There is now only one week remaining this Session. This week, both the House and Senate truly agreed and finally passed all the budget bills for the upcoming fiscal year and sent them to the Governor’s desk by the required constitutional deadline. I was honored to help with the budget bills as a member of the House Budget Committee. Please continue reading to find out more about the budget bills and other legislation that passed both the House and Senate this week.
House and Senate Give Final Approval to FY 2022 State Operating Budget (HBs 1-13, 15, 18, 19)
Members of the House and Senate wrapped up work on the Fiscal Year 2022 State Operating Budget on Friday. The fiscally responsible spending plan continues to support state operations and programs that will help lead Missouri out of the pandemic. In total, the budget contains $35.6 billion of state and federal spending authority. The appropriations bills that make up the spending plan will now head to the governor’s office for his consideration.
• Record Investment in K-12 Education
The final version of the budget makes a significant investment in the state’s system of education. Once again the legislature has fully funded the K-12 School Foundation Formula. The record investment for early childhood education and K-12 education checks in at nearly $7.5 billion. The final version of the state operating budget also includes a $20 million increase for K-12 school transportation, exceeding more than $110 million in funding for the first time in several years.
The spending plan also includes:
- $7.3 million in federal funds for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER II) to help meet needs in K-12 schools
- $5 million for a deferred maintenance grant program for charter schools who own their own building or a building owned by the local school district
- $3 million for a Rural Advising Program to help high school students and counselors in rural areas with college entry
- $2.5 million to boost reading literacy in the St. Louis area
- $3.25 million to initiate the School Turnaround Act
- $2.1 million in new funding for parent education development screenings (Parents As Teachers)
- $500,000 to help support the Missouri Scholars & Fine Arts Academies
- $50,000 for tutoring and other educational programs at the W.E.B. Dubois Center in Kansas City
- Funds that transition childcare services, early childhood education, and the state’s home visitation programs under one umbrella called the Office of Childhood
- The 2021 legislative session has seen the General Assembly make a commitment to provide additional resources to foster and adoptive parents. The state operating budget also includes funding to ensure vulnerable young people can find a nurturing home. The plan provides a $40.7 million increase for adoption and guardianship subsidies, as well as a $12.8 million increase to Foster Care Maintenance Payments that support families with foster children.
- Other funding items of note include:
- $4.8 million to provide behavioral health supports for children in foster care and their families
- $3.9 million for a rate increase for respite services for foster and adoptive families
- $2.7 million increase for foster family recruitment
- $1.3 million increase in support for Infant Care expenses for kids in foster care
- $1.2 million increase in funds for clothing allowances for children in foster care
- $4.8 million to hire new attorneys and contract attorneys for permanency and foster care legal representation in Missouri’s courts with the intent of decreasing wait times for adoptions, termination of parental rights, and guardianship issues
General Assembly Approves Bill to Empower Students to Succeed Academically (HB 349)
The House and Senate have given final approval legislation meant to empower parents to have access to schools and educational resources that will best meet the needs of their children. The legislation will create Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to help parents afford the best educational opportunities for their kids.
House Speaker Rob Vescovo, who made the bill one of his top priorities, said, “Today we passed transformative legislation that will provide other educational opportunities for children in our state. From the day I was sworn in, I have made education reform and improving the lives of our state’s children my top priority. I am thankful for my many colleagues who worked diligently to pass HB349. It’s a good day for Missouri students.”
The bill’s sponsor said ESAs will be “a lifeline” for many children in failing schools across the state. He noted the accounts will empower “parents with choices and alternatives so they can find the fit that is best for them.”
The bill will create nonprofit groups known as Education Assistance Organizations (EAOs) that would be responsible for awarding the scholarships. Funding will come from individuals who donate to the EAO and receive a tax credit for up to half of their overall tax liability. The program will be capped at $50 million per year and could be adjusted for inflation each year up to a maximum cap of $75 million.
Each EAO will make sure scholarships are distributed in a prioritized order. The top priority will be students with an approved individualized education plan and students living in a household whose total annual income meets the income standard for free and reduced price lunches. Scholarships can be utilized for things like tuition, text books, computer hardware and software, educational therapies, tutoring, virtual school, and after school programs. Each EAO is responsible for ensuring student recipients are tested to measure learning gains in math and English, and for reporting these results along with graduation rates, college attendance, and a parental survey.
The bill includes a number of accountability measures to ensure ESAs are used appropriately. It will require EAOs to be registered with the IRS, bonded, to conduct background checks on their employees, to keep overhead costs to a minimum, and to allow the State Treasurer to audit them at any time. The bill also contains a penalty provision for any EAO or parent who tries to misuse the scholarship funds.
Additionally, the bill will prohibit the program from going into effect until funding for K-12 public school transportation is increased by approximately $18 million. Scholarships will be limited to students in cities with a population of 30,000 or more. The bill will also allow public schools who see students leave the district because of an ESA to continue receiving funding for those students. The provision will end five years after the bill goes into effect.
Other Bills Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed
SB 49 modifies provisions relating to watercraft. The act provides that vessels may be issued a permanent certificate of number upon payment of 3 times the amount required for a 3-year certificate of number and 3 times any processing fee applicable to a 3-year certificate of number. The act prohibits vessels positioned within 100 feet of a permitted boat dock from being anchored in a manner that obstructs ingress or egress of watercraft to or from the dock, unless authorized by the boat dock permit holder.
SB 176 modifies provisions relating to electronic devices. This act requires food delivery platforms to register with the Secretary of State prior to taking or arranging food pickup or delivery from a restaurant, as defined in the act. The act creates a definition for electric bicycles of three classifications, and excludes electric bicycles from definitions for other types of vehicles. The act exempts electric bicycles from certain vehicle lighting requirements, and provides that operators of electric bicycles shall have the same rights, duties, and responsibilities as operators of other vehicles. The bill also enacts provisions relating to personal delivery devices (PDDs). PDDs may operate on sidewalks and crosswalks, and may operate on county or municipal roadways provided they do not unreasonably interfere with motor vehicles or traffic.
HB 574 specifies that the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the county sheriff for the county in which the facility is located, the United States Department of Agriculture, and any other federal or Missouri state agency with statutory or regulatory authority shall have exclusive authority to inspect the grounds or facilities located in Missouri for the production of eggs, milk or other dairy products, the raising of livestock or poultry, or the production or raising of dogs or other animals that are not used to produce any food product. No person, individual, corporation or other association, governmental entity, or any other entity shall inspect such grounds or facilities to enforce or carry out the laws of Missouri or any other state unless specifically requested by the owner of the grounds or facilities, or pursuant to a search warrant lawfully issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. The act will not apply to inspections performed in charter counties or the city of St. Louis; inspections performed on any further processing component of any production agriculture farm; or certain searches carried out by Department of Conservation agents and other law enforcement officers. In addition, the act will not apply to grounds or facilities used for the production or raising of dogs or other animals that are not used to produce any food product.
HJR 35 is a constitutional amendment that, if approved by the voters, would modify the powers of the State Treasurer. Specifically, the State Treasurer is required to invest state moneys not needed for current expenses in Missouri banking institutions selected by the State Treasurer and approved by the Governor and State Auditor or in obligations of the United States government or any agency or instrumentality thereof maturing and becoming payable not more than seven years from the date of purchase. The amendment additionally authorizes the State Treasurer to invest in municipal securities possessing one of the five highest long term ratings or the highest short term rating issued by a nationally recognized rating agency and maturing and becoming payable not more than five years from the date of purchase; and other reasonable and prudent financial instruments and securities as otherwise provided by law.
SB 120 modifies provisions relating to military affairs, including state designations, hiring preferences and classifications for state employment, state agency services, school designations, military protections for motor vehicle insurance, and qualified military projects in the Missouri Works Program.
HB 362 modifies provisions regarding the Sunshine Law. A public governmental body is authorized to close records and meetings related to evacuation and lockdown procedures on property owned or leased by the body. Information submitted by software or surveillance companies that secure access to buildings of the body may also be closed. A public governmental body is authorized to close records that are related to email addresses and telephone numbers submitted to a public governmental body by individuals or entities for the sole purpose of receiving electronic or other communications. The public body may also close records of utility usage and bill records for customers of public utilities unless the customer requests them or authorizes their release. The bill also enacts the Government Lending Transparency Act that creates new reporting requirements for the state auditor relating to state lending and credit support programs.
HB 685 lowers the minimum age requirement to 21 years for holding various county offices and special district board memberships. Included in the offices and districts affected are: county clerk; county auditor; county coroner; county surveyor; seven-director school board; ambulance district board; sewer district trustee; public water supply district board; emergency telephone services board; hospital district board; fire protection district board; court clerk; and mayor for third or fourth class cities. Supporters say the bill has received overwhelming support in past years and there is no reason to restrict local offices to a minimum age requirement in excess of the standard 21 years of age. A residency requirement for the Office of Attorney General is also repealed by the bill. The bill also stipulates that no person shall be appointed to an elected public office who is delinquent in the payment of any state income tax, personal property tax, municipal tax, or real property tax. Additionally, it provides that each candidate for county recorder shall provide to the election authority a copy of an affidavit from a surety company authorized to do business in this state that indicates the candidate is able to satisfy the bond requirements of the office.
Please contact me at: 201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 302-B, Jefferson City, MO 65101-6806. Phone: 573-751-2205. Email: Hannah.Kelly@house.mo.gov