Advocates Discuss 2017 Missouri Legislature Actions Affecting Children and Families

IMG_3704bThree leaders in Missouri child advocacy discussed the Missouri Legislature’s 2017 actions affecting children and families, at a legislative wrap-up forum on June 15. The forum was organized by the St. Louis Regional Early Childhood Council, Generate Health, Vision for Children at Risk, the St. Louis Family & Community Partnership and the St. Louis Area Council on Child Abuse & Neglect. Speakers were:

Following are highlights from their comments:

Emily Van Schenkof, Missouri KidsFirstIMG_3681c

  • First Lady Sheena Greitens has made child abuse and neglect a priority project. She has a team that will be making recommendations by the end of the year.
  • Were successful in gaining some small increases for foster and adoptive care programs.
  • $500,000 approved for evidence-based mental health treatment for abused children. ADVOCATES: Call the Governor’s Office to ask that this not be withheld.

 

Judy Dungan, Missouri Children’s Leadership Council
See Judy’s slides

  • IMG_3687cFull funding of the school foundation formula was approved (note, the foundation formula was reduced to a lower level in 2016). Full funding triggers the 2014 legislation providing $64 million in Pre-K funding; districts can count up to 4% of their free and reduced lunch Pre-K children in average daily attendance and funded by the formula.
  • Level funding for most children’s programs.
  • Funding of $60,000 approved for implementation of early childhood provider quality review (legislation passed in 2016).
  • Omnibus child safety bill
    • Requires retaining investigative records when child abuse is substantiated, but perpetrator unknown; avoids destruction of records that was going to be required by court ruling.
    • Joint Committee on Child Abuse & Neglect extended.
    • Kinship placement—allows children to be placed in home of a close family friend.
    • Sex trafficking included in definition of abuse and neglect.
    • Foster care bill of rights adopted; puts into statute many practices already recognized by the Children’s Division.
  • Left unresolved are compliance issues with 2014 federal Child Development Block Grant program. If state does not approve compliance requirements, will lose 5% of this funding per year.

Amy Blouin, Missouri Budget Project
See Amy’s slides
Issues in the state budgetIMG_3693c

  • Corporate tax revenue declined 36% in 2015 and 2016, mostly applies to corporations doing business out of state.
  • Governor’s Committee on Simple, Fair and Lower Taxes has been meeting since January. Possible special session in September on tax policy.
  • Many legislators are beginning to recognize need to increase revenue. Possible options:
    • Repeal the full business income exemption (SB 509) before it goes into effect.
    • Enact streamlined sales taxes including tax on Internet sales.
    • Reduce the timely filing discount for state sales tax. Missouri’s discount exceeds those of neighboring states.
  • Kansas is rolling back its 2012 tax cuts; their legislature just overrode governor’s veto to ensure the rollback takes effect. Missouri’s tax cuts—multiple cuts made over a period of time—already are deeper than those in Kansas. Many of Missouri’s state services fall below those in Kansas. (To learn more, see this Kansas City Star June 6 article)
  • Of concern is proposed legislation to cap federal funding of Medicaid and change the payment method to per capita grants to states. This is part of the American Health Care Act passed by the House and has a good chance of passing in the Senate, which could be voting on its version of the AHCA in the next few weeks.

Amy concluded: “People need to realize that the budget matters to them.”

 

Organizations are encouraged to learn more about the Missouri Children’s Leadership Council and join. The MOCLC has a daily presence in the Capitol during the legislative session. Legislative actions are summarized in weekly conference calls to which all are invited to listen; call notes are published on the MOCLC website.