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Recap of the 2015 Missouri Legislative Session

Advocacy Wrap-up

Gas Rate Hikes

Legislation was filed in both the House and the Senate that would have allowed gas utilities to raise their rates for infrastructure replacement, without oversight by the state’s regulatory body. The Fair Energy Rate Action coalition, of which AARP is a member, worked together to move enough votes to prevent passage of this legislation.

 

Medicaid Expansion

In the third year since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made it possible for legislatures to expand coverage to the working poor in their states, Missouri once again failed to pass legislation that would expand Medicaid.

The federal funds that would be drawn down, nearly $2 billion per year, combined with a sizeable provider tax, actually meant that the State of Missouri would spend less on the Medicaid program if we were to expand than we are now.

While Senate Bill 419, sponsored by Senator Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City), would have instituted a form of block grant on the Missouri Medicaid program to prevent increasing the debt at the federal level and preventing Missouri from paying more for the newly eligible population, it did not pass out of committee.

 

Access to Prescription Drugs

The final version of House Bill 709 included a provision that would allow nurse practitioners to prescribe certain medications to patients.  This legislation, when signed by Governor Nixon, will increase access to care for consumers, especially in rural and urban underserved areas.

 

Asset Limits

Currently, Missourians who are permanently disabled or over age 65 are not eligible for Medicaid services unless they have assets of under $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a married couple.  This “asset limit” has been in effect since 1973.

Senate Bill 322, sponsored by Senator Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), would have raised that limit to $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a married couple and then increase that amount by the rate of inflation out into the future.

While the bill was very popular in the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle, the drama at the end of the Legislative Session prevented its passage.

 

TABOR

Every year for over a decade, someone in the Missouri General Assembly has filed a constitutional amendment restricting state spending.  These amendments to the Missouri State Constitution, if passed, would combine with the current constitutional revenue restrictions, known as the “Hancock Amendment,” to create legislation similar to Colorado’s Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

In Missouri, the legislation was offered as House Joint Resolution 34 and was placed on the Calendar but not brought up for consideration on the floor of the Senate.

 

Voting Rights

The Missouri State Constitution has one of the strongest protections for voting rights in the nation.  It was the reason that a bill passed in 2005 was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court.  That court ruling now makes it necessary to first pass a constitutional amendment weakening the state’s suffrage protections.

Two legislative bills were offered this session that would have disenfranchised thousands of individuals, especially college students, the working class, and the elderly. Both pieces of legislation failed to pass the Senate before the end of session due to the shutdown.

 

Silver Alert

While Missouri has a quick and efficient system for sending out information to local media from law enforcement to the public when a child goes missing called the Amber Alert System, there is not an official system for quickly getting out information about a vulnerable adult who has wandered off or otherwise gone missing.

Senator Paul LeVota (D-Independence) introduced SB 453, the Silver Alert bill that would establish such a system.  Unfortunately, the legislation failed to pass due to the Senate shutdown at the end of the legislative session.

 

Provider Rates for Home and Community Based Services

Both the House and the Senate versions of the State Budget included a 3% increase to the rates paid to providers of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), which would be paid for by one time funds resulting from an increase in taxes paid under a tax amnesty program that will run from September through December of 2015.  While using one-time funds for an ongoing and increasing need is troublesome, the increase was needed and appreciated.

 

For the complete report by Jay Hardenbrook, Associate State Director for Advocacy, click here .

 

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