Missourians told to repay federal unemployment can seek waiver

      The Missouri Department of Labor this month announced a waiver process for those Missourians who received federal unemployment assistance and were then told they had not been eligible for it.  Over the past few days it sent notices to Missourians who may be eligible for such a waiver.

      Any Missourian who believes they could get a waiver is encouraged to visit the Department’s unemployment system website at https://uinteract.labor.mo.gov/benefits/home.do and apply.

Representative J. Eggelston (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      House lawmakers in both parties pushed to have the state refuse to seek repayment of federal unemployment benefits.  Many had heard from constituents that the Department was demanding back money Missourians received while struggling in the midst of the COVID crisis, and typically months after it was already spent.

      Maysville Representative J. Eggleston (R) carried House Bill 1083, which he says would have accomplished the same thing as the Department’s waiver program. 

      “The feds weren’t asking for the money back so it seems silly to hassle Missourians to give back the overpayment money only to turn around and send it back to Washington D.C.,” said Eggleston.

      HB 1083 passed out of the House 157-3 in early March but did not reach the Governor’s desk.

      Lawmakers heard that some Missourians were being told the pay back in excess of $10,000 in federal and state unemployment overpayments.  The Department’s action would relieve the federal overpayment liability, which makes up the vast majority of that.

      “The Department tells me that they cannot do just a blanket forgiveness for all recipients.  Each recipient would have to apply individually, but if they go through the process and apply they can get the federal portion waived and keep that money, which probably amounted to about three-quarters of the money that they got,” said Eggleston. 

      Those who lost their job through no fault of their own and did not receive benefits owing to fraud would be eligible for a waiver.

      “The vast majority of the 47,000 Missourians effected should be eligible.  That’s my understanding,” said Eggleston.

He encourages anyone who, after applying for a waiver, continues to have problems with overpayment liability to contact their state representative or state senator.

Pronunciations:

Eggleston = (EGG-ull-stun)

House votes to waive federal unemployment overpayments, told Department of Labor will ‘call off the dogs’

      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.

Representatives Jered Taylor (left) and J. Eggleston (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      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.

Representative Ian Mackey (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      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.

       “Due to the work in the committee and due to our work the other day on the floor they have agreed to call off the dogs,” said Eggleston.

      He read from an email, “‘The Department of Labor is working to pause the collections processes as you requested,’ so this means that they will not be hassling folks for the federal portion.”

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

Pronunciations:

Eggleston = (EGG-ull-stun)

Bipartisan effort seeks best way to help Missourians who owe for unemployment overpayments

      One week after hearing from the Department of Labor about the state’s efforts to seek repayment of erroneous unemployment payments from struggling Missourians, a bipartisan slate of House members is debating the best way to provide relief.

      The Special Committee on Government Oversight has heard that of roughly $150-million in overpayments, only a small portion – roughly a quarter or less – came from the state’s unemployment trust.  State statute requires the Department to get that paid back. 

Representatives Scott Cupps and Jered Taylor (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The larger portion comes from federal covid relief, the repayment of which the federal government has said states can choose to waive.  Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) has told his Department he wants it to be paid back.

      The committee held a hearing on six bills – three filed by Republicans and three by Democrats – and a resolution filed by a Democrat, to deal with the issue.   

      The big question before lawmakers is whether to require that Missourians pay back overpayments out of the state fund.  Committee members from both parties say they would like to waive all repayment, but some are questioning whether that can be done.  They are unanimous about finding a way to waive the federal repayments, but some think the state portion might have to be recouped.

      Shell Knob Republican Scott Cupps said a priority for the Department is to maintain the integrity of the state’s unemployment trust.  His bill is one of those that would waive repayment of federal funds, but require Missourians to pay back state overpayments.

      “If you’re sitting there staring at a letter that says you owe $4,200 back that’s probably not something you’re going to be able to digest real easy.  Where if it says, ‘Hey, you owe $500 back and we’re going to be able to put you on a payment plan where you pay $50 a month for a couple of years, that’s probably something you can digest a heck of a lot easier,” said Cupps. 

      Cupps, who sits on the House Budget Committee, is one of those concerned that to waive the repayment of state benefits, the state would have to replenish the fund.  This could come from other core budget functions, such as schools or transportation. 

      St. Louis Democrat Peter Merideth, also a Budget Committee member and sponsor of the resolution, noted that Governor Parson has proposed putting $500-million in federal CARES Act relief funds into the state’s unemployment trust.  He suggests that would be a way to waive repayment of state overpayments while maintaining the fund.

Representatives LaKeySha Bosley, Ian Mackey, and Doug Clemens (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “I think that we need to not wrap ourselves in circles trying to figure out where this money’s coming from and simply recognize that if we think this is an important form of the relief, well the federal government has given us $2-billion in relief money to use right now.  Let’s use that,” said Merideth.

      Cupps and other Republicans said they would consider that option. 

“The main thing that I talked to the Department about was maintaining the integrity of the trust,” said Cupps.  “If it’s already been discussed that we were gonna throw some CARES Act money in there … it is something that could be a tool in the toolbox … it’s something we maybe should look at.”

      Five of the six bills filed are largely the same.  Committee Chairman Jered Taylor (R-Republic), the sponsor of one of them, said his intention is to pare them down into one bill and to have the committee vote next week on that and the resolution.

The legislation dealing with unemployment overpayments includes: House Bill 1085 (Taylor), House Bill 1083 (J. Eggleston – R, Maysville), House Bill 1050 (Cupps), House Bill 1036 (LaKeySha Bosley – D, St. Louis), House Bill 1035 (Doug Clemens – D, St. Ann), House Bill 873 (Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis), and House Concurrent Resolution 30 (Merideth).

Earlier story: House Members Denounce State’s Seeking Payback of Unemployment Benefits

House members denounce state’s seeking payback of unemployment benefits

      House members from both parties are not happy that Missourians are being asked to pay back unemployment assistance they received in error through no fault of their own.

      Department of Labor Director Anna Hui told the Special Committee on Government Oversight overpayments are “kind of built into” the unemployment system.  The Department is expected to make an eligibility determination and get a payment out to an applicant within 14 days, generally based solely on information provided by the applicant.  As additional information comes in, often from the applicant’s current or past employers, it could prove he or she was not eligible.

Missouri Department of Labor Director Anna Hui (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

She said for 2020 that amounted to about $150-million in benefits that the Department paid out and now wants back.

Hui told the committee Governor Mike Parson (R) has made clear that he wants the Department to seek collection of those overpayments, viewing them as taxpayer dollars that went to ineligible individuals. 

      Several legislators said they have heard from constituents who have been asked to pay back thousands of dollars in state or federal relief, sometimes months after they received it.  One constituent was asked to repay about $23,000.

      “You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a more fiscally conservative person in here than me, but I think we screwed up as a state government, to ask folks [for that money] back this late in the game,” said Representative J. Eggleston (R-Maysville).   

      St. Ann representative Doug Clemens (D) said for Missouri to ask people already struggling financially due to covid to pay back thousands of dollars is wrong.

      “Need I remind you of our median income in this state?  Most people in my district make $26,000 a year, and you’re asking for $11,000 payback?” said Clemens.  “We’re talking about keeping Missouri’s economy going.  We’re talking about equity and conscience … [It’s] taxpayers’ money, it’s these people’s money, and frankly we’re in a crisis.  They need to keep it. 

      “Because that money’s already spent on mortgage, it’s already spent on food on the table, and frankly we have a responsibility to the common welfare here.”

      Representatives, including Raychel Proudie (D-Ferguson), said the reasons given to individuals for their ineligibility were not always clear. She read a letter the Department sent to one of her constituents telling them they had to repay for a “miscellaneous reason.”  Proudie called that “unacceptable.”

      “As a State of Missouri employee and someone elected, I sincerely apologize that this was the caliber of correspondence you got from a state agency because it tells you nothing … how dare us do that?” said Proudie.

Members of the House Committee on Government Oversight, including (front row, from left) Reps. Tony Lovasco, Scott Cupps, Doug Clemens, (next row, from left) Richard Brown, Mark Ellebracht, and Raychel Proudie (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Federal directives have given states the option not to require repayment of assistance from the federal government, which makes up the majority of the $150-million the Department overpaid.  Hui explained that Missouri is choosing to seek repayment of federal relief. 

Proudie thinks the state shouldn’t be expending its resources to pull money from Missouri’s economy just to send it back to the federal government, and Representative Scott Cupps (R-Shell Knob) agrees.

      “It may be as low as only $30-million of it’s from the [state] trust and $120-million of it is federal funds … you are not going to catch Scott Cupps in favor of rounding up money out of Missouri’s economy and sending it to Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden in Washington D.C.” said Cupps.  “The feds are literally telling us, ‘Hey, forgive it.  Forgive it.’”

The Department is required by state statute to collect overpayments out of the state fund.

      Dan Thacker represents a union including about 500 school bus drivers and monitors.  He said many of them make salaries that would put them near the poverty level, yet roughly 400 are being asked to pay back thousands of dollars.

      “Now we want to take $9,000, $10,000 back from them?  Where are they going to get it?  These are hardworking individuals that did nothing wrong or fraudulent.  They simply did exactly what was urged for them by the Missouri Department of Labor.”

      St. Joseph Republican Bill Falkner said any legislative action will have to balance the waiving of repayment by Missourians with protecting businesses, as some of these overpayments are charged to them.

      “There’s consequences to every action that we want to do … we have to keep in mind what we can do for those businesses to protect them so we’re not asking them to pay for a mistake,” said Falkner. 

      Committee members also spoke directly to Missourians during the hearing.  Cupps said the repayment situation is adding to already heightened stress for struggling Missourians.  He wants them to know he and other legislators are paying attention, and are looking for a solution.

      “There’s somebody that could get a letter in the mail that could say that they owe the state $7,200 back, and there could be divorces because of this,” said Cupps.  “I want people to know this:  do not do anything dumb because the state has sent you a letter that says you owe them money.  Don’t do it.  If you’re stressed out about it stop being stressed.” 

Representative Jered Taylor chairs the House Special Committee on Government Oversight (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Liberty representative Mark Ellebracht (D) asked Hui whether it makes financial sense for Missouri to seek these repayments.

      “If all of these people begin to appeal … how much money are we looking at spending here … are we tripping over the dollars to get to the dimes when it comes to actually recouping this money?”

      Hui told the committee that Missouri is on pace to need a loan to support the state’s unemployment trust, likely by around June.  She did not offer a projection of how great that loan might be.  She said this could cause employers to have to pay more, as that loan is repaid.

      Witnesses and lawmakers alike suggested that repayment decisions have seemed arbitrary and inconsistent, with some people being ordered to pay back only federal funds, some to pay back only state funds, and some told to pay everything or nothing. 

      Three Democrats have filed bills to address unemployment relief overpayments:  Clemens, LaKeySha Bosley (St. Louis), and Peter Merideth (St. Louis).  The committee’s chairman, Jered Taylor (R-Republic) and Representative Cupps are developing proposals.

Bill rolling back vehicle inspection requirement signed into law

If you renew the license plates on your vehicle after August 28* you might not have to get it inspected, under a bill signed into law this month.

Representative J. Eggleston (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Senate Bill 89 will extend from five to ten years the age of a vehicle before it must be inspected every two years, as long as it has fewer than 150,000 miles on it.

That provision was sponsored by Representative J. Eggleston (R-Maysville).  He had discussed vehicle inspections with a former representative who wanted to eliminate them altogether.  Eggleston initially thought that would go too far, but after doing some research, he felt that there was little connection between requiring regular inspections and ensuring that vehicles on the roads are safe.

“Come to find out that 35 states no longer make their citizens get their cars inspected at all, including all of the states that touch Missouri, and I was very surprised to learn that.  So that gave us the data we needed to dig in to compare the states that do have inspection programs to the states that don’t to see if there really is any safety correlation or not and I was very surprised to learn there really doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation,” said Eggleston.  “Over time we were able to settle on the fact that maybe we don’t want to get rid of the program but we could pare it back some and make it less of a hassle for Missourians, especially for cars that aren’t that old or haven’t been driven that much that, by and large, don’t end up with any mechanical-related accidents anyway.”

Eggleston said the change in law would apply to roughly half of the vehicles that currently would have to be inspected and a third of the total number of vehicles on the road today.

The proposal cleared both chambers, but was met with vocal opposition from some lawmakers who thought it would make Missouri roads less safe.  St. Louis representative Donna Baringer (D) said one can look at how many cars are on Missouri roads with expired temp tags to see that people won’t be responsible enough to get vehicle inspections.

“If people are not willing to even get a permanent plate or car insurance, they surely will not bother ever getting their car inspected.  I feel this is just one more thing that, unfortunately right now, citizens … don’t feel the responsibility,” said Baringer.  “It’s not just about protecting their safety in driving a car but it’s about protecting my safety, and so I think there’ll be more cars on the road that should not be on the road.”

Representative Donna Baringer (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Baringer said she doesn’t think vehicles in states that don’t require inspections are as safe as those in states that do, regardless of what statistics might show.  She said she sees evidence of that daily in cars that cross into her St. Louis district from neighboring Illinois.

“As I was driving down 55 the other day the car next to me had Illinois plates.  It actually had tape holding the bumper together.  The tires were bald, and it hydroplaned around the corner,” said Baringer.  “Had it hit me that would’ve meant my life was in danger because they didn’t bother to put tires on their car, much less do anything but tape the parts that were falling off.  So it isn’t better in the states that don’t have the inspections.”

Eggleston thinks time will tell Missourians won’t be less safe under these changes to the inspection program.

“Cars have definitely improved in their safety features and their longevity since the days when the inspection program came about.  The program started with, actually, a federal mandate back in the ‘60s, but in the 1970s the federal government backed off of that and said they would leave it up to the states, and one-by-one from the ‘70s up until just a couple of years ago 35 states have gotten rid of their program altogether,” said Eggleston.  “What we’re doing to roll this back a little bit is not an unheard of thing, and I don’t anticipate any statistical change in safety at all.”

Eggleston’s original bill, HB 451, passed out of the House in March, 102-45.

SB 89 also includes provisions that require the revocation of the driver’s license of a person who hits a highway worker or emergency responder in a work or emergency zone; and require that all homemade trailers be inspected.

  • An earlier version of this story said the vehicle inspection law changes take effect January 1, 2020.  It was learned that provision was not included in SB 89, so the changes take effect August 28, 2019.

House votes to roll back, rather than eliminate, vehicle inspection requirements

The state House has backed off of a proposal to eliminate vehicle inspections in Missouri.  Instead it proposes that inspections would not be required until a vehicle is 10 years old or has more than 150,000 miles on it.

Representative J. Eggleston (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Comm unications)

An earlier version of House Bill 451 would have done away with inspections for non-commercial vehicles in Missouri.  Bill sponsor J. Eggleston (R-Maysville) said he knew his colleagues had a lot of concerns about that idea, so he reworked it.

“While everyone kind of agrees that cars have gotten a lot better – crumple zones, air bags, and other safety features that have been put in that make them last longer and safer than they used to be – not everybody was cool on totally getting rid of the inspection program altogether,” said Eggleston.

Earlier story:  Missouri House adopts bill that would eliminate vehicle inspection requirement

Eggleston said he talked to more than 100 House members from both parties about their issues with the bill before arriving at the current language.  It would push back from 5 years to 10 the age at which regular inspections of a vehicle must be done, and creates the requirement that inspections begin when a vehicle has 150,000 miles on it.

Many lawmakers said they were pleased with the changes and Eggleston’s efforts to step back from his original proposal, but some still opposed the bill.

St. Louis representative Donna Baringer (D) argued that rolling back the vehicle inspection requirement will allow more unsafe vehicles on the road.

“While I am responsible and I will have my car inspected, we had 16,000 people that were driving in 2018 on our roads that didn’t care, and it’s their lack of actions that will end up killing me on the highway,” said Baringer.

Baringer said there is no automatic way for the state to know when a given vehicle has reached 150,000 miles until it is sold.

“We’re doing it on your honor on the 150,000 miles and I have a feeling that there’s a lot of people that will not do that on their honor,” said Baringer.

Representative Donna Baringer (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Doug Beck (D-St. Louis) said inspections target parts that wear down over time and should receive regular attention.

“I go down the road sometimes and I see some cars on the side of me that I’m real suspect if they’ve gone through any type of inspection … that will increase tenfold and we’ll have a lot of cars out there that shouldn’t be on the road, and I think it’s going to endanger families’ lives – innocent people that live by the law and do what they’re supposed to do,” said Beck.

Some argued HB 451 no longer goes far enough and argued it should still propose a complete elimination of vehicle inspections.  They said none of Missouri’s eight border states require inspections.

“Have you ever driven through any of those states?” Steelville Republican Jason Chipman asked Eggleston.

“Sure,” said the bill sponsor.

“How did you make it back here?  It must have been dodging all those terrible vehicles that don’t get inspections that are just falling apart constantly.  How did you make it back to this body?” a sarcastic Chipman asked.

“You know, it really didn’t look a whole lot different [from] our state,” said Eggleston.

Eggleston stressed that school bus inspections in Missouri would not be changed under his legislation, and used cars will face the same inspection requirements they do now.

The House voted 102-45 to send his bill to the Senate.

Missouri House adopts bill that would eliminate vehicle inspection requirement

The Missouri House has advanced a proposal to join 35 other states in eliminating the requirement that motor vehicles be inspected in order to be licensed.

Maysville Republican J. Eggleston said he was originally opposed to eliminating vehicle inspections in Missouri, but his research caused him to change his mind and be a sponsor of the idea. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Bill 451 is sponsored by Maysville Republican J. Eggleston, who said when the idea was introduced to him he was opposed to it.  Then he started doing research and found himself convinced that eliminating the state’s vehicle inspection program wouldn’t make Missouri roads any less safe.

“My daughter, my son, my wife, who drive on our roads, who I love more than life itself, I do not want to endanger them one iota.  If I thought for a second this would harm their safety I would not bring this forward,” said Eggleston.

Eggleston said in his research he found no direct correlation between whether a state requires inspections and the number of crashes that occur there or how high its insurance rates are.  He said the 15 states that still require inspections actually have a slightly higher rate of fatal accidents.

Eggleston said eliminating the program would lift significant burdens from Missourians, who pay $30-million a year in inspection fees, and must take time off from work and make other sacrifices to get inspections done.

“The other pushback is sometimes, ‘Well if it just saves one life then wouldn’t it be worth it to inconvenience everybody?’  I’m not sure that taxing or inconveniencing everybody on the odd chance you might help somebody, even though we can’t prove we’re going to help anybody, is sound government policy,” said Eggleston.  “I think if the government’s going to make you go through some hassle or pay some fee they better have some stats to back it up that it’s actually making a positive difference.”

Boonville Republican Dave Muntzel said based on reports to the Missouri Highway Patrol from vehicle inspections done in the state, 18-percent of vehicles 5 or more years old do not pass inspection, and 25-percent of vehicles 10 or more years old don’t pass.

“Now we’re wanting to take vehicle inspections away and put these vehicles on the road?  I don’t want any of them coming down the road at me and steering going one way or the other, or if they have to stop, or if my grandchildren happen to walk out in the street and they get hit by a car that’s got defective brakes on it.  I don’t want that to happen,” said Muntzel.

Representative Donna Baringer (D-St. Louis) said no one came to testify in favor of this bill before a House committee but many people came from throughout the state to testify against it.  She noted that in 2017, 15 people died in accidents related to vehicles with safety defects; and more than 15-thousand people were cited for failure to register a vehicle with the Department of Revenue.

“If we already have almost 16,000 people who do not want to get their cars inspected and we already have 15 people who have died in this state, if we do away with the safety inspections do we triple that number, or is it going to be a free-for-all, and it won’t be 15 Missourians.  Will it be 50, 85; at what point does each one of those lives count?” asked Baringer.

Other lawmakers said mechanical problems with vehicles will be caught in a timely manner by regular visits to mechanics for things like oil changes, making state-required inspections unnecessary.

Ash Grove Republican Mike Moon said regular maintenance shouldn’t be mandated by the state.

“It’s our responsibility as individuals to make sure that our vehicles operate properly and safely on the roadways, and if they don’t it’s our responsibility to make sure those repairs are done in a timely manner, not waiting for an inspection,” said Moon.

The House has given initial approval to HB 451.  Another favorable vote would send it to the Senate.

House approves limited medical marijuana proposal

The Missouri House has voted to allow those suffering from terminal and debilitating conditions to use medical marijuana.  The proposal now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Representative Jim Neely sponsored HB 1554, a medical marijuana proposal, that the House sent to the Senate on May 1, 2018. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

House Bill 1554 would expand on a law passed in 2014 that allows the use of a cannabis extract, cannabidiol (CBD) oil, to treat intractable epilepsy.  If HB 1554 became law, a patient suffering from conditions including cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder could use medical marijuana if a doctor signs a statement saying he or she could benefit from its use and that all options approved by the Food and Drug Administration have been considered.

The House voted 112-44 to send that bill to the Senate, but some Republicans spoke against IT even though it is sponsored by one of their fellows.

Pacific Republican Kirk Mathews said the legislative process is not the proper way for a drug to be approved.

“I don’t know of any other medicines that become medicine by an act of the legislature versus the process that we’ve gone through for years in the history of our country and medicine in our country, with FDA clinical trials, double-blind studies, etcetera, etcetera,” said Mathews.

He also argued that the bill is too broad in what conditions it would allow medical marijuana to be used for, because it would allow the Department of Health and Senior Services to add conditions to that list if at least ten physicians sign a petition calling for it to be added.

“We don’t know what conditions we are allowing this to be used for if we pass this bill,” said Mathews.

Representative J. Eggleston (R-Maysville) said passing HB 1554 would send Missouri down a similar path to that the nation has taken with opioids.  Those are now seen as the crux of a health crisis, but they started off as a way to treat pain.

Representative Kirk Mathews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

“Surely the companies behind them would only care about relieving others’ pain and doctors would only prescribe for that reason, and the recipients would only use them for that reason and not use them for that reason and not use them for recreational fashion, and surely it wouldn’t get away from us to where other people would rob medicine cabinets or things like that, and yet all of that stuff is happening.  Now we’re having to deal with the aftermath of those unintended consequences,” said Eggleston.

The bill was sent to the Senate on the strength of bipartisan support.  Representative Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills) told bill sponsor Jim Neely (R-Camdenton), who is a doctor, that he hoped the bill would become law.

“I know in your career you’ve seen a lot of different things, seen a lot of people that have been impacted, and maybe in your thinking, you’re like, ‘Hey, this might help them get through life or increase their standard of living,’ so just wanted to thank you for it,” said Smith.

The bill also earned support from some in House leadership, including the Majority Floor Leader, Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold).

“I think [Representative Neely] has done a fantastic, fabulous job, channeling this down to what the members of this body wanted to see,” said Vescovo.  “I’m going to go ahead and cast my vote for the terminally ill in my district and across the state.”

HB 1554 goes to the Senate with less than three weeks remaining in the legislative session.

Earlier stories:  

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Wife and Missouri state rep. both recovering after three-way, cross-country kidney transplant

A state representative’s wife and he are recovering after a three-way kidney transplant that she needed to save her life.

Representative J. Eggleston (second from left) and his wife Cathie were joined by their daughter Stefanie and son Nick at the governor’s inauguration, January 9, 2017. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Cathie Eggleston, wife of Maysville representative J. Eggleston (R), was in need of the transplant.  J. Eggleston learned he wasn’t a match to donate to her directly, but through the Kidney Paired Donation program he donated a kidney to a patient in Michigan.  That patient’s friend donated a kidney to someone elsewhere in the U.S., and that recipient’s friend donated a kidney to Cathie.

The first round of surgeries began around 5 a.m. Wednesday, with the second round beginning around 2 p.m. that afternoon.  All were completed successfully and Cathie and J. Eggleston are recovering.

“I’m grateful for the other donors, the other recipients who have stepped forward.  We would love to meet them some day,” said Rep. Eggleston.  “We’re not allowed to know anything about them but after it’s all said and done if everybody gives permission to have their identities revealed to each other we’d love to get to know them and thank them for their gift.”

Eggleston said his wife was down to about 15-percent kidney function as of her latest appointment.  Without a donation she would have had to go to dialysis each day for the rest of her life.  He said she was expected to live about five years if she went on dialysis.

Cathie’s journey began roughly a year ago when she went to a doctor who discovered she had extremely high blood pressure.

Some will know Cathie Eggleston for her frequent visits to the Missouri House, during which she often brings cookies. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Hers was at about 210,” said J. Eggleston.  “In the process of doing all the tests they learned that her kidney function was severely hampered.  It was at only about 20-percent of what kidney function should be.  Over the years she had developed symptoms of fatigue that we just chalked up to aging but they said no, it’s the fact that her kidneys were not filtering her blood properly.”

J. Eggleston said he’s grateful that the KPD program exists. He encourages everyone to take advantage of any opportunity to donate organs, including by filling out the donation form on the back of a Missouri driver’s license.

“Obviously check it out, but I don’t see any reason why anyone wouldn’t want to sign up for that at the DMV knowing that the last thing you may do on this planet is to save the life of anywhere from one to eight other people with your donations,” said Eggleston.  “As far as live donations with your friends, ask them.  If you know they’re going through some kidney issues, they have been briefed on the procedures by their doctors and the coordinators for all of this and they can put you in contact with other people whose job it is to have the donor in mind.”

Cathie Eggleston will spend about six weeks recovering.  J. will need about three weeks before he returns to the Capitol.  The couple will spend part of that time staying with their son in Smithville and being helped by Cathie’s sister who will come from her home in North Dakota for a few weeks.

J. Eggleston thanks his son and sister-in-law, as well as several representatives who have agreed to handle legislation he has filed while he recovers.

About 18,000 people receive kidney transplants in the U.S. each year.  Roughly 12,000 of those come from deceased donors and the remainder from friends or loved ones.  About 100,000 people are on the waiting list hoping to receive a kidney.