Highlights from the 2018 Missouri Legislature Impacting Children and Families

Speakers provided much information about actions of the 2018 Missouri Legislature impacting children and families at the annual Legislative Wrap-Up on May 24 at the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, attended by 86 interested individuals.

On the panel were:

From left, Jessica Seitz, Brian Colby, Linda Rallo, Brian Schmidt

Brian Colby, Missouri Budget Project, opened the conversation with an overview of the state budget. The $23 billion budget is composed of General Revenue, Federal Funds and “Other” Funds, which are usually earmarked for a specific purpose (e.g. gaming funds and gas tax.) Each source represents roughly one-third of the budget. Funding for Elementary and Secondary Education was increased by about $98 million, and reached the level of full funding (note that the “bar” for full funding was lowered several years ago). Reaching this allows an expansion of preschool programs. Other Departments’ funds did not fare as well. Higher education, Health and Senior Services, Social Services and Medicaid were funded at lower levels than the previous year.

On the tax and revenue side, Missouri continues to look more and more like Kansas. SB509 cut taxes in 2014, and additional tax cuts are enacted in HB2540. Combined, the impact of these is a $636 million cliff, presenting greater challenges in formulating a balanced budget that adequately funds education, health care, transportation, social services and other critical government functions. In addition, the changes make Missouri’s tax structure less fair. Missourians with the highest incomes already paid a lower percentage of their income in taxes than those with lowest incomes, and these tax bills create greater inequity. For details, see Brian’s presentation.

Brian Schmidt and Linda Rallo reported on Kids Win Missouri priorities. These included a bill that raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to age 18, allowing 17 year olds to benefit from services offered through DYS. A small step forward was taken in assuring health coverage by allowing new moms to be eligible for Medicaid for 12 months (current eligibility is 60 days) if they are enrolled in substance abuse treatment programs. A bill was also passed that requires more thorough background screening of childcare providers. This change is needed to keep Missouri in compliance with federal requirements of the Child Care Development Block Grant. The time frame for establishing a pilot voluntary Quality Assurance Report to give parents information they need to choose quality childcare settings. Funding for the pilot QAR is also included in the budget on the Governor’s desk.

Key defensive wins included prevailing against efforts to impose work requirements on individuals who receive SNAP benefits, and on adults insured by Medicaid. A proposal to expand permissible locations (such as childcare centers) at which concealed firearms can be carried was also defeated. See the Kids Win Missouri presentation.

Jessica Seitz, Missouri KidsFirst, wrapped up the panel. She outlined the omnibus bill that extended or increased benevolent tax credits. This was a key issue for many service providers that depend on tax credits to attract donations to support their work. Several bills strengthened Missouri’s efforts to protect children from human trafficking. One created a public awareness campaign, and a second bill raised the minimum age for marriage in Missouri to 15. Unfortunately, Missouri had become a destination-wedding site for young brides due to its extremely lenient marriage laws. An omnibus child welfare bill included a laundry list of mostly positive changes in the child welfare system. It is a long list, so please see Jessica’s presentation for a list of the key provisions. See Jessica’s presentation.