House Speaker Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) bid farewell to the House and his colleagues on Friday. Vescovo is leaving the chamber after 8 years due to term limits. He talked about his time and accomplishments in the chamber.
Vescovo, who went from dropping out of high school to “giving the last speech of the day” on the final day of the session, said he has lived the American dream and that for him, that dream has been about second chances.
“If we got one kid out of foster care and got them into a loving home it was worth it. If we got one kid adopted it was worth it. If we got one kid away from being abused and a terrible setting it was worth it. It was worth it without a doubt.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Representative Michael O’Donnell (R-St. Louis) received Monday a promotion to Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, on the Missouri House Chamber floor. In front of his House colleagues, O’Donnell accepted the promotion in a ceremony that combined Navy traditions with House traditions.
It was conducted by Representative Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill), a Navy veteran. House Speaker Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) and Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis) assisted in the ceremony.
The proposed tax deduction for foster care would begin January 1 and continue for six years unless extended by the legislature. Parents who foster children for at least six months would be eligible for a deduction of up to $2,500, or $5,000 for a couple filing jointly.
Those who foster for fewer than six months could apply for a prorated deduction. Kelly said extending help to those foster parents is no less important.
The Missouri House has voted to increase state financial support to sheltered workshops.
House Bill 2644 would increase from $19 to $21 dollars the amount the state pays to workshops for every six-hour or longer day worked by a handicapped employee. Backers say the boost would give those workshops and their employees more financial stability, while reaffirming the state’s support for them and the work they do.
Many lawmakers spoke while HB 2644 was before the House about the workshops in their districts and what those mean to their communities, and their employees.
Representative David Wood (R-Versailles) has been on the board of directors for a workshop in his district for more than 30 years. He said the employees of that workshop would rather be there than have a day off even on holidays.
Hermann Republican Justin Alferman said the value of workshops doesn’t only come from what they mean to their employees. He spoke about a component for air conditioner compressors that is made at a workshop in his district.
Wood said because of a combination of lagging state support and a pencil producer moving its operation from his district to the country of Mexico, the workshop he sits on the board of had to cut 45 of its employees.
HB 2644 goes to the Senate with less than two weeks left in the legislative session, but Rowland is optimistic that because of its subject matter it will receive enough attention to pass before the session’s end.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Missouri legislative Republicans’ labor reform agenda took another step Thursday with the final passage of a bill barring project labor agreements (PLAs) for public projects.
The House voted to send Senate Bill 182 to Governor Eric Greitens (R), who had called for the elimination of PLAs.
Under a PLA, a governing body requires non-union contractors to pay union dues to workers on a project. SB 182 would prohibit that, and would bar local governments from giving preferential treatment to union contractors. Governing bodies that violate the bill’s provisions would lose state funding and tax credits for two years.
Democrats called the legislation an attack on unions. Representative Bob Burns (D-St. Louis) said PLAs protect local governments by ensuring that they will have work done that is quality and completed on time by skilled workers. He said his time on a board of education in Affton provided evidence of that.
SB 182 was carried in the House by Vescovo, who began introducing such legislation as a freshman in 2015. It is expected Greitens will sign the bill into law.
The House’s passage of SB 182 follows other labor reforms it has proposed, including the passage of a right-to-work bill signed into law by Greitens earlier this year. That legislation prevents the collection of union dues or fees from workers as a condition of employment.
The House Republican supermajority advanced another piece of its labor reform agenda, with the passage of HB 126 related to project labor agreements.
The bill would bar required union agreements on public works projects. Bill sponsor, Representative Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) said project labor agreements discriminate against non-union workers and called them, “indefensible.”
The bill goes to the Senate, which has already passed similar legislation.
The House earlier this session joined the Senate in sending Governor Eric Greitens a right-to-work bill, which was signed into law earlier this month. The House also passed a bill supporters call, “paycheck protection,” which requires annual permission from a public union employee before union dues or fees can be taken from his or her paychecks.
Legislation dealing with prevailing wage laws, which make contractors pay a state-set minimum wage for trade workers on public projects, is moving through House committees and could be the next labor reform the chamber will debate.