During House floor debate, members offered and adopted several amendments to move funding from one program to another. Any changes made to the budget on the House floor must be revenue neutral or revenue positive. If a member wants to increase funding in one area of the budget, he or she must first reduce corresponding funds in another area, and then get the changes approved. With these rules in place, the overall size of the budget can never increase on the House floor. Before it ever reaches the full House assembly, many hours, days, and weeks are put into the process of formulating the Missouri House’s budget position. Some of the highlights of the FY 17 state budget as it moves on to the Senate are as follows:
* $70.3 million increase for the Foundation Formula, which funds 12-K public schools
*$9.4 million increase in performance funding for our state’s colleges and universities
* $5 million increase for K-12 transportation.
* $4 million increase for the Access Missouri need-based scholarship program
* $2.5 million increase for the A+ Scholarship program
* $500,000 increase for the Bright Flight scholarship program
* $2 million increase for river ports on the Mississippi River
* $1.25 million increase for the Missouri Technology Corporation for business start-ups
In addition to the above, there is also a much needed 2% pay increase for state employees (not elected officials). These are a few of the major points of the House’s spending plan.
Another bill that was approved by the House and sent on to the Senate was HB 1875 - legislation meant to provide a better system of care for at-risk newborns. This bill would allow for the creation of a perinatal network in Missouri to act as a resource for physicians whose patients have high-risk pregnancies or who experience complications after giving birth. The goal is to ensure that proper care is provided for Missouri children who are in need.
According to the March of Dimes, one in every four at-risk newborns is born at a facility that is not equipped to meet their special needs. In our state approximately 1,100 infants are born at very low birth weight and about 1,500 are born pre-term yearly.
In 2011, Missouri’s General Assembly approved HB 555, thus creating the Missouri Task Force on Prematurity and Infant Mortality. In Dec of 2013 the task force submitted its findings to the governor and the General Assembly. One of the group’s key recommendations called for regionalized perinatal care. The legislation the House approved (HB1875) seeks to implement the suggestions in order to ensure that high risk pregnancies and low birth weight infants receive access to appropriate care.
In other action, the House approved legislation meant to expand our state’s Good Samaritan law, a law that allows conscientious citizens to break into a hot vehicle in order to rescue a forgotten child. This bill is known as “Rescue the Forgotten.”
The rescue legislation is very similar to a bill passed in Tennessee and “would protect individuals for damages caused while trying to rescue a child in danger.” Over the last 20 years, more than 700 children in the U.S. have died from heatstroke because they were left in hot vehicles. Sadly, among the states, Missouri ranks 13th for most child vehicular heatstroke deaths. This law is a “common sense approach to empower people to do the right thing in what could be a life or death situation.”
HB 1696 will expand services for deaf-blind individuals in Missouri. This bill is meant to help deaf and blind Missourians live more independently by issuing grants to provide necessary services to assist these individuals and their families. The legislation has bipartisan support.
Finally, members of the Missouri House join others across the state to help raise awareness of multiple sclerosis. Last session, legislation was approved to designate the first full week of March each year as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week in Missouri. MS is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that affects everyone differently. Currently there is not a cure. However, several medications have proven to slow its progress as well as to reduce the severity and frequency of flare-ups.
While we have handled numerous bills within the past few weeks in the House, there are still considerably more to be worked on in the remaining week before Spring Break. The Missouri House continues to keep up its steady and consistent pace as we address and deal with each of those bills.