Joplin Globe: Missouri Senate prepares for battles on budget, drug monitoring program, state licenses

 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — With little bit more than a month left in the legislative session, the Missouri Senate will be making big decisions through ironing out compromises or busting through with the nuclear option.

Many of the House-passed bills will be in Senate committee hearings this week; less so, the reverse. In the last week, the Senate has been at a standstill, with controversial bills plugging up the pipeline.

Last Monday, Senate Republicans attempted to shepherd through a House bill that would pre-empt a St. Louis ordinance that explicitly made discrimination of women who had abortions by landlords or employers illegal. The governor and the speaker of the House have both urged the Senate to pass the bill to eliminate St. Louis as an “abortion sanctuary city.”

 

Democrats, led by Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, took issue, and no compromise was reached even after debate went well past midnight. Republicans countered that the St. Louis ordinance inhibited the free speech rights of religious pregnancy resource centers. Schupp argued that the St. Louis ordinance had a provision for religious organizations making the Republicans’ concerns unfounded.

Two days later, Democrats also filibustered another bill regarding abortion, one that would prevent people from donating fetal tissue for research. The next day a Democrat-sponsored bill about farmers markets was talked down by Republicans, who spent much of the debate talking about abortion.

Issues in upcoming weeks to be resolved by the Senate include a House-passed bill that establishes a prescription drug monitoring program, the state’s $27.6 billion budget and bills that would allow Missouri to issue federally compliant driver’s licenses.

Missouri is the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program. The drug program bill, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, will be heard by Senate panel Monday after being passed in the House last week. On the day the bill was passed, Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said that after six years of not allowing her bill to come to a vote, he would step aside. His caveat was that Rehder’s bill needed to be amended so that using the program was a mandatory “standard of care” for physicians.

“After all, the most horrible outcome would be for Holly Rehder’s daughter to go to a doctor and get a narcotic scrip (sic) and then overdose because the doctor did not even check the PDMP that Holly worked so hard to get enacted into law,” Schaaf wrote on his Facebook page. “We must not allow that to happen.”

Rehder, who has supported mandatory use in the past, said she would need to work on the language of the compromise before she could be optimistic. If the bill is changed in the Senate, it will need to travel back to the House for another approval. At 54 “no” votes, the bill has faced the most opposition it has had in the last three years.

Mandatory use would turn the “yes” vote of Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, into a “no.” White said making a measure a “standard of care” also makes it so that physicians could be sued for malpractice if they don’t comply.

“Yeah, it might take only two minutes to check and it’s not onerous, but then you have 10 mandated things that take two minutes and it’s onerous,” White said.

On the other hand, Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said mandatory use would reverse his “no” vote.

“I think if we are going to spend $1 million on a program, that would be run with seven (full-time equivalent positions), we need to make sure everyone is using it,” said Smith, who is a House budget committee member.

After the House passed the state’s budget on Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee will take up the bills on Tuesday. Senate Budget Chairman Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said that if prescription drug monitoring program were to pass this year, the Department of Health and Human Services would have enough money in its budget to get the program going. Discussions about providing the $1 million for the program would be for next legislative session, he added.

Brown also announced that he wouldn’t be funding the school financing formula to its fullest, as promised by the House budget chairman, Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob. The $45 million increase for schools would trigger a 2014 law that would require the state to finance early childhood education programs for each district based on their number of enrollees who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. With the state’s budget deficit, it can’t afford $63 million in the next fiscal year.

Though not assigned to a committee as of the weekend, the House passed a bill last week that would give Missourians the option to obtain a state-issued license that complies with federal security standards. The Senate is running up against a deadline to pass the bill: as of January 2018, Missourians will not be able to fly domestically using their current Missouri licenses, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Several of the complaints debated on the floor in the House are held by a minority of senators. They argue that one of the security standard — mandating source documents like birth certificates to be retained — was a violation of Missourians’ privacy.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, has appealed to the Trump administration to repeal the standards set in the 2005 Real ID Act by the Bush administration. After the governor said federal officials are thinking about changing the law after a D.C. visit last week, Kraus said he would renew his fight against the bill. 

Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, who sponsored the House bill, said that he is confident the Senate will be able to come to a compromise so that bill can be passed.

 

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