Representative Jim Neely's Capitol Report
Greetings Friends of the 8th District!
We have had many visitors from the district this week. Thank you for stopping by as you are always welcomed. Hopefully Spring is right around the corner.
House Approves Bill to Require Adequate Training for County Coroners (HB 1435)
Legislation approved by the Missouri House would ensure county coroners receive adequate training to properly perform their job duties. The bill would establish a Coroner Standards and Training Commission to establish training standards for the office of county coroner.
Known as the “Jayke Minor Act,” the bill is named in honor of a young man whose death in 2011 was initially ruled to be the result of a drug overdose with no autopsy conducted. Toxicology results later ruled out a drug overdose and the coroner changed his findings. Minor’s father has worked to get the bill passed to ensure county coroners have adequate training and to make sure what happened to his family doesn’t happen to others.
The sponsor of the bill noted that coroners can have any type of background and may not have the training they need to do the job. He said it’s especially a problem in rural Missouri where they don’t have medical examiners.
The commission created by the bill would establish training standards relating to the operation, responsibilities, and technical skills of the office of county coroner. The bill would also establish a $1 fee for any death certificate issued and use these funds to pay for training for county coroners.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
House Gives Initial Approval to PDMP Bill (HB 1693)
The Missouri House has given preliminary approval to a statewide monitoring program that supporters say will help combat prescription drug abuse.
Missouri is the only state in the nation without a statewide program, though a program started by St. Louis County encompasses roughly 87 percent of the state’s population. House Bill 1693 would replace St. Louis County’s program with one that covers all of Missouri and puts additional protections in place for those whose data would be in the monitoring program.
It would create an online database that doctors and pharmacists could use to record and monitor the purchases of pills and visits to pharmacies. The sponsor of the bill said it would help fight what has been called an “epidemic” of prescription drug use.
“I ask that you all hear me say that this is not a silver bullet. I have said that now for eight years, but as all states have said, this is a cornerstone in their fight against the epidemic,” said the sponsor.
One opponent of the bill argued that such programs have not worked, and said by taking away pharmacies as places abusers can get prescription drugs the state would be pushing abusers to illicit drugs. He said after St. Louis County’s PDMP was implemented the rate of drug overdose deaths increased in areas it covered.
The bill’s sponsor acknowledged the increase in overdose deaths but maintained PDMPs are effective tools in detecting and stemming addiction before it worsens.
“What we’re trying to do is to stop band-aiding this epidemic. We’re trying to work on the root of the problem, so we want to stop people from getting to that point,” she said.
The sponsor said her bill includes protections against information in the PDMP database being used to take away Missourians’ rights under the 2nd and 4th Amendments. She said those protections do not exist in the St. Louis County program.
The bill was perfected by a roll call vote of 95-56. Another favorable vote would send it to the Senate.
House Approves Gives First-Round Approval to Bill to Increase Local Government Transparency (HB 1933)
The Missouri House has given first-round approval to legislation that would create a database that allows taxpayers to search expenditures and payments received and made by counties and municipalities. The bill would create the Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database, which would be an easy to use, downloadable database housed on the Missouri Accountability Portal.
The bill is meant to improve transparency by providing public access to local government expenditure data. The database would be maintained by the Office of Administration and would include extensive information about a given municipality's or county's expenditures and the vendors to whom payments were made.
The sponsor of the bill said, “Counties and municipalities already compile this information but many make it as difficult as possible for taxpayers, the media and good-government watchdogs to monitor how public officials are spending tax dollars. This legislation would make it easier for taxpayers to hold local officials and governments accountable for spending decisions.”
A municipality or county may voluntarily participate in the database, or may be required to participate through a petition process used by its residents. The database would provide expenditure data for each fiscal year beginning on or after December 31, 2022.
The bill needs another vote in the House before moving to the Senate for consideration.
Bills Sent to the Senate
HB 1526 would repeal the laws authorizing the Secretary of State to open and maintain an archival facility in the City of St. Louis and the Missouri State Archives - St. Louis Trust Fund. The bill requires that all unobligated funds in the Missouri State Archives - St. Louis Trust Fund on January 1, 2021, shall be transferred to the State Document Preservation Fund. Supporters say the fund is not needed because it did not perform as intended and the last donation was in 2015.
HB 1700 would authorize the City of Springfield to submit to the voters a transient guest tax not to exceed 7.5 percent of the charges per occupied room per night. The tax would be used solely for capital investments that can be demonstrated to increase the number of overnight visitors. Supporters say the bill would create a transient guest tax so that the city of Springfield can use the proceeds to build a new convention center. The new convention center would help attract more visitors and create new jobs for the area.
HB 1330 would authorize the Governor to sell, transfer, grant, convey, remise, release, and forever quitclaim all interest in specific property, described in the bill, along with an easement, located in Cole County, Missouri. Supporters say the land would be used to develop a port near Jefferson City. In connection with the new port in New Orleans and the expansion of the Panama Canal, Missouri businesses will now have affordable access to international business markets. Supporters say this land has not been used for 100 years, so this is a beneficial transaction for both sides.
HB 1296 would prohibit prisoners from having cell phones in a prison or jail. Supporters say the bill is necessary to prevent illicit communications between inmates and other individuals. They say cell phones in prison are a problem and are often used for drug deals.
HB 1521 is meant to create better safety and security in the State Capitol building and the state office complex. The bill would establish the Capitol Police Board to provide for public safety at the seat of government and for the safety and security of elected officials, government employees, and their guests.
HB 1934 would ensure greater transparency and accountability for the Public School Retirement System (PSRS). The bill exempts information pertaining to the salaries and benefits of the executive director and employees of the Board of the Public School Retirement System of Missouri from being confidential.
HB 1963 would help make Missouri the first state in the nation to develop a high-speed Hyperloop system. The bill would add the “tube transport system” to the list of projects that are eligible for a public-private partnership.
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.