General Assembly Gives Final Approval to Rep. Sue Allen’s Bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri General Assembly has given final approval to legislation sponsored by state Rep. Sue Allen to strengthen the anti-bullying policies in place in Missouri schools. Allen’s bill, HB 1583, will ensure that bullying of students is prohibited on school property, at any school function, or on a school bus.

Allen said the bill does not go as far as she originally intended, but the compromise made with the Senate represents a step in the right direction.

“I have worked for the past six years to push this important change across the legislative finish line. Along the way we have seen so many individuals and organizations play vital roles in advancing this proposal and we came extremely close to passing the bill before the Senate shut down last session,” said Allen, R-Town and Country. “Now with the help of Senator Eric Schmitt we were able to complete our effort this year. The bill we received back from the Senate is not perfect, it is a weaker bill than initially presented, but it is better than what we have had before. The bill holds schools accountable to have proper policy in place.”

HB 1583 will require that schools investigate a report of bullying within two school days, and conclude the investigation within 10 school days. The bill also requires school districts to adopt a procedure for reporting acts of bullying, and a process for discussing the anti-bullying policy with children and training school employees. Additionally, the bill defines cyber-bullying and states that any school district can subject a student to discipline for cyber-bullying.

Allen’s bullying bill also contains language to promote youth suicide awareness and prevention. The bill allows licensed educators to annually complete up to two hours of training or professional development in youth suicide awareness and prevention. The bill also requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop guidelines for the training.

The bill now moves to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Ammendment 10 in Action

Today, Governor Nixon has released more than $2 million in funds he had previously withheld from the 2016 state operating budget. I’d like to express my thanks, but I also want to point out that the legislature will continue to look for other opportunities to override the governor’s withholdings when appropriate.

Through a bipartisan vote on Wednesday, March 16th, the House overrode governor withholds of $575,000 for the Missouri Scholars Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, and $350,000 for the Brain Injury Waiver Fund.  While the Senate has yet to complete the overrides, it’s clear the constitutional authority given to the General Assembly by voters was instrumental in the release of these funds.

While I am happy to see the governor release these funds, my thanks must be given to the Missouri voters who made the intelligent decision to approve Amendment 10 in 2014. The ability to override withholdings through a two-thirds vote is a check and balance which will ensure funding is not unnecessarily withheld from important programs.  We will continue to use this power if and when the governor exceeds his authority.

Memory Day

IMG_2225Recently the Alzheimer’s Association hosted a Memory Day in the name of Alzheimer’s awareness and support. I was honored to meet five Alzheimer’s Association representatives from District 100: Jim Midget, Carroll Rodriguez, Joyce Ruiz, James Ruman, and Mary Ruman.

The Alzheimer’s Association provides information, services, and education and currently leads the world in Alzheimer research and support with nearly $292 million having gone to research, prevention, treatment and an eventual cure. As one of the original nine chapters of the National Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association, the St. Louis chapter provides support services to over 22,000 people each year. The many volunteers and staff work hard to aide individuals, families, and communities as they manage life with Alzheimer’s. It was my absolute pleasure to be a part of Memory Day and speak with these dedicated individuals.

 

Missouri American Water Public Hearing Schedule

Last Thursday upon returning home from the Capitol and going through my mail, I read the Public Service Commission notice on the Missouri American Water Public Hearing Schedule. These hearings are taking place at Florissant Valley Community College on February 8 at 5:30 p.m. and the University of Missouri, St. Louis on February 9 at 5:30 p.m. These locations and the timing of the hearings totally discount attendance or participation of citizens in central, south, and west counties. I have been in communication with the Public Service Commission (PSC), attempting to negotiate a more central location so your voice can be heard in these matters. The responses I have received, however, have been less than welcoming. According to the PSC, the time frame to reschedule or find alternative locations is “just too tight.” I do want to pass along the information I was able to obtain regarding alternative ways to communicate your opinion to the Public Service Commission. I encourage all to contact any or all of the means listed. If you are unable to attend the scheduled public hearings, and wish to make written comments or secure additional information, you may contact them at:

Mailing Address:                                                                                                                                          Office of the Public Counsel                                                                                                        P.O. Box 2230, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102

Telephone: (866) 922-2959

E-mail: opcservice@ded.mo.gov

OR

Mailing Address:                                                                                                                                              Missouri Public Service Commission                                                                                          P.O. Box 360, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102

Telephone: 1-800-392-4211

E-mail: pscinfo@psc.mo.gov

Comments may also be registered in the commission’s electronic filing system at http://www.efis.psc.mo.gov/mosc/Comments.html.

The Complete Story behind Governor Nixon’s Press Release of Dec 2015!

In 2014, our Republican-led General Assembly passed policy legislation specifically designed to save the lives of Missouri babies. Later that year, Governor Nixon signed that bill, Show-Me Healthy Babies, into law.  The program helps provide health insurance to low-income pregnant women who do not have access to employer-subsidized health insurance and do not meet eligibility requirements for the state Medicaid program (MOHealthNet).

After over a year of waiting, Show-Me Healthy Babies will soon be up and running. Our Republican legislature provided the first year of funding during the 2015 session, and just last month the federal government approved the Medicaid state plan for implementation of this program.  There have been apparent delays in seeking this approval.  Missouri women who participate in the program during pregnancy are helping their child be eligible for health services up to his or her first birthday.

This reform was spearheaded by Republican legislators who saw the need to bridge the gap for babies who could benefit from less expensive prenatal services, versus much more intensive and expensive services after a newborn, often very premature, is discovered to have complications. Early detection provided by prenatal screenings can not only save lives, but also some enormous neonatal costs once a child enters the world.  Most important, however, prenatal services help a mother carry her baby to term which generally gives the baby its best opportunity to thrive.

This important policy delay from May 2014 to January 2016 has affected mothers and newborn babies. I have worked continuously to get feedback from the Department of Social Services and to speed this process so Missouri babies and mothers can receive the care they need.  When we FINALLY move forward, Governor Nixon has taken credit for what our Republican Legislators have worked so hard to enact.

Governor Nixon Withholds Critical Funds for Money-Saving Health Care Services

Governor Nixon recently withheld state funds budgeted by the legislature for programs that many Missourians would consider important. Much of the funds he restricted hurt access to health care for our welfare populations and will cost the State of Missouri more money in the long run.

Nixon’s withholds include funds for asthma education and home assessments, both having been proven to decrease emergency room visits, thus saving taxpayers money. He also restricted most of a provider payment increase for those who treat Medicaid patients. Funds for rural dental health clinic services and dental provider rate increases are also being withheld. Nixon has blasted lawmakers for not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. However, the most beneficial step that can be done to increase access to care is to pay doctors, hospitals, and other providers at a better rate so they have incentive to treat Missouri’s Medicaid population. Providers have slowly dwindled over the years, especially in rural Missouri, because they lose money seeing Medicaid patients. Governor Nixon has repeatedly blocked our efforts to improve access and his efforts once again put Missourians in needless jeopardy.

As our Medicaid population has increased over the last eighteen months, so have the budget-busting number of dollars necessary to sustain the program. Pilot projects, education programs, and health homes are ideas lawmakers have implemented to responsibly manage expenses.  The savings ultimately never materialize, however, because the governor continues to block such innovation. The legislature has sought innovation in the health care arena in hopes of obtaining savings that could be used to cover growing Medicaid enrollment. Preventive care through innovation also lowers the burden on emergency rooms, curbing costs for all of us, while access to quality preventative care through Medicaid services benefits the more vulnerable of our population, children and seniors.

Forty-eight separate withholds were announced by the governor’s budget director and the complete list is attached. While Nixon made the flimsy case that he had to make such moves because the state recently lost a tobacco settlement issue in court, most legislators agree that revenue growth is good enough to make his withholds unnecessary at this time. When the legislature comes back in January for the 2016 session, we will have a clearer picture of state revenues, as well as the fresh possibility of overriding the governor’s recent budget moves.

In an effort to minimize office expenses, I use the free version of WordPress.com to blog. Unfortunately, this means my office has no control over the content or placement of ads on this site. Thank you for understanding.

Area Districts Unite to Support Struggling Schools

Schools in the St. Louis area have agreed to provide services to two struggling districts, Normandy and Riverview Gardens, in order to help them remain financially solvent and improve student learning outcomes. Much of the news coverage on our region is negative, so I believe it is important to highlight that these schools and EducationPlus, a collaborative organization of districts, have voluntarily decided to help districts in need.

Normandy and Riverview Gardens are both unaccredited districts, and as a result students have the right to transfer to higher-performing districts. The 22 school districts that accept students from Normandy and Riverview Gardens have voluntarily come together to support these schools as they move toward reaccreditation. This week the House Budget Committee heard testimony on the voluntary agreement reached in June.

When Governor Nixon announced this collaborative effort, he inaccurately labeled it a “historic agreement,” despite the fact that it was not formalized in writing. Nixon also failed to send any staff to the committee to discuss the arrangement. Despite the lack of transparency on Nixon’s part, the committee heard valuable testimony from EducationPlus on the schools’ efforts.

The 22 districts have each offered to undertake at least one activity to assist Normandy and Riverview Gardens, such as instructional support, professional development opportunities, or curriculum assistance.

Parkway Schools has agreed to assist Normandy through administrative support and professional development for beginning teachers. The district will also collaborate with Riverview Gardens to improve its high school math and science courses. Ladue and Pattonville will work closely with Washington Elementary School in the Normandy district. A Ladue School principal will provide administrative mentoring to the Washington Elementary School Principal, and district leaders will meet to review data and determine professional development needs.

I applaud the 22 districts for making these offers of assistance without any mandate or financial incentive from the state. When entities in the St. Louis area voluntarily work together and support one another, it demonstrates our community’s capacity to grow and move forward.

In an effort to minimize office expenses, I use the free version of WordPress.com to blog. Unfortunately, this means my office has no control over the content or placement of ads on this site. Thank you for understanding.