First half of session is over

By State Rep. Bennie Cook, Missouri's 143rd District
Posted 3/15/23

As the 2023 session reaches its midpoint, several pieces of legislation are headed to the Senate. From vital public safety legislation to measures that would improve access to healthcare, House …

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First half of session is over


As the 2023 session reaches its midpoint, several pieces of legislation are headed to the Senate. From vital public safety legislation to measures that would improve access to healthcare, House members gave their stamp of approval to legislative proposals that would positively impact Missourians from all walks of life in all parts of the state.

This session 30 House Bills have been sent to the Senate including one piece of legislation truly agreed to by both chambers and signed into law by the governor. Lawmakers will have until Friday, May 12 to have their legislative priorities approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the governor’s desk.

Some of the priority bills approved during the first half of the legislative session include:

Reform the Initiative Petition Process (HJR 43) is a proposed change to the constitution that would allow voters to decide if the state should raise the threshold to modify the constitution in the future. The key component of HJR 43 would change the threshold required to approve changes to the state constitution. Currently, changes to the constitution require only a simple majority for approval. If approved by the legislature and voters, HJR 43 would raise the threshold to 60 percent voter approval for passage. The legislation also requires that voters in each congressional district have the opportunity to review and comment upon all initiative petitions proposing amendments to the constitution. The secretary of state would administer the public forums, which would take place at least 15 days before the measure appears on the ballot. Another portion of HJR 43 would clarify that only citizens of the United States of America who are residents of the State of Missouri and who are properly registered to vote in the State of Missouri will be considered legal voters.

Curbing Violent Crime - HB 301 is a wide-ranging public safety bill that includes a key provision that would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in areas of the state with an excessive homicide rate. The bill specifies the governor would be empowered to appoint a prosecutor in any circuit or prosecuting attorney’s jurisdiction that has a homicide rate in excess of 35 cases per 100,000 people and where the governor determines there is a threat to public safety and health. The bill also contains several other provisions designed to improve public safety in Missouri.

Supporting Law Enforcement - HBs 702, 53, 213, 216, 306 & 359 will take the politics out of policing by placing the St. Louis Police Department under the control of a state-appointed board of commissioners, which will stabilize the department so it can perform the basic job of law enforcement. The bill also specifies that the board must appoint and employ a permanent police force of no less than 1,313 patrolmen. Additionally, the bill requires the board to increase annual salaries for officers by at least $4,000 by July 1, 2024.

Improving Police Officer Pay - HBs 640 & 729 will help the Kansas City Police Department attract and retain the very best law enforcement personnel by allowing the department to offer better pay to officers and the chief of police. The legislation would eliminate the current authorized salary ceiling for the Kansas City police chief and allow the Board of Police Commissioners to establish a salary ceiling by resolution. The bill would also eliminate the existing salary ceilings for police officers, computed according to rank, and empower the board to use the salary minimums as a base in pay ranges for officers in crafting their comprehensive pay schedule program.

Ensuring Ballot Transparency - HB 186 would make good on the responsibility of the government to ensure voters are as informed as possible by implementing new ballot transparency requirements. The bill specifies the election authority for a political subdivision or special district must label taxation-related ballot measures submitted by the political subdivision or special district numerically or alphabetically, and the ballot measures cannot be labeled in any other descriptive manner. The bill also requires any ballot measure seeking approval to add, change, or modify a tax on real property to express the effect of the proposed change within the ballot language in terms of the change in real dollars owed per $100,000 of a property’s market valuation.

Developing Missouri’s Workforce - HB 417 will help employers develop and retain skilled workers by allowing the Department of Economic Development to award grants to qualifying employers for each employee or prospective employee who obtains upskill credentials. Credentials that could be eligible under the program include manufacturing technology, cybersecurity, blueprint reading, medical assistants, pharmacy technician and medical records coding.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship - HB 268 establishes the “Regulatory Sandbox Act” to allow innovators, entrepreneurs, and individuals who are trying to bring new services and products to the market a way to do that outside of the current regulatory framework. The bill would create the Regulatory Relief Office within the Department of Economic Development. The office would then be responsible for reviewing and approving or denying applications to participate in the Sandbox Program.

Ensuring Access to Life-Saving Exams - HBs 575 & 910 ensures coverage for diagnostic breast examinations and supplemental exams will not have a copay or deductible in an effort to ensure women have access to these life-saving exams. The bill specifies that any health carrier or health benefit plan that offers or issues health benefit plans that provide coverage for diagnostic breast examinations, coverage for supplemental breast examinations, low-dose mammography screenings, breast magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasounds, or any combination of such coverages cannot impose any deductible, coinsurance, co-payment, or similar out-of-pocket expense with respect to such coverage.

Expanding Access to Physical Therapy - HBs 115 & 99 promotes individual choice in health care decisions through the elimination of unnecessary and burdensome regulations to allow patients to have direct access to physical therapy. Under the bill, a physical therapist would no longer need a prescription or referral from a doctor in order to evaluate and initiate treatment on a patient. The bill states the physical therapist must refer to an approved health care provider any patient whose condition is beyond the physical therapist’s scope of practice, or any patient who does not demonstrate measurable or functional improvement after 10 visits or 30 days, whichever occurs first.

Providing Property Tax Relief - HB 713 would change current state law that requires assessors to determine vehicle values by using the National Automobile Dealers’ Association Official Used Car Guide. The bill would repeal that requirement and instead have assessors use the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for all vehicles for the original value of all motor vehicle assessment valuations. The bill establishes a 15-year depreciation schedule that would be applied to the MSRP to develop the annual and historical valuation guide for all motor vehicles.

Protecting Missouri Farmland - HBs 903, 465, 430 & 499 is a critical national security bill that would protect fair competition and limit foreign ownership of Missouri farmland by defined enemies of the United States of America. The bill approved by the House would limit foreign ownership of Missouri farmland to 0.5%, from the current restriction in statute of 1%. The bill also would prohibit a foreign business from certain countries from purchasing any land in the state. Nations on the “Restrictive Country” list in the bill are defined as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. The bill encourages friends and allies of the United States to continue cooperating with Missouri-based companies, especially in agriculture research and development.

This week I introduced House Bill 1207 in the Rural Development Committee. This bill would reduce burdensome regulations on Limestone Quarries.


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