|May 19, 2010
| 2010 Missouri Legislative Wrap-Up
Last Friday, May 14th,
marked the end of Missouri’s
2010 Legislative Session but the state’s budget problems are sure to continue into
next year. State lawmakers approved a $23.3 billion budget for FY ’11 that
included $484 million in cuts from Governor Nixon’s initial plan. Yet the
legislature’s failure to pass several cost-saving measures in the last week of
session means that the governor will likely have to make more immediate cuts to
balance the budget that begins July 1st.
While child advocates can count
many victories in the 2010 session—including surviving the year with mostly
minimal budget cuts—it is also clear that our victories will be few and far
between in the coming years unless we change the conversation about responsible
revenue options in this state.
This year, a third of Missouri’s legislature
is leaving office due to term limits. With 69 open state house races and 10
open senate races, the 2010 state primary and general elections will provide an
unprecedented opportunity to talk to candidates and voters about the need for
adequate revenue to invest in the education, health, and safety of Missouri’s
future depends on it.
below for a summary of this session’s victories, disappointments, and other
bills of interest and mark your
calendars for Partnership for Children’s MO Legislative Wrap-Up Luncheon on
Mon, June 7, 2010.
2010 Victories, Disappointments, & Bills of Interest (In Brief)
OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST
| 2010 MO LEGISLATIVE
Join Partnership for Children for our annual MO Legislative Wrap-Up Event, featuring several legislators from the Kansas City area! This luncheon will highlight the accomplishments for Missouri’s children and families during the 2010 legislative session as well as opportunities and challenges in moving forward for children's health, education, and safety.
Where: Kauffman Conference Center
4801 Rockhill Rd. ~ Kansas City, MO 64110
When: Monday, June 7, 2010
Time: 11:30 a.m.—1:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 per person
Lunch served at 11:30, Program begins at noon
Invited Legislators for Panel: Senator Jolie Justus, Senator Charlie Shields, Rep. Kiki Curls, Rep. Ryan Silvey
RSVP/Questions Contact: Laura Lyon Melo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Online payment will be available shortly.
Special thanks to United Way of Greater Kansas City for sponsoring this year's event.
| ~ VICTORIES ~
$38 Million Child Care Stimulus Funding Maintained
Missouri maintained sufficient state funding in the child care assistance program this year to ensure that Missouri still qualifies for $38.7 million in federal recovery funding that will be used to improve the quality and affordability of child care in FY’10-‘11. The House initially proposed a $7.4 million cut from the Governor’s FY’11 budget for child care, which would have forced the state to mail a $38 million check back to Washington for violating state maintenance of effort requirements. Lawmakers ultimately approved a $3 million cut in FY’11 that will not impact currently eligibility levels for child care assistance.
Child Care Assistance Put into Statute
Senator Justus (D-Kansas City) scored a significant victory for child care assistance this year by successfully amending her SB 625 language onto two separate bills that passed in the last week of session – HB 2290 and SB 1007. The bills codify the state child care and transitional assistance programs and require that eligibility for the programs be subject to appropriation. Though the Department of Social Services operates a $190 million budget for child care each year and serves over 43,000 children, the program is not currently in state statute.
The bill also establishes a sliding fee scale for child care assistance based on adjusted gross income, which would allow DSS to deduct certain expenses or income when determining eligibility and make it easier for some families to qualify. Many thanks to Senator Justus for her unwavering commitment to passing this bill for the past four years and to Rep. Silvey (R-Kansas City) for handling the child care amendment in the House this year.
Outreach for Children’s Health
SB 583, an omnibus insurance bill, included two provisions to improve children’s health coverage. One piece, originally sponsored by Rep. Therese Sander (R-Moberly), mandates health insurance companies to cover adopted children on the same basis as other dependents.
second section of the bill addresses a key Partnership for Children priority: outreach to uninsured kids who qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Rep. Bob Nance (R-Excelsior Springs) sponsored this amendment that requires the Department of Social Services to distribute information on CHIP eligibility criteria and application procedures to school districts and licensed family-home providers. Parents would then receive this information upon enrollment in school or child care.
A new form would also be added to applications for the Free & Reduced Lunch Program, asking parents if any of their children are uninsured. If so, families would receive information on eligibility for CHIP. Some of the language in this provision may be open to interpretation so PFC will be working closely with the department over the next year to help them implement the new law.
|Tuition Waiver for Foster Youth
In a year where budget cuts were the rule, not the exception, a new $100,000 decision item to cover college tuition for Missouri foster youth was a significant victory for some of the state’s most at-risk students. Last year Rep. Rachel Bringer (D-Palmyra) passed language authorizing a college tuition waiver for foster youth but it was unfunded. Linda Lueberring, the state’s budget director, stated during conference committee that the Governor would likely cut this new item. Given the Governor’s historic support for higher education, child advocates need to remind the Governor that our state’s at-risk foster students need more resources to overcome the barriers they face to succeeding in school and becoming productive adults.
The battle over whether insurance companies must cover treatment for children with autism has finally been settled by the passage of HB 1311. The new mandate begins January 1, 2011. In an effort to forge a compromise, the legislation caps the amount insurance companies have to pay for applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment at $40,000 per year, adjusted annually based on the federal Consumer Price Index. However, this amount MAY be exceeded if the insurance company approves it and deems it “medically” necessary. Unfortunately, the 270,000 children on Medicaid or CHIP have been exempted from this new law, as well as children whose parents work for a small business or a business that is large enough to self-insure. While this new law doesn’t go as far as we would have liked, we will be weighing in on this issue in future years to get equal treatment for ALL children.
|Cyber-Bullying Measure Passes
HB 1543, an omnibus bill relating to education and school violence, added “cyberbullying” to the list of required elements for school district anti-bullying policies. Senator Yvonne Wilson has worked on this provision for several years and PFC has supported it all along the way.
|Mega Sales Tax Fails
All of the bills that proposed significant tax increases without generating any new revenue (“Fair Tax”) failed by the session’s end. These bills would have dramatically increased the state sales tax rate to compensate for eliminating the state income tax for corporations and individuals. All non-partisan studies on the issue, including those conducted by General Assembly staff, concluded that the state’s sales tax rate would have to be nearly 10%, in addition to any local taxes. 95% of Missourians would have seen an increase in their taxes, yet this proposal would not have generated any new revenue to help support our ailing state budget. PFC believes that lawmakers should look at more responsible ways to generate revenue to help support schools, children’s health, early learning opportunities and other programs and services our state needs to thrive.
|TANF Drug-Testing Fails
It was a relief to many people who work for the betterment of children in our state that provisions to single-out low income families and subject them to drug tests failed in the last minutes of the legislative session. Several bills were proposed to require drug tests for those receiving assistance under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Individuals who fail the drug test would be required to complete a substance abuse treatment program in order to maintain TANF benefits. The state, however, would not be required to pay for the treatment program. PFC opposed this proposal because we believe the associated costs for a drug-testing program would be better directed toward substance abuse prevention and treatment programs that strengthen families and improve children’s well-being.
| ~ DISAPPOINTMENTS ~
Lawmakers Cut Budget, Ignore Revenue Options
Missouri state general revenue collections declined $1.2 billion (15%) over the past two years. This unprecedented budget shortfall led Governor Nixon to cut over $900 million mid-year from the current FY 2010 budget and urge the legislature to cut an additional $500 million from his proposed FY 2011 budget that begins July 1st.
While lawmakers willingly approved $484 million in cuts this year a full week ahead of the constitutional budget deadline, they were unwilling to even discuss other revenue and cost-saving options that would obviate the need for more devastating cuts in the next few years. Several common sense revenue solutions made little (if any) progress this year, including:
- Reigning in tax credits. Spending on tax credits has increased 57% since 2001 while state general revenue only grew 15.7% over the same time period.
- Ending sweet deal tax breaks. Sales tax exemptions for yacht owners and tax discounts for corporations that file on time (aren’t we supposed to do that?) should be repealed in favor of incentives that will actually increase jobs and put Missourians back to work.
- Extending the state sales tax to internet purchases. This would enforce a tax that should already be collected and put Missouri’s main street small businesses on an equal playing field with out-of-state internet based companies.
- Closing corporate tax loopholes. Out of the 46 states that assess a corporate income tax, Missouri ranks last in per capita collections. While local Missouri businesses pay corporate income taxes, large national companies are able to set up tax shelters in other states and avoid paying taxes on their franchise stores in our state.
- Increasing the tobacco tax. Missouri has long been the 2nd lowest taxing state for cigarettes at 17 cents a pack. Now that the South Carolina legislature voted just last week to raise its tax from 7 to 57 cents, Missouri can proudly claim the bottom title. The average state cigarette tax is $1.34/pack. An increased tobacco tax would not only raise much needed revenue for the state, it would also reduce youth smoking rates and tobacco related health costs.
58% Budget Cut to Parents as Teachers
State lawmakers ignored pleas from thousands of educators, recipients, and supporters of the Missouri-born Parents as Teachers Program, approving a 58% cut in the FY ’11 budget. Governor Nixon also single-handedly cut nearly $7 million mid-year from PAT in the current FY ’10 budget. The cuts will mean that hundreds of parent educators will lose their jobs and thousands of families will no longer receive developmental screenings and early childhood resources.
Lawmakers also passed language on an omnibus education bill (HB 1543) that removes a requirement that PAT services be free, allows school districts to establish cost-sharing strategies for services, and requires that priority be given to high-needs families. The short-sighted cuts approved this year will most likely result in increased costs in the future for special education when developmental delays aren’t caught early on and for remedial education when children enter kindergarten less prepared for success.
|Children’s Health Insurance Cut $9 million
State lawmakers cut $9 million out of the FY ‘11 budget to insure low-income children after Governor Nixon failed to fully utilize allocated funding last year. For the past year, advocacy organizations like PFC and many others encouraged the governor to fulfill his campaign promises by supporting new administrative procedures to cover uninsured kids. Though the governor’s office stated there wasn’t enough money in the budget, at the end of the year $9 million in revenue allocated for CHIP went unspent that could have covered as many as 9,000 uninsured children.
Care Safety Proposals Stall
Two bills introduced this year sought
to increase the safety of children in child care programs following the
tragic deaths of two children. HB 1614--“Nathan’s Law”—sponsored by Rep.
Rachel Storch (D-St. Louis) would have: removed an exemption for a
caregiver's related children in complying with state child/teacher ratio
laws; required license-exempt programs to disclose their exempt status
to parents; increased the fine for violating licensing laws; and
authorized DHSS to immediately close illegally operating unlicensed
child care facilities. HB 1614 was referred to committee in the House
but never received a hearing.
HB 1534—“Sam Pratt’s Law”—sponsored by Rep. Linda Fischer (D-St.
Francois) would have prohibited an unlicensed child care provider from
continuing to provide services if there are criminal charges pending
against them. Licensed providers are already subject to this
restriction. HB 1534 was referred to the House Special Committee on
Children and Families but the Chair, Rep. Cynthia Davis (R-O’Fallon),
refused to give the bill a hearing, stating that the committee’s focus
was on abortion. Senator Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville) successfully amended
the bill onto another omnibus judiciary bill in the last week of session
but that measure also failed to pass.
|~OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST~
Compromise on Gaming Funds for Early Childhood
Over the past several years, veterans groups have continually proposed legislation to redirect funding away from early learning and toward veterans programs and services. Partnership for Children worked closely with Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) to come up with compromise language this year that does not cut current funding levels. HB 1893 splits any additional revenues from entrance fees to gambling boats above FY’09 levels between Early Learning Programs and Veterans’ Service Officers until each group gets an additional $600,000. Once both groups receive $600,000, the remaining money reverts back to supporting early learning.
The bill also requires an audit of the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund and the Early Childhood Development Education & Care Fund beginning in FY 2011. In exchange for working together on a compromise, Rep. Kelly publicly stated that he would work with children’s advocates against any further proposals to take money away from early learning programs funded through gaming revenues.
SB 980, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), and HB 2346, sponsored by Rep. Rodney Schad (R-Versailles) both would have tasked the Joint Committee on Education with conducting a study on various issues related to voluntary pre-k in Missouri and to produce a report by December 2010. The study would have included the current access 3 and 4-yr-olds have to voluntary pre-k in MO, public and private funding strategies from other states, and research on the impact of state early childhood initiatives on school readiness. Though these bills did not pass, it is up to the Committee to choose its own priorities for interim studies. PFC will be working with the Joint Committee to see if some provisions of the pre-k bill may be undertaken this summer in order to help inform future efforts to increase access to high quality voluntary pre-k programs that help children succeed in school and life.
|P-20 Education System
The Senate approved but the House wanted more time to consider a proposal by Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) to combine the Departments of Higher Education and Elementary & Secondary Education. The governing boards for the two agencies would be dissolved and a new State Board of Education would include representation across the P-20 educational spectrum. The resolutions would have required a constitutional amendment and voter approval.
|School Funding Formula
While legislators debated several proposals this year to modify the school funding formula, ultimately they couldn’t achieve consensus and the language was stripped from the final omnibus education bill, HB 1543. The removed language would have limited state funding for summer school programs to only academically necessary coursework. It also would have extended the formula phase-in period and delineated how to distribute funding to schools if the state doesn’t fully fund the formula, requiring all school districts to share cuts proportionately. Failure to pass language modifying the formula means that DESE will now be responsible for dispersing the flat-funded formula.
for Children would like to thank the countless advocates here in Kansas City, in Jefferson
City and statewide, who walked the halls, made the
calls and used their voices to speak out for our children this year! Our
victories and disappointments in 2010 bolster our resolve to continue fighting
in the coming years to make Missouri
a great place to be and raise a child.
The Partnership for Children Team
Charron Townsend, Carrie Shapton, & Jeremy LaFaver
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