Representative Jim Neely's Capitol Report
Legislature Acts to Expand Treatment Services for Veterans (HB 547)
During the 2019 session, the Missouri General Assembly approved legislation meant to help veterans who find themselves on the wrong side of the law because of mental illness or addiction to alcohol and drugs. The bill will help ensure every circuit court in the State of Missouri will have at least one veterans treatment court in its jurisdiction.
Treatment courts utilize an intensive program of court supervision, drug or alcohol testing, and rehabilitation to help defendants overcome substance abuse, mental, emotional, or behavioral issues and keep them from re-offending. Veterans treatment courts specifically focus on those who have served or currently serve in the military. Many of their needs, including drug testing, utilize the Veterans Administration’s services.
The bill requires that all circuit courts establish a treatment court division by Aug. 28, 2021. The bill also states that it is the public policy of the state to encourage and provide an alternative method for the disposal of cases for military veterans and current military personnel with substance use disorders, mental health disorders, or co-occurring disorders. The bill also specifies that veterans who have been in combat would be given preference by courts in determining whether to have their cases handled by a veterans court.
Because of the traumatic experiences soldiers can experience in combat, many veterans turn to alcohol and drugs and end up on the wrong side of the law. The veterans treatment courts throughout the state will give these men and women an opportunity to clear their names, to get a clean record, and give them a second chance at life, but more importantly it will show them that we have not given up on them. The bill is currently on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature to become law.
Million Dollar Boondoggle Act Awaits Governor’s Signature to Become Law (HB 1088)
Another bill given final approval by the General Assembly this year is meant to protect taxpayer dollars from expensive projects that run over budget or behind schedule. Known as the Million Dollar Boondoggle Act, the bill is meant to increase transparency for taxpayers so they are aware of what the state is doing with their tax dollars.
The legislation requires the Office of Administration to submit a report on specified projects that are one year behind schedule or $1 million or more over original cost estimates to the General Assembly. The report will also be posted to the Office of Administration website.
The bill would require the Office of Administration to report on capital improvement, building, renovation, or construction projects or any information technology project of any type that is funded by an executive agency using only funds appropriated by the General Assembly.
This is a bipartisan bill that simply creates an automatic alert system to the General Assembly to address these problems before they become a bottomless money pit of taxpayer dollars. With this we can identify projects that are significantly over budget or behind schedule to hopefully stop future boondoggles. The bill will become law with the governor’s signature.
Judge Rules Against Legislature’s Pro-Life Efforts
The efforts of the strongly pro-life Missouri General Assembly to deny funding to abortion providers suffered a setback recently. A St. Louis circuit court judge ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood and against the legislature’s efforts to deny funding to this organization that runs the only clinic in the state that provides abortions.
Lawmakers had approved language in the budget to block Medicaid funding from going to abortion facilities or any affiliate or associate. Planned Parenthood then sued the state saying the state should not penalize its clinics that provide preventative health care and not abortion. The circuit court judge sided with Planned Parenthood, writing, “eligible individuals are allowed to choose the provider they wish to see and the state is required to pay for those services on behalf of the eligible individuals.”
Gov. Mike Parson responded to the decision by saying it would be appealed. He said, “Our office is still reviewing the court’s decision, however, we will always defend our position that no taxpayer dollars should be used to fund abortion.” A spokesman for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office also confirmed the state was considering an appeal. I was glad to hear the Governor’s and the Attorney General’s comments on this matter.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Jim.Neely@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-0246.