February 22, 2023

Capitol Report for February 21,2023

This week we will be hearing more bills aimed at Teacher Recruitment and Retention, my emphasis for this session. One of those bills is the modification of a current non-funded scholarship called the Urban Flight and Rural Needs Scholarship program and renaming it the Teacher Recruitment and Retention State Scholarship Program. This program has not been funded for several years but if this bill passes will be a source of funding more teachers in rural and urban high needs areas.

HB 497 Modifies the Urban Flight and Rural Needs Scholarship Program- Sponsored by Representative Ed Lewis- Moberly

Missouri faces considerable teacher shortages, and we must make every effort to recruit and retain highly effective teachers. These shortages are not equally distributed throughout the state.

“High-poverty, high-minority and rural students appear to learn from less-experienced, unqualified, out-of-field, or less-effective teachers at higher rates than occur in low-poverty schools.” DESE

The Teacher Recruitment and Retention State Scholarship Program targets the lack of students’ access to highly effective teachers and directs states resources to where they can be most impactful. This State Scholarship program will make scholarships available to students who have completed an Associates (2 years) degree from a Community College like MACC or a bachelor's from any four year institution and provide tuition and fees for the student to go back and get a teaching certificate even in non-traditional settings.

House Members Approve Proposal to Improve Pay for Kansas City Police Officers (HB 640 & 729)

The Missouri House gave preliminary approval this week to a legislative proposal that would help the Kansas City Police Department attract and retain the very best law enforcement personnel. With a first-round voice vote, House Members approved legislation that would allow the department to offer better pay to officers and the chief of police.

HB 640 & 729 would eliminate the current authorized salary ceiling for the Kansas City police chief and allow the Board of Police Commissioners to establish a salary ceiling by resolution. The bill would also eliminate the existing salary ceilings for police officers, computed according to rank, and empower the board to use the salary minimums as a base in pay ranges for officers in crafting their comprehensive pay schedule program.

The bill’s sponsor said it is important to put the power to establish a salary schedule in the hands of the Board of Police Commissioners rather than the hands of the state.

He said, “The hope with this bill is that they are going to set a very aggressive, competitive salary schedule from the chief all the way down to try to bring officers into the Kansas City Police Department.”

The sponsor noted the Kansas City Police Department is currently down 254 police officers and is losing officers to surrounding areas where they can receive better pay.

He said, “I would like to see the best salary schedule in the Kansas City metro area. Hopefully we can use that to help with recruitment, and hopefully we can keep people on the force longer.”

Another provision in the bill would remove the current requirement that the Kansas City police chief be under 60 years of age. During discussion on the floor, members also approved an emergency clause that would allow the bill to go into effect immediately if it is approved by both chambers and signed into law.

The sponsor told his colleagues, “In 2022 we had the second highest homicide rate in the city’s history. We had 169 homicides last year in Kansas City. That is unacceptable. With so many officers we don’t have in the force, we need relief now. We need relief in Kansas City for the men and women who are daily out there protecting and serving.”

The bill now requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate for consideration.

Protecting Businesses from Costly Mandates (HB 184)

Lawmakers approved legislation this week aimed at protecting businesses, schools, and churches from burdensome government mandates. By a vote of 105-36, the House approved HB 184 to prohibit local ordinances requiring businesses to pay for new electric vehicle charging stations.

The bill’s sponsor said his legislation comes in response to a trend that has seen municipalities mandate that small businesses, shopping centers, and churches install and pay for electric charging stations whenever they make improvements to their facilities. He said an ordinance in St. Louis County requires businesses to add and pay for electric charging stations even if they expand their parking lot.

The sponsor said, “Is it proper for a government to tell a business you have to do something that has nothing to do with your business? It will bring you no profit. It will bring you nothing. Which I think is not the role of government.” HB 184 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Supplemental Funding Bill Sent to the Senate (HB 14)

By a vote of 151-2, Missouri House members approved a supplemental spending bill and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The legislation (HB 14) will allocate more than $627 million in funding for the current state operating budget.

Some of the highlights of the supplementing spending plan include:

· 8.7% pay increase for state workers.

o Does not include general assembly and statewide elected officials.

o Additional $2 an hour shift differential for night shift direct care workforce (prisons, hospitals, other care facilities).

· $286.5 million in spending authority for the State Emergency Management Agency.

· $628,750 appropriation to the Department of Agriculture to help address the growing black vulture problem impacting livestock owners statewide.

· $20 million to establish school safety programs, including physical security upgrades and associated technology, bleeding control kits, and automatic external defibrillators.

House Approves Bill to Allow Direct Access to Physical Therapy (HB 115 & 99)

Lawmakers gave strong bipartisan approval this week to legislation that would allow patients to have direct access to physical therapy. The Missouri House approved HBS 115 & 99 by a vote of 147-1.

The sponsor of the bill noted that 47 states currently allow some form of direct access to physical therapy. She pointed out that studies show patients with direct access have fewer visits and less overall cost.

“Direct access is about individual choice in health care decisions through the elimination of unnecessary and burdensome regulations,” said the bill’s sponsor. She added, “Allowing individuals to make their own decisions regarding their own health care is really great policy, and eliminating the referral requirements is one step to making health care more accessible to all people.”

Under HB 115 & 99 a physical therapist would no longer need a prescription or referral from a doctor in order to evaluate and initiate treatment on a patient. To qualify, the physical therapist would need a Doctorate of Physical Therapy Degree or five years of clinical practice as a physical therapist.

Students from Macon High School FFA, FCCLA, FBLA and DECA traveled to the Capitol and visited with State Representative Ed Lewis and Senator Cindy O'Laughlin on Wednesday.