THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION…YOU BE THE JUDGE
If the session’s top priority was indeed job creation, we fell short. There was work to be done, and we missed the mark in the substantive areas that will move Missouri forward: Job Creation, Education, Healthcare, Fair Employment Practices and Moving People out of Poverty.
Did you know that our public school teachers’ salaries rank 41st in the nation? While we did not cut dollars out of K-12 education, we did, underfund it by $439 million. We ignored the disparity between hold harmless and formula school districts, and while there was legislation to address it, we did not move it forward.
In the critical Turner v. Clayton decision, it was the courts, not the legislature, which took the next step. The ruling essentially stated that the transfer of students from unaccredited districts to accredited districts would amount to an unfunded mandate which would violate the state’s Hancock amendment. The decision is subject to appeal.
Did you know our Missouri state workers’ salaries are ranked 50th in the nation? These are people who guard our prisons, work with seniors and the disabled and serve the public throughout our state. The legislature passed a much-needed 2% raise for those making up to $70,000 per year.
Health care provisions through the affordable care act are already creating savings for our seniors on prescription medications. Young adult children are allowed to remain on parents’ insurance plans until age 26. Children and many adults with preexisting conditions are able to purchase insurance and receive needed treatment. Healthy living is encouraged through access to no co-pay preventative services. While many of us have been able to take advantage of these new provisions, the legislature continues to work to undermine these welcome changes.
This session, we have taken a stand that temporarily blocks our state from moving forward in the creation of an insurance exchange. Specifically, “no department, agency, instrumentality, or political subdivision of this state shall apply for, accept or expend federal moneys related to the creation, implementation or operation of a state-based health insurance exchange or a federally-facilitated health benefit exchange unless such acceptance or expenditure is authorized by statute or an appropriations bill.” (Read the bill) An exchange will provide transparency. As you buy your insurance, isn’t it reasonable and helpful to be able to compare coverage…provision to provision? The legislature turned away approximately $100 million over the next two years which was to be used to upgrade our computer systems. Why? Because the funding would come from the federal government! And, because it might aid in upgrading our systems to allow us to implement the Affordable Care Act Exchange Provision. I believe that this federally-designated 100 million dollars is our money…yours and mine. The legislature thumbed its nose allowing these hard-earned dollars, our hard-earned dollars, to go to some other place or some other state.
Attacks on workers through reduction of culpability for work-place discrimination and lessening protections for whistle blowers were bills that moved forward. A female Senator who felt disrespected led an effort to end a bi partisan educational program helping women considering public service. Either through inaction or infighting, little that deals with the needs of our times moved to the fore for the tough decision- making required in tough times. The flurry of bills that gained traction in the eleventh hour included many designed to score political and talking points for upcoming elections in a year beginning the decade of newly formed house and senate districts.
And so, the end of this session was welcome. Based upon where we have been, it is clear that we need to start anew.
From Jill Schupp
State Representative in the old District 82 and unopposed for re-election in the new 88th district.