HB 1409 would tie unemployment benefits to the average unemployment rate so that more benefits are available when unemployment is high. If the state were in a position of high unemployment (9 percent or higher), benefits would be available for 20 weeks. In periods of low unemployment (lower than 6 percent), benefits would be available for 13 weeks. Supporters note that similar systems are already in place in states like Georgia and Florida. They call the change an important step toward ensuring Missouri can afford to help its citizens during times when they are without work. Supporters also note that the average period of unemployment in Missouri is 12.1 weeks so the 13-week benefit period would be sufficient in most cases. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration. The House and Senate approved similar legislation in 2015 only to see then Governor Nixon veto the bill. The House approved a veto override during the regular session that year, and the Senate then completed the override during the annual Veto Session. The law was later struck down by the Supreme Court because of the fact the veto was not overridden in the same session.

House Approves Needle Exchange Bill (HB 1620)

The Missouri House approved legislation this week that would ease state law to allow organizations to give clean needles to users of illegal intravenous drugs.

Needle exchange or syringe access programs already exist in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. The bill’s sponsor said these programs are operating in violation of state law regarding drug paraphernalia, but local jurisdictions allow them to operate because of the impact they have. The legislation approved by the House would relax state law to allow the programs to operate and to expand to other regions in the state. This bill will help combat potential outbreaks of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C caused by the sharing of used needles and will get more people into drug treatment.

The sponsor told her colleagues that individuals who use those programs to get needles are five times more likely to get into drug treatment because the programs put them in contact with medical professionals. Proponents also say the bill will save the state money in costs to Medicaid of treating people who contract conditions like HIV and Hepatitis C by sharing needles.

HB 1859 would allow law enforcement agencies to assist other law enforcement agencies. Supporters say there are officers and deputies in other counties who would like to help smaller counties, so a mutual aid agreement such as the one created by the bill is necessary. Currently, only adjoining counties may enter into mutual aid agreements, but sometimes counties need help from, or can offer help to, counties outside the adjoining areas.

HB 1685 would exempt short-term major medical policies from several health insurance mandates and allow such policies to have a term of less than one year. Supporters say bill would exempt short term policies from many health insurance mandates and increase the term limit from six months to a period of less than a year. The change could help families get more affordable health insurance coverage.

Pike-Lincoln Tech Center Visit

I was privileged this past week to visit with Martin Hanley, Director of Pike-Lincoln Technical Center, in my office at the Missouri Capitol. Several students also attended. Mr. Hanley and this outstanding group of young people informed me of many of the latest happenings at Pike-Lincoln and told me about the valuable education they are receiving there.

Pike-Lincoln, like many other technical schools in the state of Missouri, plays a key role in the future of our workforce. Whether a student chooses to pursue nursing, welding, or even 3D modeling, career and technical education can help them achieve their goals by equipping them with the skills they need. I am proud to have an institution like Pike-Lincoln Technical Center in the 40th District.

Looking Forward

I am looking forward to visiting with 4-H members this week as they visit the Missouri Capitol for the annual 4-H Legislative Academy. Delegates from all over the state will be meeting with legislators to discuss the importance of 4-H in our communities. Many members will also be shadowing in legislative offices to learn more about our state government.

4-H is an excellent example of an effective youth development organization. With more than 100,000 members statewide, 4-H impacts many lives as it carries out its mission of engaging youth as valued and contributing members of their communities.