Missouri House Republicans and Democrats assessed the 2021 session and fielded media questions after the session ended Friday.
After roughly a decade of legislative consideration, the Missouri legislature has voted to create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP).
The program would consolidate information on the prescription of controlled substances so that pharmacists and physicians can identify those who might be dealing with addiction. The House approved the bill, Senate Bill 63, 91-64, sending it to Governor Mike Parson (R). Parson has signaled support for a PDMP.
If SB 63 becomes law it would make Missouri the last state in the nation to enact a statewide PDMP. More than 80-percent of the state is covered by a PDMP that began in St. Louis County a number of years ago. This would replace that plan and have different requirements for the sharing of data.
PDMPs are intended to identify and flag the practice of “doctor shopping,” when individuals go to multiple doctors and multiple pharmacists seeking to accumulate a large supply of a drug in order to abuse or sell it. Supporters say the program will save lives and help get those with addictions into treatment.
“Every law enforcement person I talked to, every doctor says it will prevent deaths in the future, and if you can prevent just one person from dying I think that means something. I think this will prevent hundreds, if not thousands,” said Representative Travis Smith (R-Dora), who carried the bill in the House.
Opponents say PDMPs will create a database of Missourians’ private medical information which the government shouldn’t have. Lake St. Louis representative Justin Hill, a former undercover drug enforcement officer, said PDMPs haven’t worked in other states and the one based in St. Louis County isn’t working.
“This has dire consequences. The death rate in St. Louis County has actually increased because people are pushed away from pharmacies to buy their narcotics, which they are addicted to, on the street. If you truly care about the lives of people that are addicted to these drugs then you want them to be discovered at the pharmacy. You want them to doctor shop,” said Hill. “You turn down that person at a doctor’s office or pharmacy, they’re still going to get their drug.”
Smith said he’s heard those concerns, and if the bill becomes law he intends to monitor the impact of a PDMP in Missouri. If it doesn’t work he will work to fix or eliminate it.
“My argument to those people is this: most heroin users did not start off as heroin users. They had some kind of prescription for the opioid. They get the opioid and because there wasn’t a monitoring program they got too much of it. They got addicted,” said Smith. “My idea is, if we can work with doctors and pharmacists and monitor it, we can catch it before it ever happens.”
The bill passed the House with mostly Democratic support, with around 30 Republicans voting in favor. Representative Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis) has been in favor of a PDMP throughout her 8-year legislative career.
She credited Senator Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), who has sponsored and pushed for passage of a program through most of her 8 years in the House, and was the sponsor of SB 63.
Proponents say under SB 63, Missourians’ medical information will only be available to doctors and pharmacists.
The legislature has proposed several measures meant to give more Missouri children a chance to get out of the foster care system and into permanent homes, and to help foster and adoptive parents afford the costs of caring for and adopting children.
House Bills 429 and 430 were agreed to this week and now await action by Governor Mike Parson (R), who lawmakers say has indicated support for them. Mountain Grove Republican Hannah Kelly sponsored both.
HB 430 would expand current tax credits for the adoption of Missouri children with disabilities to be available in any adoption, while giving priority to instances involving Missouri children with disabilities. Kelly said of a program capped at $6-million a year, less than $30,000 was claimed last year.
She said by allowing a broader offering of this credit, more Missouri children will have the opportunities for permanent families.
“When people say it should stay to be Missouri children. Well if a Missouri family wants to adopt a child then that’s a Missouri child in my mind,” said Kelly. “If you’re a Missouri taxpayer we’re going to support you in your effort to open your home and your heart to children in need.”
HB 429 authorizes an income tax deduction for expenses related to providing care as a foster parent.
It also creates a “Birth Match” program. It would require the state Children’s Division and the State Registrar’s Office to compare birth reports with information on parents who have been convicted of certain crimes. When parents have history of the specified crimes, Division personnel will make contact with the family to see if any action is appropriate.
This could include seeing whether any crimes are being committed, but Kelly said in a broader sense it is about seeing whether the family is in need of any of the types of assistance the state could facilitate.
“Birth Match is intended to match the families with the services to prevent a repeat of previous situations,” said Kelly. “If you can step in and offer services, whether that be parenting classes, whether that be … do you need to be signed up for Medicaid … do you need prenatal care … do you need, OK you need a washer and a dryer.”
“That is the heart of Birth Match, is to allow government departments to communicate faster … in regards to ensuring the overall outcome is safety of baby and mom and dad and whoever else is in the picture,” said Kelly.
HB 429 also increases the age threshold for abandoned infants and children from one year or under to under three years old. It sets a time frame of six months before a petition of termination of parental rights is considered in cases of neglect by a parent.
Kelly said by restructuring this and other parts of law, impediments to giving a child a permanent home are removed.
“The research was showing us that [children] were getting ‘caught in limbo,’ is the best way to put it,” said Kelly. “This is expected very much to help make sure that kids don’t get stuck in what can feel like forever being hung between, ‘Okay, I know that I’m abandoned by my bio-family but I also need a termination of parental rights process to happen before my family who wants to adopt me can officially be my adoptive family.”
Kelly credits House Speaker Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) with making the legislation a priority, which pushed these bills to be the first non-budget measures sent to the governor this year. She said not only did he make these issues priorities, he bravely, publicly shared his own personal story of having been in Missouri’s foster care system as further evidence of the need for reform.
The House wants victims of domestic abuse to be able to get lifetime orders of protection against their abusers. That would be possible under a bill sent to the Senate this week.
Orders of protection are generally only effective for one year. House Bill 744 would allow a judge, after a review of the case, to issue one for the lifetime of the abuser.
It is sponsored by former Department of Public Safety Director and former Joplin Police Chief, Representative Lane Roberts (R-Joplin).
“I spent a great deal of my life having to look women in the eye and explain to them why I could not do what I knew needed to be done to help them, and I had to leave them living in fear and could not put a stop to it. Finally I find myself in a position to actually do something about it,” said Roberts. “If I never do anything more in this body than pass this particular bill I will still have made a contribution that I’ll take home and feel good about.”
Under the bill a judge considering whether an order should last for a lifetime would consider the evidence of the case; the history of abuse, stalking, and threatening; an abuser’s criminal record; previous orders of protection; and whether the respondent has violated probation or parole, or previous orders of protection.
Lane said the women who bravely came to testify on his bill shared stories of horrific abuse that had continued for years.
“26-week pregnant women being beaten with a shovel, women who were sexually abused in a hospital while they were medicated, ex-fiancées being shot and paralyzed, women beaten so badly that they have to have facial reconstruction,” said Roberts.
Kansas City representative Mark Ellebracht (D) is an attorney who has counseled women who are experiencing abuse. He said it is more than frustrating to know that they must go back to court every year to deal with the case.
“Often when they go back to court, their abuser [can represent himself], which means he gets to cross-examine her and ask her very sensitive, very personal questions and harass her again in front of a court because of the way the system works. This bill is designed to fix that,” said Ellebracht. “It’s a very, very good bill.”
The bill would also allow courts to include pets in dealing with domestic abuse. This would include awarding possession of a pet and considering abuse or threatened abuse of a pet in making decisions in the case. Legislators said often abusers threaten or harm a pet in an effort to control or terrorize a victim.
The House voted 151-2 to send that legislation to the Senate.
Ellebracht = EL-eh-brockt
The Missouri House has again voted to renounce the 1852 decision by the Missouri Supreme Court that denied Scott and his family their freedom.
Scott had argued that he, his wife, and his two children were free because they had lived in the state of Illinois, where slavery was not legal. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling and said they were still slaves. The case preceded another suit in which the U.S. Supreme Court also found against Scott and his family.
Proudie has often spoken about how for many reasons it is significant for her to be a state representative, including that she is an African American woman and the ancestor of enslaved people.
“I can’t believe I’m standing here at the mic. I can’t believe I have an office key that unlocks this door. Every day I can’t believe it. I am the descendant of slaves, ya’ll. I can’t believe I’m standing here,” said Proudie. “We say that we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. I don’t even think that Dred Scott could have conceptualized it because he tried and they told him, ‘No.’”
Bailey said she had followed versions of this measure in previous years, including in 2018 when House Concurrent Resolution 86 was passed by the House.
“The federal government, Amendments 13, 14, and 15 came out of that and so that has kind of been recompense and healing for that, but the State of Missouri has never done anything,” said Bailey. “This is a gesture, yes, but it’s monumental.”
“Dred Scott should never have been compelled to appear before any court of this state or government body to appeal his God-given freedom. Neither the state nor any person ever had the right to impede upon that. This state and its government should have risen up to defend Dred Scott and to ensure his freedoms as well as the freedoms of all mankind,” said Bailey.
Representative Rasheen Aldridge Jr. (D-St. Louis) said the amendment in the House and its counterpart in the Senate have moved forward on the strength of lawmakers from different parties and ethnic backgrounds coming together.
“We don’t agree on a lot of stuff up here but I think this sends a strong message from us to the state to let them know that we all really, really try to make sure we do what’s right and rewrite some of the wrongs and not be afraid to talk about it,” said Aldridge. “We have some scary things in our history and we must talk about it. We must address it and we must rewrite it and do it the correct way.”
The legislation was written with the help of descendants of Scott. The House voted 152-0 to send it to the Senate.
House lawmakers voted this week toward ending abuse of children in residential care facilities managed by religious organizations – abuse that lawmakers called “horrific,” and amounting to “torture.”
House Bills 557 & 560 would eliminate the exemption from state supervision for such homes.
“There’s no background checks, there’s no right to go in and check on the children, there’s no requirement they keep medical records, there was no right to go in and have eyes on the children, and there was absolutely no control over these homes,” said bill sponsor Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville). “These homes, all you had to say was it was a religious organization … and you couldn’t even check into whether it was a recognized religious organization.”
Lee’s Summit representative Keri Ingle (D), who filed an identical bill, said Missouri is one of the only states that doesn’t oversee religious-based youth homes. Because of that, bad actors have been coming here and then seeking out children with behavioral issues, mental issues, or whose needs weren’t being met.
She said parents would send their children to these homes, “I think, most of the time, with the full intent of getting a child out of a really desperate situation and getting them the help that they needed. Unfortunately, that trust was completely violated and these children were tortured. There’s really no other way to describe it.”
She and other lawmakers heard in committee hearings from children who had been abused in these homes.
“The things that have been told to me by survivors across the country … described rape, described forcing children to have abortions, described stripping children of their dignity and their self-respect, their belief in God, their belief in love, forced children to fight other children, locked children in closets, forced children to stand in manure and forced children to do hard labor,” said Ingle.
The legislation would require those homes to provide background checks for all employees; notify the state of their location; and allow Social Services to see children when abuse is suspected.
It would not allow the state to change a home’s religious teachings or foundation. Viet said he believes that religious-based youth homes, when run properly and honestly, can benefit children.
“I actually know some children who have been in some of these homes and I’ve talked to judges, and they do a great service, but if we don’t take care of and prevent the bad apples they’re going to ruin it for everyone,” said Veit.
The bill would go into effect immediately upon being signed by the governor.
The house voted 148-0 to send it to the Senate.
The Missouri House has voted to tell schools in the state to enact guidelines on when students may be secluded or restrained, and to require that when it happens, the student’s parents or guardians must be notified. The bipartisan effort began when practices that one lawmaker called “archaic” came to light.
The chamber approved 149-1 House Bill 387 filed by Representative Dottie Bailey (R-Eureka). It would require schools to have policies in place for when a student can be placed in seclusion or restrained, and that those things only happen when there is imminent danger of harm to the student’s self or others.
In addition to the notification requirement the bill also includes protections for those who report violations of that policy.
“Unfortunately … some of these school districts have used seclusion and restraint for discipline and time outs and punishment. So imagine a child that already has problems interpreting the world – a kiddo with autism – then being punished for that non-interpretation and disciplined, and thrown into a box,” said Bailey. “Not only are these archaic … and need to be done away with for punishment, there are many, many other alternative therapies that have been used, that have been proven to be adequate and without hurting the child and hurting their growth and not traumatizing them further.”
Representative Ian Mackey (D-St. Louis) brought the issue to the legislature after seeing reporting on the practices in some schools. He and Bailey worked to bring the legislation forward. He said most schools in Missouri haven’t been doing anything wrong and won’t have to change any practices because of this bill.
“This bill goes after a handful of irresponsible bad actors who regularly misuse these rooms and who regularly put kids in these rooms as punishment, which violates their own policy but up until now there’s no remedy for that. This is a remedy for violations of those policies,” said Mackey.
Similar legislation passed out of the House last year and was approved by a Senate committee before COVID interrupted the normal business of the 2020 session.
Bailey said it was important to add to this year’s bill the protection for those who bring to light misuses of restraints and seclusion. She said teachers who brought evidence of violations to a House committee last year faced retaliation.
“We saw urine-filled, stained rooms. We saw drab, horrible things, and then you hear from the teachers telling this story, and I give those teachers so much credit because they took their own careers in their hands because they care about these kids,” said Bailey. “I’ve kept in touch with a couple of them and yes, retaliation has occurred.”
Hazelwood representative Paula Brown (D), a retired school teacher, said she saw retaliation against teachers who spoke out against seclusion.
“I, for one, was not retaliated against when I reported to the school administration that a kid was locked in a dark closet but I do know that it does happen, and I was probably only not retaliated against because I happened to be president of the teachers’ union at the time,” said Brown. “I’m urging the body to support this bill. It is a wonderful bill and it will protect children, and it will protect teachers.”
HB 387 also adds a prohibition to “prone restraint,” not seen in last year’s legislation.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
The Missouri House has passed a plan to make the Capitol safer for those who work and visit it.
One provision of House Bill 784 would allow the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tem to appoint marshals in their respective chambers. These marshals would have at least five years of experience in law enforcement, be licensed as a peace officer, and have to have continued training as required by the Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training commission.
Bill sponsor Lane Roberts (R-Joplin), a former Joplin Police chief and former director of the Department of Public Safety, said the agencies responsible for Capitol security are “fragmented” and the legislature needs a security force that falls under its control.
“It’s sad that in this particular day and time we would have to do a thing like this, but given the environment that we unfortunately had to watch in Washington D.C. it’s a prudent move. These individuals would be focused on the security of the two chambers and the membership,” said Roberts.
Another provision would move control of the Capitol Police out of the Department of Public Safety and to a new Capitol Police Board. Representative Ron Hicks (R-St. Charles) has been working on this plan for several years. He shares Roberts’ concern that the public officials who work in the Capitol have no say in its security.
“This is just one of those steps that we are taking forward to make sure that the safety and security of the people that visit this building, not to mention ourselves and our families that come to visit us, are safe and secure in this building. As you know we’ve been left alone in this building as far as our security and our safety goes,” said Hicks.
The new Capitol Police Board would be made up of members appointed by the House Speaker, the Senate President, the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, and the chair of the State Capitol Commission.
The proposal now goes to the Senate.
Baringer = (BARE-in-jerr)
The Missouri House has voted to waive the biggest portion of unemployment overpayments that some 46,000 Missourians were being told to repay. House members also heard that Governor Mike Parson (R) now supports the effort, and his Department of Labor will “pause” efforts to collect the federal portion of those overpayments while the legislation is moving.
Legislators learned that many of the Missourians who applied for and received unemployment assistance last year were then told that the state erred in finding them eligible. They were told they had to pay back the money, often months after it had already been spent on necessities. Some Missourians owed more than $20,000.
The bill that was passed on Thursday would waive the federal portion of those repayments, which amounts to roughly three quarters or more of what most owed. The legislation was the product of a broad, bipartisan effort.
“The amount that the folks will get to keep from the federal portion amounts to $668,000, on average, per House district. So every one of our districts, on average, $668,000 will stay here in Missouri rather than going back to Washington, D.C., if we pass this,” said bill sponsor J. Eggleston (R-Maysville).
Republic representative Jered Taylor (R) chaired the committee that held hearings with the Department of Labor about this issue. He said waiving this portion is the right thing to do for Missourians who were and are struggling, and were encouraged to apply by the state and federal governments.
“Now they’re being saddled with thousands of dollars of money that they have to repay when they don’t have the money. They spent it. We know that they spent it on important things – on food, on housing, on transportation, on clothing – to get through a difficult time when they didn’t have a job, and they still may not have a job and [the state has been] asking them to pay thousands of dollars back,” said Taylor.
Democrats supported the bill, though some say Missouri should also waive repayment of state unemployment overpayments. Republicans say to do that would jeopardize the integrity of the state’s unemployment trust, and lead to higher payments for the small businesses that pay into it – business which are also struggling due to the COVID crisis.
St. Louis representative Ian Mackey (D) said some of those Missourians will be confused by hearing about this legislation and think they no longer owe anything.
“Someone who got a bill for $5,000 from the state is going to see that we passed this legislation is going to take the letter and the bill they got from the state and tear it up and throw it away … and then a few weeks later they’re going to get a bill from the state for $800, and the same people who couldn’t afford the $5,000 bill are not going to be able to afford the $800 bill and the crisis is going to start all over again for them,” said Mackey.
He and other Democrats say the state could use CARES Act money to waive the state’s share of these overpayments and keep small businesses from being impacted. Shell Knob Republican Scott Cupps said he’d be good with that.
“If this bill were to come back from the Senate with the state portion included and we were able to fund that with CARES Act funding, as opposed to it hurting the integrity of the unemployment fund system within the state, then that is something that I, personally, would be in favor of,” said Cupps.
The House rejected an emergency clause – language that would make the bill effective immediately upon being signed by the governor. Instead it would take effect August 28. Eggleston said this was part of an effort that’s developed in the last few days to ensure the governor’s support. He said the Department wants time for training and the creation of paperwork that would go into issuing up to 46,000 waivers.
Eggleston continued, “For the 47,000 thousand folks in this the Department will not be hassling them from now until the end of August 28, including billing statements. That’s the nasty letters folks were getting about, ‘We’re gonna be garnishing your wages and put a lien on your house.’ That’s stopping.”
Taylor said he and Eggleston were skeptical, but he supports removing that emergency clause.
“This isn’t something that can be done overnight. The concern is that if we do this quickly, if we do this as fast as what we’re asking that mistakes are going to be made and maybe people aren’t going to get the waiver that should deserve the waiver,” said Taylor. “We want to make sure that the state isn’t going to mess up again, that these people aren’t going to be screwed another time by the state government, and we have been giving assurances in writing [and] in verbal communication.”
Democrats maintained that the bill will be “pointless” without the emergency clause and most voted to keep it.
Cupps said since the House held hearings on the issue the Department has been working with him and other lawmakers, and the House’s actions Thursday are based on those discussions.
“We just need to use this as an example to say, ‘The deal was made. You better hold true to it. If you don’t hold true to it, then I hesitate to say what we would do but I promise you, we’ll do something.’”
The legislation was sent to the Senate with a vote of 157-3.
Eggleston = (EGG-ull-stun)
Those under a full order of protection or convicted of a crime of domestic violence would no longer be able to have or buy guns under a proposal now in the Missouri House. Supporters say the bill would mirror Missouri law to federal law and fix a gap unintentionally created by 2016 legislation.
House Bill 473 would require a court, when issuing an order of protection, to order that the subject of that order not be able to have firearms. Law enforcement would be notified, to make sure the order is followed. Those convicted of 2nd degree stalking and 4th degree assault would also not be able to possess a firearm.
“This bill … is not about taking the 2nd Amendment rights away from you, to bear arms. It’s about protecting the women and children and even men in our state. This is an issue I believe all of us can agree on,” said bill sponsor Ron Hicks (R-St. Charles).
House Bill 473 would address an issue with Missouri state law that was exacerbated with the passage of Senate Bill 656 in 2016.
“This is something that [the House] has tried to tackle for years. In 2016 I sat in this body when a promise was made by our former speaker … to have this put back in. It was stricken out of a bill and all I want to do is put it back in,” said Hicks.
Judy Kile has testified in past years on previous versions of this language. For six years she has been the Executive Director of COPE, a shelter in Lebanon. She told the House Committee on General Laws her twin sister was murdered by her abusive husband.
She said at her sister’s funeral many people told her they wished there was something they could do. She told lawmakers, “I’m gonna put that on you all. There’s something you can do. You can get the guns away during that time that’s so volatile.”
Kile said that in her work at the shelter she has seen the patterns to domestic violence. She said for a variety of reasons, a victim often goes back to an abuser a number of times even after an order of protection or conviction has been secured.
“If I took a poll I would say that 90-percent of the people – it’s women, mostly, in our shelter – that come into our shelter have had a gun held to their head in their home, and sometimes, a gun held to their children’s head.”
The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has been pushing for passage of this change for years. Public Policy Director Jennifer Carter Dochler said even before SB 656 in 2016, Missouri had not mirrored the federal Violence Against Women Act. It gave direction to judges and law enforcement about removing guns from the hands of abusers.
What lawmakers unintentionally struck in 2016 had denied those under orders of protection or convicted of domestic assault when they applied for concealed carry permits. Under the 2016 law those permits are no longer needed.
Hicks said following the hearing he spoke to a representative of the NRA and he believes that organization will issue a letter of support for the bill.
The committee has not voted on the legislation.