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AARP continues to make life better for all by advocating on behalf of its members, their families, and the public on issues of importance. Following is a recap of AARP Missouri activities in the 2013 Missouri General Assembly and the outcomes of major legislative issues.
AARP Missouri fought against unreasonable surcharges that would impact consumer pocketbooks. Several bills introduced early in the session included SB207 that would have expanded the current Infrastructure Surcharge Replacement Surcharge (ISRS) and make it easier for electric utilities to raise rates each and every year. AARP was aggressive in making sure legislators knew how much older adults would be impacted. A group of legislators did something rare by asking if this new surcharge made sense for Missourians, especially those citizens on fixed incomes. The legislators were successful at stopping this new surcharge from being added to electric bills and SB207 died.
SB297, another ISRS bill, which would modify provisions related to water utilities, was defeated on third reading in the Senate. The Senate defeated the water utility surcharge by a vote of 16 – 17. SB297 would have raised utility rates without proper oversight through added surcharges. Defeating this measure was critical not only for water utility ratepayers, but it was considered the easiest of the many ISRS bills for the Senate to pass.
Proposed SB240 that would modify provisions related to ratemaking for gas corporations was agreed to and finally passed. Before this legislation was passed, the Public Service Commission could not approve infrastructure system replacement surcharges without having issued a rate proceeding decision within the last three years. SB240 calls for modifying provisions to five years. At press time, the Governor had not signed the bill into law.
Circuit Breaker Funding Survives
Gov. Jay Nixon proposed elimination of the Missouri Property Tax Credit Claim, commonly called the “Circuit Breaker,” in his 2013 State of the State Address, impacting 105,000 individuals. The Circuit Breaker provides a credit of approximately $500 per year to low-income seniors and people with disabilities who rent their homes. The Circuit Breaker gives some relief to basic needs in the everyday lives of this population. Gov. Jay Nixon received much pressure from advocates, and therefore changed his position to eliminate this action. He ultimately vetoed the Circuit Breaker property tax credit SB350.
Funding earmarked for the elimination of Circuit Breaker would have been used for other critical services such as Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHCs), First Steps, Medical Assistance for the Blind, and other early learning initiatives. Legislation passed in the final hours of the session patched a hole in the state budget that would transfer $55 million of general revenues into a newly created “Missouri Senior Services Protection Fund” to provide for the programs mentioned above.
No Medicaid Expansion in Missouri
Legislators took a “pass” on Medicaid Expansion. However, legislation was passed in the final days of the 2013 session to allow for a bill giving legislators the authority to create a Medicaid Expansion Task Force. This authority will continue the discussion of expanding Medicaid for the 260,000 people without insurance coverage and who fall into the income level of 138% Federal Poverty.
AARP commissioned a 2013 survey of 45+ Missouri residents about the importance of Medicaid Expansion. Click here to see the results of the survey.
For several years, the legislature has introduced bills to require a person to submit a specified form of photo identification in order to vote, and this year’s efforts were no different. Two legislative bills were on the docket: HJR5 proposed a constitutional amendment that would be decided by the voters, and HB48 would require a person to submit photo identification with specified exceptions. Neither of these measures passed during this session.
In Missouri’s continuing challenge to “keep pace” with Kansas, a tax cut plan, HB253, was passed. This tax cut would gradually cut personal and corporate income taxes over 10 years and slash taxes on most businesses in half over five years. Tax cuts totaled in the neighborhood of $700 million and would impact funding for programs and services such as education and public safety. The tax cuts could also impact people who rely on prescription drugs that would be taxed. HB253 would also cut taxes for profitable corporations and the very wealthiest at the expense of low-income and working Missourians. At press time, it was expected that the Governor will veto the measure because of the impact on state funding.
Stay tuned for additional updates on legislative matters by visiting this website often.