What’s Happening Report February 3, 2020

If we were having coffee, I would talk with you about a bill that impacts how children are represented in court. This bill is personally important to me because, years ago, I represented children in court. Children who were the subject of court cases. Children who were born dependent on drugs. Children who needed someone to advocate for their best interests when nobody else would speak up for them.

SB 623 is about Guardians ad Litem, and on its face, it looks like a good bill. But GALs, like all lawyers, put in lots of work reviewing documents, usually before they have a face-to-face meeting with their client. The requirement in SB 623 that GALs see their client within 3 days of being assigned a case is unworkable in many instances.

The Court has rules about how GALs represent children to be in the best interest of the child. The Court can enforce these rules. But SB 623 puts those rules into state law, which would allow a parent to sue to enforce the rules. For example, if a GAL were to recommend that a mentally unstable or drug addicted parent not be given custody of their child, the parent could sue that GAL, claiming their recommendation was not “in the best interest of the child.” That is a great risk for the GAL to take in representing a child.
SB 623 changes the law where I would not want to be a GAL if it were to pass. Many well-respected Guardians ad Litem have told me they will stop representing children if this bill passes. Where will that leave the children of bitter custody disputes, or other children who have a legal right to an attorney?

SB 623 has passed through committee and is scheduled to be heard on the Senate floor. It could be heard as early as today, depending on how other bills move. If you are concerned, I encourage you to call your Senator. This is not a partisan issue, and most Senators currently support it.

Every week, the House Democrats will be holding a press conference to highlight bills we have filed. Last week’s conference was about healthcare. Watch it here. This week’s conference will talk about Black History Month.
Last week, the Budget Subcommittee on Social Services held a hearing about the children dropped from the Medicaid rolls. It is now generally accepted and acknowledged that of the 100,000 children dropped from the rolls, approximately 60,000 remained eligible for Medicaid.
As for my week: I have three committees scheduled: Health & Mental Health, Children & Families, and Rules. The Health and Mental Health committee meets at 12:00 on Monday. We will vote on HB 1270, which removes the requirement that mailings for the blind pension will be sent via certified mail, and HB 1486, which allows for needle exchanges in Missouri. We will continue to hear HB 1460, which makes it easier for businesses to have AEDs (defibrillators) on their premises, and we will hear HB 1484, creating adult protection teams for victims of caregiver abuse.

The Children and Families committee meets at 8:00 on Tuesday. This week we will vote on 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. We will hear HB 1558, allowing a grandparent to be a guardian of an adult ward without a background check

The Rules committee will meet on Tuesday at 9:30 to vote on a number of bills. I don’t expect that meeting to last long, and we will go into session at 10.
Last week I filed HB 2357, requiring insurers to cover certified midwife services if they cover nurse midwives, and HB 2358, requiring a report on the Governor’s initiative to make Missouri a Model Employer for people with disabilities.
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.
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 documentation. Please note that the Federal government requires a copy of this documentation be kept for several years. You 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.

An accurate census count of all the vibrant and diverse neighborhoods in our country brings critical funding and resources to our schools and communities. Funding for smaller class sizes, more teachers and support staff, students with special needs, and schools in low-income areas—it’s all based on census data.

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