MDN Menu
MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 13, 2015

The House on Thursday, April 16 passed the compromise version of the welfare reform bill that lowers the lifetime limit to collect funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

The compromise agreed to by House and Senate negotiators caps the lifetime limit for a person to get TANF benefits at 45 months.

Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, handled the bill in the House and wanted to remind members what TANF is meant to do.

"It is not a long-term program for individuals who find themselves in a state of chronic poverty," Franklin said. "That is not what it's for. It's a temporary program."

Democrats rose to express their opposition, saying it would hurt the less fortunate.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, said the bill lacks one key component.

"To me, there is absolutely zero compassion in this bill. Zero," Newman said.

One of the biggest points of contention in the debate is how the bill would affect children.

Rep. Rochelle Walton-Gray, D-St. Louis County, said people don't want government assistance until they absolutely need it.

"No parent wants their child to be on assistance when they grow up and they don't want themselves [to either]," she said.

Franklin told reporters afterwards in a press conference that she estimates around 3,800 people would be kicked off welfare once the bill, if signed by the governor or through a veto override of the legislature, is implemented in January 2016.

Other changes agreed to in the bill would require those seeking assistance to participate in work activities.

Rep. Sharon Pace, D-St. Louis County, said jobs are hard to come by in a still-recovering economy.

"We need to look into the mirror because [a job loss] can hit any one of us at any day and time," Pace said. "Jobs are not available as they have been in the past and there's training that we must give individuals as well."

One final addition to the bill is a 2 percent shift of TANF funds to fund services that provide alternatives to abortions.

Once the bill gets to Nixon, he'll have 15 days to sign or veto.

Senate lawmakers approved legislation Wednesday afternoon tying the number of weeks Missourians can use unemployment benefits to the state's unemployment rate.

If passed, the bill would extend unemployment benefits for 20 weeks if Missouri's unemployment rate is higher than nine percent. That number then drops by one week for each percent the unemployment rate declines until unemployment falls to six percent, when Missourians would then be eligible for 13 weeks of benefits.

An amendment supported by Senate Democrats upping the maximum number of weeks from 20 to 30 failed the day before.

The bill now heads back to the House.

Legislation dealing with students who transfer out of unaccredited school districts is heading back to the House after the Senate passed its version of the bill Wednesday afternoon.

The bill, which was amended several times in the Senate, now faces an up or down vote in the House. If House lawmakers do not agree to the changes made by the Senate, the bill will then go to a conference committee. 

The House Health and Mental Health Policy committee postponed a vote on a bill allowing nursing home patients or their families to place a camera or a monitoring device inside of their rooms.

Rep. Tila Hubrecht, R-Dexter, said she was concerned installing cameras would only exacerbate nursing staff shortages.

"They're not getting paid," said Hubrecht. "I don't think the camera is going to address that situation. I think that we need to look at the nursing staffing model and somehow take into the level of care. That's when we are going to see an improvement in this. As far as the cameras, I'm worried that it will exacerbate our nursing staff shortage because I think it's going to make people leave that facility. Because there's a camera in that room you're going to feel uncomfortable."

Committee chair Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, said he is concerned about employees not being able to defend themselves in a legal situation because of how video could make a situation look.

Frederick said when nurses cover extra shifts they can have twice the amount of patients than normal, and when they have to rush around to take care of all their patients it can look bad on camera.

The only committee member who spoke in favor of the bill was Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin.

White said this bill would allow family members to ensure their loved one is getting the care they deserve.

"What the sponsor is trying to do with this bill it get accountability for people who are placing their relatives in nursing homes and for the people themselves in the nursing homes," said White. "When you select a nursing home they're advertising to you that they are going to provide good care to you or your family member whose going to be residing there and how do you really know."

Other representatives told White family members could visit their loved ones in nursing home to ensure they are receiving good care, but White said some patients do not have family members nearby.

The Senate heard a short debate on the dangers of fracking Wednesday morning during a discussion on a bill that would expedite the process of getting a fracking permit.

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said, "Missouri, believe it or not, has had a dramatic increase in the number of oil and gas wells and interest as technology has increased on how to develop products across the state."

Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, explained that this bill would not make it easier for companies to frack, but would speed up the assessment of sights to determine if the company can move forward.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said some Missourians are concerned about the dangers of fracking.

"Some people are concerned about fracking, concerned that it's an environmental hazard, I don't think that there's a consensus that fracking is such a great thing," Schaaf said. "I'll freely admit that it creates jobs, but some people have concerns that it allows for a lot of pollution to be injected down into the ground and that some of that can come up around loose casings and get into the groundwater."

Schaaf questioned but is in favor of the bill.

Progress Missouri filed a lawsuit in Cole County court Wednesday accusing Sens. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, David Sater, R-Cassvile, and Mike Parson, R-Bolivar of violating the Missouri law allowing members of the public to record meetings of state and local government.

In a blog post, Progress Missouri executive director Sean Soendker Nicholson wrote the lawsuit came after several years of conflict between the Senate and the activist group.

"Some state senators, including Mike Parson, Mike Kehoe, and David Sater think that the Sunshine Law doesn't apply to them," Nicholson said. "They’re wrong."

Last year, a Columbia television station was barred from recording a Senate committee hearing.

Court documents posted by the group also criticizes Senate policy, which limits video recording privileges to members of the Missouri Capital News Association.

An audit released by Deputy State Auditor Harry Otto revealed the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education did not properly distribute excess traffic fines collected by cities.

Under the current Macks Creek law, Missouri towns are required to send all revenue collected via traffic tickets or fees to the state revenue department if the total is greater than 30 percent of the city's general revenue.

The audit later said only one city had sent fine money back to the state since 2012. That number later quintupled by March 2015.

Legislation aimed to lower the threshold cities can collect down to 20 percent passed the Senate in February and is making its way through the House.

Missouri's Senate was presented with a scaled-down version of a gasoline tax increase to address what the Transportation Department says are major shortfalls in funding to maintain state highways.

The original plan approved by the Senate Transportation Committee would have sought voter approval to boost the gasoline tax by six-cents per gallon -- from 17.3 cents to 23.3 cents.

But the committee chair presented to the Senate a substitute that would impose only a two-cent increase and not require voter approval.

As the Senate debated, the plan got a tentative endorsement from Gov. Jay Nixon.

"We all know that we need additional revenue in that area not only for the short run so we can draw down federal dollars but also also in the long run so we can be a transportation hub for the state," Nixon said at a news conference.

"I don't have any problem with the Senate moving forward on the two-cent piece. I think it's a relatively small step. It's an important small step to get energy and momentum toward the larger infrastructure needs that we have in the future of the state."

In 2014, Nixon had attacked a much larger sales tax increase for transportation. The tax increase defeat led the Transportation Department to announce a major cut-back in maintenance of lessor state highways.

Although smaller in size, the Senate bill came under Senate attack. The first critic to rise in the Senate against the bill -- Sen. Ed Emory, R-Lamar -- argued a tax increase should be submitted to the voters.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph's, asked that question to the Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City.

"Would you be willing to accept an amendment," Schaaf said. "In order to pass this bill that would put it to a vote of the people?"

The bill's sponsor Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, said the increase is necessary not only to fund MoDOT, but to increase jobs.

"We have Missouri highway construction experts in this state," said Libla. "Second to none. They're experts. But, let me tell you where they are being experts now: Arkansas, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky."

The Senate adjourned Tuesday evening with the promise of coming back to the bill on a later date.   

Rep. Chrissy Sommer's bill would revise the definition of a service dog to include those helping those with 'invisible illnesses.'

"These individuals can be anybody who may be like suffering from PTSD, Alzheimer's, Dementia, traumatic brain injury," said Sommer, R-St. Charles. "A lot of these type of conditions are invisible and thus people do not understand the need or use of animals."

Sommer explained that service animals can provide therapy, boundary control, motor assistance and much more than just companionship to their owners.

"The mental health service dogs are of considerable benefit to those with mental disabilities, and by clarifying this definition, we'll be making sure that those individuals that need that type of help do get that type of help," said Sommer.

The House perfected the bill and will later vote on whether or not to pass it.

The bill would require brew-on-premise businesses to obtain a license from the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. Brew-on-premise businesses allow customers to use special brewing equipment to make their own beer and other alcoholic beverages.

The sponsor of the bill -- Rep. Don Gosen, R-St. Louis County -- says this measure will make it easier for these businesses to become licensed because they will no longer have to obtain a manufacturing-type license.

"There actually are businesses in Missouri right now that would love to do this, and some of them are doing it, but they're doing it through a variety of licensing techniques that really are not appropriate," Gosen said. "And this would allow all these brew-on-premise businesses to have a very simple, straight-forward license that's appropriate for what they do."

Gosen also explained that the bill would create special permits for small brewing companies that travel to Missouri for beer tasting events and other festivals.

The bill does not affect regulations for those who wish to brew beer in their own home.

The bill was perfected.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday, April 14, that  he will appoint Nicole Galloway to be the next state auditor to fill the position vacated after the suicide of the former auditor Tom Schweich.

Gallway, 32, has been the treasurer of Boone County since 2011. She is a CPA and had been an auditor at Shelter Insurance and an analyst at Allstate Insurance.

Galloway, a Democrat, takes a statewide office that had been won by Republican Schweich last November.

But Gov. Jay Nixon said he did not take party affiliation into consideration in making his selection.

Republicans issued an immediate news release release criticizing Nixon for replacing a statewide office held by a Republican with a Democrat.

"It is disappointing that Nixon has put politics ahead of the wishes of voters by handpicking a member of his own party to fill the vacancy in the office," GOP State Party Director Jonathon Prouty was quoted as saying in a release from the party.

The former chair of the legislature's Black Caucus voiced opposition that Nixon had rejected calls for Nixon to appoint a black as the first black official to hold a statewide elected office in Missouri.

They had promoted appiontment of St. Louis City Comptroller Darlene Green.

"For him to just close his eyes to the need of more African-American statewide is just appalling. It's unacceptable. I know he's going to get a lot of push-back from the African-American community," said Sen. Jamiliah Nasheed, D-St. Louis.

"The governor could have made history. He could had stepped up to the plate and appointed an African-American -- not just an African-American, but a qualified African-American."

Nixon stressed the qualifications of his selection when asked about the issue of appointing a black state official.

"There were a wide group of folks that were looked at," Nixon said. "I think that Nicole's qualifications speak for themselves. She's the best person for the job, period."

Galloway said to reporters that she would not have taken the job if she did not intend to run in 2018.

Galloway's appointment will require the resignation of Nixon's first appointment -- his former chief of staff, John Watson -- who had been named as a temporary replacement.

Nixon said Galloway formally would take office the week of April 27.

A Senate debate regarding school transfer bills shifted to a discussion regarding government expansion.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, said he did not think it was a good idea for regional educational authorities to run school transfers, because, "government isn't the solution all the time."

Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said these regional boards are comprised of members who understand their community.

Chapelle-Nadal said she would not mind Kraus trying to remove the portion of the bill that would require regional authorities to run this process in Kansas City or rural areas, but said she wanted him to leave St. Louis alone.

Kraus said he would not offer forward his amendment regarding the regional authorities, even though he had it ready.

A bill that would tighten police restrictions regarding deadly forced could be heard in the Missouri Senate as early as this week.

The bill would restrict the circumstances under which a law enforcement official could be justified to use deadly force.

The restrictions for deadly force would be narrowed to include: if an officer believes the person has committed or attempted to commit a felon that poses serious injuries, the person is attempting to escape by using a deadly weapon or that the person is posing a serious physical threat to an officer or another person.

Senator Bob Dixon, R-Greene County, said the motivation for the bill comes from concerns that surfaced following the unrest in Ferguson.

"The benefit of this legislation is we need to give very clear guidelines to law enforcement and that's really what we're trying to do," Dixon said. "I am working closely with legislators from that area to do the right thing. I think it needs to be addressed."

Dixon said the statutes are crafted from those in the Tennessee v. Garner decision. Tennessee v. Garner was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said a law enforcement official cannot use deadly force to prevent the suspect to escape unless the officer has probable cause that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious injury to the officer or others.

Gov. Jay Nixon sharply criticized the Senate passed budget in a letter Friday afternoon, calling the proposed cuts to social programs unnecessary and draconian.

“With our economy improving and revenues increasing, there is no reason whatsoever to make cuts to services that rescue children from abusive homes, provide low-income seniors with healthy meals, treat Missourians with severe mental illness and help Missourians with disabilities live more independent lives.” Nixon wrote.

Just one week ago, Nixon released over $40 million in withholdings due to an increase in revenue.

Senate Appropriations Kurt Schaefer's, R-Columbia, budget includes over $300 million in cuts to welfare programs while increasing funding for higher education.

Schaefer and House Budget chair Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, are expected to work out differences between the competing budget proposals in the coming days.

The Missouri Cattleman's Association tweeted Friday that Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, told them he'll be seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2016.

Parson, a former sheriff and US Marine, has served in the Senate since 2010 and previously served in the House from 2004-2010.

His entrance into the Republican primary is not a surprise to many within the statehouse.

Many believe he would enter the race following the death of then-candidate for governor and State Auditor Tom Schweich.

Former U.S. Attorney and House Speaker Catharine Hanaway and former State Rep. Randy Ashbury are the only two Republican candidates who have officially entered the race.

Two others, former-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens and businessman John Brunner, are considering a run for governor.

Attorney General Chris Koster is the only candidate running as a Democrat.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed the Dairy Revitalization Act and another agriculture bill into law at a dairy farm in Berry County Friday, April 10.

The dairy bill will help dairy farmers pay the cost of crop insurance using a percentage of sales tax revenue from the sale of dairy products. The other bill reduces some weight limits on Missouri highways during the harvest while adding livestock to the current weight restriction exemption.

MoDOT's chief engineer testified against the bill in committee. Transportation department director Dave Nichols released the following statement after the governor signed the bill.

"MoDOT supports Missouri’s agricultural industry and understands the desire for increased weight limits," Nichols wrote. "But we would like to see that in concert with adequate funding to address roads and bridges that will see additional wear and tear from heavier vehicles."

Similar legislation has been proposed in years past, but this is the first year a dairy bill will become law.

Last session's bill was vetoed due to language changing how the state classifies deer. That language has since been removed.

A new law in California is affecting Missouri's agricultural industry. In order to sell eggs in the state of California, the chickens that produce the eggs must be raised in enriched cages.

The senate passed a resolution that would urge California to repeal the law.

"The point of the resolution is if California is going to impose ridiculous standards on producers within the state they are free to do so," said Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City. "But they cannot pass laws that dictate practices to Missouri farmers."

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he supports Kehoe's resolution because California's egg law is unconstitutional.

"It is a textbook law school example of a commerce clause violation," Schaefer said.

The resolution passed 33-0.

House Speaker John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, told reporters Thursday, April 9 that he will let budget negotiations between the House and Senate play out before he makes conclusions.

On Wednesday morning, the Senate passed a controversial plan to grant lump sums of money to the Departments of Mental Health, Health, and Social Services.

The plan advocated by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would also include a 6 percent across the board cut to DSS and a 4 percent cut to Health and Mental Health.

The passage of the bills funding those departments came after a filibuster by Sen. Rob Schaaf that stretched deep into Wednesday morning.

Diehl said he understand the Senate approach to the budget they passed.

"I think they have a good-faith approach on how they want to look at it," Diehl said. "One thing I've learned in this [budget] process is there's always more than one way to do something. So we're going to listen to what Sen. Schaefer and the conferees have to say about this. I think our end goal is the same. How you get there... We're going to obviously have some disagreements."

One of Diehl's Republican caucus members railed against the Senate's approach on the House floor Thursday.

Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, who is a former senator himself, said the Senate's approach is misguided.

"Since the Senate, in their wisdom, has made just giant appropriations and said 'OK, here it is! Here's all your stuff. We don't care how you spend it, just cut 4 percent because we don't want to make the tough decisions,'" Engler said. "I think that's abdicating their responsibility for the budget process."

Diehl also discussed the Senate including a statewide expansion of the Medicaid managed care program, which led to Schaaf's filibuster Wednesday morning.

"The House bill didn't have managed care," Diehl said. "We left the option for fee-for-service. The Senate took a different position. That's just something we're going to have to sit down and figure out the economics of."

Leaders from both chambers have appointed budget conferees and they are expected to get to work next week as they hope to have the budget to Gov. Nixon by the end of April.

The House passed a bill Thursday, April 9 that raises the burden of proof for someone who has been fired by requiring workers to show that discrimination was a "motivating factor" instead of a contributing factor in wrongful termination cases.

Opponents like Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, said the bill also hurts those who have been sexually harassed in the workplace.

"I don't know about you, but to me, prohibiting lawsuits against individuals responsible for sexual harassment is something that I find offensive," Newman said.

Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said that is not the case.

"We've gotten so far off track here," Engler said. "We talk about sexual harassment [that] we can't sue anymore. That's not what this does. You can sue the employer if they allow sexual harassment."

Other Democrats raised the point the workplace culture of men in charge and "women as secretaries" can often lead to discrimination, intimidation, and wrongful termination.

"I certainly think there's a workplace environment where men are typically bosses and women are in the secretarial or support services and I think that it's very easy to intimidate women into doing something that maybe they want," Rep. Deb Lavender, D-St. Louis County, said.

Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, said his bill would not lead to any discrimination.

"Returning to the motivating factor standard will not allow discrimination," Austin said.

The final objection Democrats made to the bill is an exemption for religious organizations.

"Why do we believe that it's OK?" Rep. Gail McCann-Beatty asked. "I get that we are protecting people's religious beliefs and I think we all want to do that, but I do have some concerns that we then protect religious organizations to allow them to discriminate."

The bill passed by a 95-60 vote and now heads to the Senate.

A bill that would allow Missouri taxpayers to deduct the tax penalty on their Missouri income tax they incur on their federal income tax for not having Affordable Care Act compliant health care.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia and was heard by the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, April 9.

Schaefer said Jefferson City must do this because Washington D.C. will not.

"The premise is if the federal government isn't going to watch out for Missouri taxpayers, we'll do whatever we can do," Schaefer said.

Jeremy Cady of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom was the only person to testify in favor of Schaefer's bill and nobody testified in opposition.

The committee took no action on the bill and it must be voted out of committee before the whole Senate has a chance to debate it.

Missouri's Supreme Court was told Wednesday, April 8, that the latest law to impose restricts on municipal traffic fines hampered enforcement of public safety.

The lawsuit filed by the Missouri Municipal League challenges a law passed in 2013 that strips a city's courts of authority over traffic fines if more than 30 percent of the city's budget is financed by traffic fines.

"They're not stopping the policeman from issuing the violations and that there in lies the problem, your honor," said the Municipal League's attorney, Jane Dueker. "The cause of action for the municipal violation still exists, they're just preventing access to the courts to have it adjudicated."

Under the law, traffic fine revenue that exceeds 30 percent of a city's budget is supposed to be distributed to public schools. The action stripping municipal courts of authority to hear traffic cases occurs if the city fails to transfer the excess revenue to the state Revenue Department for disbursement to schools.

The Municipal League charges the law violates provisions in the state's Constitution authorizing municipal courts.

The state attorney general's office argued that was not the case.

Those municipal divisions, I think clearly under the Constitution, only exist to the extent that the legislature has authorized them," argued Ronald Holliger.

Holliger noted that the legislature creates and moves other types of courts. "The legislature decides how many circuit courts there are going to be and where they're going to be located."

Four St. Louis residents filed a brief in the case supporting limits on how much of a city's budget can be financed by traffic fines 

Their arguments were presented to the state highest court by a St. Louis University law student, Marie DeFer.

She cited the situation faced by one of the clients, Aireal Walters.

"Miss Walters is homeless. She's a single mother and she owes almost $5,000 in fines to various St. Louis County municipal courts. Miss Walters must decide between paying those fines or forfeiting her driver's license which will cause her to lose her job."

As is customary, the Supreme Court gave no indication as to when it would issue a decision.

The Municipal League lost its case in circuit court.

Later in the day, a House committee heard testimony on a Senate-passed bill that would impose stricter limits on how much traffic-fine revenue could be used for city budgets -- eventually to 20 percent. In 2017, the cap would be lowered to ten percent for larger municipalities and those in urban areas.

The Senate voted to exclude fourth-class cities located outside of a charter county or first class county.

Rural senators argued smaller towns in their rural counties depended upon revenue from traffic fines to finance their law enforcement and public safety activities.

The bill as well as the current law under challenge are termed the "Macks Creek Law" in reference to a central Missouri town which had gained a national reputation for it's speed trap on U.S. 54 leading into Lake of the Ozarks.

Traffic fines financed most of the town's budget.

Macks Creek filed for bankruptcy three years after the legislature passed the first law to limit use of traffic fines to finance city budgets in 1995. Several years later, in 2012, town residents voted to dissolve the Macks Creek city government.

The author of the original Macks Creek Law, then House Rep. Delbert Scott, had gotten a traffic ticket from the town.

  • Get the original 1995 Macks Creek bill, HB 118
  • Get the current bill before the legislature, SB 5

Former Senate Majority Leader and current Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, gave a strong speech Wednesday saying he wants sexual orientation to be added to work place discrimination law.

"I don't have enough votes," said Engler. "I proposed it last year to add sexual orientation to this discrimination. But I would hope that if I am still here for three more years, sometime during that period, it will be added to this piece of legislation."

The bill in question would prohibit an individual employer from being sued for discrimination, instead the corporation would be responsible for damages.

Engler said he agreed with what the bill was trying to do in regards to raising the level of proof for employees who pursue discriminatory lawsuits, but he wished this state and the chamber would allow sexual orientation to be listed along with the other minorities.

"So I'm going to vote for this bill because it needs to be done, the level needs to be raised to show people that you're firing them because of that reason, but we should be including sexual orientation in that."

The bill, which drew opposition from Democrats, was later given initial approval.

A bill that would impact budget's of local governments across Missouri moves further through the General Assembly.

The Missouri House Civil Committee heard more testimony from proponents and opponents on Wednesday on legislation that would change the amount of revenue that can be supplied by traffic fines and court costs. The bill, also known as Macks Creek Law, would reduce the current threshold for the general operating revenue for cities, towns, villages or counties from thirty to ten percent.

Sponsor of the bill Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said some cities are generating revenue using unfair methods.

"So as the economy has gone downward, these cities are grabbing for more and more revenue," Schmitt said. "And maybe they can get it from their citizens, but what they shouldn't be able to do is set up a speed trap to go find it."

Mel Gilbert, an attorney from St. Buffalo, said he opposes the bill on behalf of the counties that do not generate revenue from tourism.

"The ones that don't have tourism dollars," Gilbert said. "Ones that don't have a Walmart. Ones that don't have sales tax generation to have a city budget capable of independently supporting a police department. It's apple's and oranges with the metropolitan areas and back in the country regarding this Macks Creek Law."

The revenue in excess of the thirty percent threshold of the budget allowed by current Missouri law must be sent to the Department of Revenue where it is then sent to schools in the same area where the fees were collected.

The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 12 with a vote of 34-0.

Patients in a long-term care facility would have the option to place a monitoring device within their rooms if a measure is passed by the House.

The Health and Mental Health Policy Committee held a hearing about the bill, which would establish what is called a Patient Monitoring Act. The bill would require the patient to purchase and install the monitoring device if they choose to have one.

Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering, sponsored the bill and said it's a solution to the trend of abuse within nursing homes.

"What my bill doesn't do is ask for taxpayers to pay for this like we do in correctional facilities," said McDaniel. "Nor does it ask for the health care facility to pay for it either. It will all be at expense of the patient, guardian or surrogate."

The bill would also requires a sign to be posted outside of the patient's room stating that there is a camera inside.

People in favor of the bill shared their stories about dealing with their family members being abused in nursing homes.

"It's so sad today that we know and hear of the abuse and the neglect that goes on in nursing homes, but we sit back and we wait for the next time that we hear the next amount of neglect and abuse that we know goes on," said Martha Eudaley, who witnessed her husband be mistreated in his nursing home.

Opponents of the bill are concerned about privacy issues with the monitoring devices.

Five states already have a Patient Monitoring Act in place.

McDaniel said he has monitored this bill off of New Mexico's version.

In circumstances where there is a shared room, the bill requires written consent from both patients in the room.

Keith Sappington, the Executive Director of Missouri Living Association, testified saying this would be a problem because of how often patients in a shared room are changed.

"If somebody moves out and they get a roommate there's no stipulation in the bill that says that whether or not the camera has to be dismounted immediately," said Sappington. "There's no time frame. It just says that if it's not approved they must remove it."

No action was taken concerning the legislation.

The first veto of the legislative session is also the first to be overriden after the House and Senate voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of legislation barring superintendents from seeking election to school boards.

Nixon vetoed House Bill 63 Friday, citing implications the bill would have on local elections scheduled for April 7. The bill prohibits former superintendents from seeking election to the school board of a school district where they previously worked.

In his veto letter, Nixon said the law should encourage people to run for public office instead of prohibit people from running. 

The Senate transportation committee approved legislation Wednesday, April 1 raising the state's gas tax by two cents to stave off a sharp decrease in MoDot's construction budget in 2017.

If passed, the legislation would also raise the fuel tax by four cents over the next four years. The bill would also adjust the tax for inflation starting in 2018.

Lawmakers have attempted to pass a tax increase to pay for roadway improvements the pass few years but have been unable to pull together support for the tax hike. A constitutional amendment raising the fuel tax failed at the polls August of 2014.

The transportation department said earlier this year they will be forced to drastically reduce the state's construction budget by 2017 due to a decrease in revenue from the gas tax, which funds the department.  

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, rose to speak before 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 7 and spoke most of the time until the early hours of Wednesday, April 8 on a subject he said he could talk "for hours" about.

The subject Schaaf spoke passionately about was an item in the Department of Social Services budget that would expand a Medicaid managed care program from just the Interstate 70 corridor to the entire state.

Schaaf, along with Sens. Bob Onder and Ed Emery, objected to that provision because they said it didn't belong in the appropriations process and that there was no public hearing in 2015.

"There's 200,000 Missourians out there that didn't get a chance to come and say 'I don't want to be put on managed care," Schaaf said.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, disagreed with Schaaf's assertion of no committee hearings, saying there were multiple hearings held in the past year throughout the state.

According to, Medicaid managed care is a system where they provide Medicaid benefits by entering into contracted agreements with a state's Medicaid agency and a managed care organization.

Onder, R-St. Charles County, joined Schaaf's filibuster and worried the statewide expansion would hurt rural Missourians.

"We're talking about an expansion of Medicaid managed care to our most rural parts of the state where where we don't have well-established provider networks and where we already have a serious shortage of health care practitioners," Onder said. "I think this needs to be vetted more thoroughly."

Around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Senate failed to pass the Department of Social Services budget by a 17-15 vote.

But less than 30 minutes later, senators voted to reconsider their failed passage of the bill and that narrowly passed 18-15.

One vote later, the bill passed by the same 18-15 margin.

Before the over 5-hour-long filibuster, the Senate debated the budgets for the Departments of Health and Mental Health.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved lump-sum grants for those two departments and the DSS, the three departments that administer most social welfare programs in the state.

They approved a 6 percent cut across the board to DSS and a 4 percent cut to the other two departments.

Schaefer said this approach was bold and necessary.

"We gotta reign in the out of control welfare spending because it just grows and grows and grows," Schaefer said. "And the more we grow on an annual basis, the more money goes into it."

All of the budget bills passed the Senate and the two chambers will now go to conference where they hope to pass the final version of the budget in the next 2-3 weeks.

Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.