As the 2016 Missouri legislative session gets underway, Pettis County’s four state representatives are working on bills of their own.
According to state Rep. Dave Muntzel, R-Boonville, about 800 bills have already been filed for this session, which began Wednesday, and each Pettis representative has their name attached to at least one.
Dean Dohrman, R-La Monte, is vice chair of the Higher Education Committee and one of his bills is aimed at helping students applying and transferring to colleges.
“A big one is developing a statewide student portal so students can go on, get information about programs at various universities and colleges around the state — how to transfer, bringing in credits, alternative credit avenues and that sort of thing,” he explained. “It would be a very handy tool in today’s world where many students go to multiple institutions before they graduate or an adult is looking to continue education and would like to transfer in. It’s not an expensive thing, just something we need to make a priority.”
Dohrman has also filed HB 1637, which would be a course in first amendment freedom of speech, discussing the original meaning, how it’s been interpreted over the years and examples of what happens when free speech is suppressed.
Muntzel has HB 1675, which would allow county commissions to temporarily appoint a county official if that person dies or is critically ill and can no longer serve until the governor is able to appoint a permanent replacement.
“It deals with not allowing the governor, regardless of current or in the future, to have the authority to shut down some of our county offices,” he said. “In Cooper County, near Boonville, we had our county collector that passed away. Current statute allows the governor to take up to 90 days to appoint a replacement; in the meantime that office is closed. The collector of course collects taxes, and if that office closes the county can’t take in taxes.
“… This bill does not supersede any authority the governor has, it just gives local commissioners in that county the authority to temporarily appoint someone to avoid closing that office.”
State Rep. and Speaker Pro Tem Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, is focusing on two bills this session, the first relating to small businesses with HB 1870.
The Big Government Get Off My Back Act is up for renewal — Hoskins got it passed five years ago. The bill states there will be no new rules or regulations implemented for small businesses with 50 employees or fewer. It also states businesses who hire employees and pay at least the average county wage will receive a $10,000 tax deduction and another $10,000 deduction if the business pays for at least half of health insurance premiums for employees.
“In 2013, it helped around 200 businesses hire an additional 300 people across the State of Missouri,” he said. “This bill is definitely meant for main street businesses, not Wall Street businesses. It’s to help small business owners continue to operate in small towns and help out our economy.”
He’s also working on the Step Therapy Bill, which could impact citizens who struggle with chronic diseases such as diabetes or MS. Hoskins said if a patient tries three different medications prescribed by their doctor and finally lands on the third as being successful, they may have to go through that process all over again if they switch insurance or prescription drug companies.
“If you change companies or there’s a new policy that comes out and they say ‘you need to try prescription one,’ and you tell them, ‘well I’ve tried that for three months and it didn’t work,’ the company will tell you, ‘well that doesn’t matter, you have to do the steps to get to the third level prescription,’” Hoskins explained. “… My bill would say doctor and patient knows what medicine works best for them. If a doctor prescribes the step three drug, the patient would not have to go through one and two — they’d automatically go to the step three drug if you change companies etc., because you’ve already tried it and it didn’t work.
“I think I comes down to doing what’s best for doctors and patients,” he said. “Ultimately a doctor and his patient know what prescription drugs work best on the patient, not an insurance company.”
State Rep. Nathan Beard, R-Sedalia, is working on several bills, with a few in draft stage that haven’t been filed. Two pertain to things he has noticed as a family law attorney. He said there are state statutes in place that allow parents who are unable to adequately care for their children to receive help from a third party, such as grandparents, who step in and petition for guardianship rights.
His concern is that while the statute is meant to be a temporary fix to help parents, it does not have any language granting the parents visitation rights. His bill would change the statute language to allow parents to petition for visitation time during a guardianship period.
“It’s been a problem because maybe you need guardianship for three years. If the parents aren’t having any contact with the children, that’s a problem,” Beard said. “While they’re trying to get their life together, even if it has to be supervised, they need to have contact with the children so that vital relationship doesn’t rupture into worse problems.”
Beard filed a more procedural bill last year that will come up in this session that would help attorneys with modifications of child support, custody and family law issues.
His bill would make the state uniform when it comes to serving subjects who requested the modification — at this time, the western district does not require service when a modification is requested, while the eastern district considers modifications to be a new lawsuit that requires service from a sheriff’s office. Beard would like the entire state to follow the eastern district’s model to prevent lawyers from “jumping through all sorts of hoops.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.