 101 is scheduled for a hearing at 2:00 on Monday.

You may not have heard that the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the affidavit provision of Voter ID about two weeks ago. Before this ruling, if you went to vote without an approved photo ID, you had to sign an affidavit before you could vote. HB 1600, filed by Rep. John Simmons, allows a voter without an approved photo ID only a provisional ballot, which would only be cast after signature verification. This would further disenfranchise already marginalized communities. This bill has already been heard in committee.

Republicans are working very hard to prevent Missouri from expanding Medicaid. They believe a Medicaid expansion will be on the ballot, and they are working to prevent this from being effective. One way they are doing this is to put a provision on the ballot to prevent parts of the Medicaid expansion petition from taking effect. The Senate committee voted out SJR 32 last week, which would put Medicaid work requirements on the ballot (work requirements are prohibited in the initiative petition).

As of this writing, there have been 41 proposed Constitutional amendments introduced in the Missouri House, and many try to limit public participation in the initiative petition process (which is how Clean Missouri and the anti-RTW provisions got on the ballot). These provisions would make it harder to put a petition on the ballot.

As for my week: I have two committees scheduled: Health & Mental Health, and Children & Families. The Health and Mental Health committee meets at 12:00 on Monday. We will start the year hearing my bill! It will hear HB 1270, which removes the requirement that mailings for the blind pension will be sent via certified mail. We will also hear HB 1460, which removes the requirement that expected users of AEDs (defibrillators) have CPR training, and HB 1486, which allows for needle exchanges in Missouri.

The Children and Families committee meets at 8:00 on Tuesday. This week we will hear HB 1306 and HB 2065, lowering the tax rate of menstrual products. We will hear HB 2199, which is similar to my HB 1274, requiring children to be rear-facing until they are 2 years old; HB 1286 and HB 1300, making it easier for unaccompanied minors or parents of homeless children to obtain birth certificates; HB 1414, relating to foster children; HB 1613, related to the interstate compact child placement; and HB 1577, related to reporting child neglect of unaccompanied children. It will be a busy morning.

While it is not yet scheduled, I fully expect the Rules committee to meet on Wednesday or Thursday.

Every week, the House Democrats will be holding a press conference to highlight bills we have filed. Last week’s conference was about addressing the gun epidemic in Missouri. Watch it here. Next week’s conference will talk about Healthcare, and will highlight (among other bills) my HB 1670, ensuring children remain on Medicaid for one year after they are enrolled.
The Senate Seniors, Families and Children committee would be has voted out 524 and SJR 32. SB 524 makes Medicaid a block grant program, which means we get a set amount of money for Medicaid and that increases only with inflation, regardless of how many people are on the program.

Last week I withdrew HB 2159 related to regulating tobacco products, because I was made aware of unintended consequences of the bill.
My office has published a consumer guide but will not be sending it to the district. We have had a small number printed to make available to constituents, please contact my office if you would like a copy. The consumer guide is available through my website from the “District Publication” button.

I am working to build a coalition of people with disabilities in my district. If you have a disability and would like to help advise me on disability issues, please let me know. The concept of “nothing about us without us” is important to me and needs to be part of all policy making, especially relating to people with disabilities.
There is a proposed Federal regulation that threatens Medicaid funding in Missouri. Medicaid funding is a large share of our budget, and I believe this could impact more than $1 billion. I commented on the proposed rule here; comments are due on or before February 1.

This is the comment I plan to submit:
I am very concerned with the proposed “fiscal accountability” rule, especially how it targets state funding streams for Medicaid. Over the past two years, Missouri has reduced the number of children on Medicaid by over 100,000; hospitals are now providing many these children with uncompensated care when they need care. Our current funding mechanism ensures hospitals will still receive some payment to reimburse services rendered, and I understand that the proposed rule would significantly change this structure.

I am also concerned with how the rule addresses healthcare taxes. In 2012, over 50% of our state Medicaid funding came from healthcare taxes, and this rule would have a terrible impact by changing these healthcare taxes. If this rule passes, we may have to cut money for other things like schools and transportation.

I urge the Department to rescind this rule and to gather more data and consult with states before re-submitting it.
Medical Bills
If you have received a surprise medical bill, I would like to hear your story. Please e-mail me with the subject “surprise bill” or call my office at573-751-1285 to tell us your story.

The Department of Insurance is available to advocate for customers who think they have been taken advantage of. You can call their consumer helpline at 573-751-4126 to get help on insurance matters.
RealID Update
RealID compliant drivers and nondrivers licenses are now available with proper documentationYou 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. For more information about RealID, go to dor.mo.gov/drivers/real-id-information/.
The Census is Coming!
The US Constitution requires the federal government to take a count of people living in the United States every 10 years — and 2020 is it! Everyone means everyone — adults and children, citizens and noncitizens. Census data gives community leaders vital information about building community centers, opening businesses, and planning for the future.

Your responses to the Census will help inform where over $675 billion is distributed each year to communities nationwide for clinics, schools, roads, and more.

In mid-March, homes across the country will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.

Census takers have begun visiting areas that have experienced a lot of change and growth to ensure that the Census Bureau’s address list is up to date. This is called address canvassing, and it helps to ensure that everyone receives an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. This past week, Census takers begin counting in Alaska.

In St. Louis County, 84% of residents participated in the Census in 2000, and 81% in 2010. This leaves a significant number undercounted, which cost St. Louis County and Missouri millions of dollars.

The Census is hiringApply here.
Watch this space for more information on the 2020 Census!
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.
Nancy and I will be in the office Monday-Thursday through session. If you are in the Capitol, please contact Nancy to arrange a meeting–I welcome walk-ins, but may not be available to meet. You may call at 573-751-1285 or e-mail at sarah.unsicker@house.mo.gov.

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!

Representative Sarah Unsicker
91st District