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May God bless you - Representative Bill Reiboldt
As session closed, Missouri’s General Assembly passed Senate Bill 174 (SB 174). This is an important piece of legislation designed to assist families who have a child with a disability. Missouri’s Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act will help enable families to cover their disabled children’s future needs—education, housing, transportation, and other related expenses—with a tax-free savings account. The ABLE program is modeled after the 529 College Savings Plan, allowing families to invest in tax free savings for disability-related expenses. Under previous law, persons with disabilities who had more than $2,000 in a savings account would not qualify and would be at risk of losing their Supplemental Securities Income (SSI), Medicaid, or other benefits. The federal ABLE act, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law in December 2014, amended the federal law that capped savings at $2,000 for individuals with disabilities.
Last Friday, May 15, the first half of Missouri’s 98th General Assembly came to an end. In so many ways this was a productive session with several good accomplishments that will, no doubt, help our state to move forward. Both the Missouri House and the Senate worked hard and completed things in a timely manner in order to send most of their legislative priorities on to the governor before the final week of session began. The budget was finished early and the governor has already signed it. Other bills were placed on his desk within the last few days, which he will veto or sign.
Unfortunately, a series of events during the final week brought a difficult and traumatic ending to this year’s session. After a controversial parliamentary motion in the Missouri Senate that ended a filibuster and forced a vote, the Senate basically shut down for the session. The only thing that was completed after this vote was the very important Federal Reimbursement Allowance Program. The FRA program—or Senate Bill 210—was passed early on Friday and sent to the House, where it was taken up and passed. The Senate then adjourned early and went home while the House continued to work until they adjourned at 6 p.m., when the gavel dropped for the final time this session.
This will be another busy week for members of Missouri’s General Assembly as we begin the final five days of the 2015 legislative session. Last Friday, Governor Nixon signed the thirteen appropriation bills that make up the over $26 billion state budget for 2016, bills that had worked their way through the legislative process and ended up on the governor’s desk two weeks ago. The governor seemed pleased that Missouri lawmakers had sent him a balanced budget in a timely manner (two weeks before the constitutional deadline), though doing so required him to act on it before session’s end.
Had the governor chosen to veto any line items in the new budget, as he did last year, the General Assembly could have attempted to override his veto. This year that wasn’t necessary, but he can still withhold money from various programs if he determines revenues are not keeping up with budget projections. Last year he withheld a substantial amount of money, and still has not released approximately $300 million from the FY-15 budget, a budget that ends July 30 of this year. With general revenue for 2015 up by 7.7%, no doubt he will be releasing the rest of the money before the FY-16 budget takes effect on July 1. Constitutional Amendment 10, approved by voters last year, will allow legislators to override his withholds with a two-thirds majority of both chambers.
With two weeks remaining in this year’s session, the activity to get legislation through the process and to the governor has reached a very hectic pace. The Missouri House has given final approval to over 250 bills, sending them on to the Senate, while the Missouri Senate has approved more than 130 bills, sending them on to the House. Amid all the bill activity, approximately thirty bills have made it out of the General Assembly and on to the governor. Legislation passed on or before April 30 must be addressed by him no later than May 15. Therefore, the governor will have to sign the bills into law or use his veto power, but vetoed bills could face an override by the General Assembly before the end of session
After the close of session, the governor has 45 days to address any bills passed during the last two weeks before the gavel falls at 6 p.m. on May 15. He can sign the bills into law, veto them, or allow the bills to become law without his signature. Any of these vetoed bills could then be taken up for a possible override by the General Assembly during the September Veto Session. These final two weeks will be very busy and very important for all who work in state government.
For the last two weeks Missouri legislators have been busy working to pass the FY 2016 budget. Finally, last week after many lengthy conference committee hearings and negotiations between the two chambers, an agreement was reached, sending the state’s spending plan on to the governor. From the beginning of this year’s session, it was the desire of lawmakers to finish the budget early so that any line item vetoes or temporary restrictions made by the governor could be addressed before the end of session on May 15.
Constitutionally, Missouri’s General Assembly must produce and send a balanced budget on to the governor one week before Session’s end. In times past, this was usually the deadline that was met, and it gave the governor until June 30 to sign or veto individual line items or the entire budget. The General Assembly would then come back in September to attempt an override of any vetoes. With the passage of Amendment 10, approved by voters in the fall of 2014, lawmakers now have the authority to override any spending decisions made by the governor. Overrides will take a two-thirds majority of both chambers.
As the Missouri House and Senate budget committees continued to negotiate their differences in the FY16 budget, the House approved the FY15 supplemental funding plan. House Bill 14 was passed out of the House and has now gone to the Senate for their consideration. This bill will appropriate about $120 million in the state’s general revenue for the remainder of the FY15 year that ends on June 30. The majority of the funding in the supplemental budget will go to Missouri’s Medicaid program. Here is how the monies will be appropriated: $90 million will go to Medicaid; approximately $6 million will go to children in foster care; $3.4 will go for early childhood special education; $4.5 million will supplement the overtime pay for the Department of Mental Health workers; $4 million will go for healthcare for the blind. This money will help to close out the remaining programs in the FY15 budget. The FY16 budget is projected to be finished this week and will go into effect on July 1, 2015. This gives ample time to override any possible line item vetoes before the end of Session.
Select Committee on Agriculture - Chairman
Appropriations - Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources