Jun 9, 2016 – Weekly Capitol Update

COURT RULES AGAINST DESE IN NORMANDY TRANSFER CASE

The Missouri State Board of Education acted without legal authority when it attempted to exempt the Normandy Schools Collaborative from a state law allowing students in struggling school districts to transfer to better districts, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled on June 7. In its unanimous decision, the three-member appellate panel sided with a trial judge who said Normandy students could continue to transfer and that receiving districts had no authority to refuse them.

The state board classified Normandy as “unaccredited” as a of Jan. 1, 2013, and nearly 1,000 Normandy students transferred to other St. Louis-area school districts for the 2013-2014 school year. Under the law, students residing in unaccredited districts can transfer to the nearby accredited district of their choice, with their home district required to pay tuition and transportation costs.

In 2014, however, the State Board of Education voted to take over Normandy and changed its status to “new accreditation as a state oversight district.” With the new status, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education declared the transfer law no longer applied to Normandy, empowering other school districts to stop accepting Normandy students.

The actions of the education board and DESE quickly were challenged in court and St. Louis County Circuit Judge Michael Burton ruled the accreditation status the board granted to Normandy doesn’t exist in state law and, therefore, the district remained unaccredited and subject to the transfer law. Some Normandy students resumed attending other St. Louis-area schools following Burton’s ruling, and will remain able to do so under the appellate decision. The case is Janine Massey v. Normandy Schools Collaborative.

 

NIXON SIGNS TO BILL INCREASING MEDICAID ASSET LIMIT

Gov. Jay Nixon on June 9 signed bipartisan legislation in to law to make it easier for elderly, blind or disabled to qualify for Medicaid. House Bill 1565 will increase for the first time in more than 40 years the limit on assets Medicaid recipients are allowed to have to remain eligible for the program.

“This will help thousands of Missourians live more independent lives,” Nixon said in a news release. “These are folks who just want a chance to be responsible and save for the future, but a law written more than 40 years ago wouldn’t let them. Today, we’re doing something about that.”

Existing law sets the asset limit at $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for married couples. Recipients who exceed the limits lose their benefits. The low limits have made it difficult for recipients with long-term health care needs to save money for basic living expenses.

Under HB 1565, the limit will increase annually by $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for married couples starting on July 1, 2017, until the respective limits reach $5,000 and $10,000 as of July 1, 2020. In subsequent years, the limits will be subject to automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments. An additional 10,000 Missourians are expected to become eligible for Medicaid coverage due to the changes.

 

GOVERNOR FILLS THREE UM BOARD OF CURATORS VACANCIES

Gov. Jay Nixon on June 8 appointed three new members to the University of Missouri Board of Curators, which has been operating with just two-thirds of its full membership since a string of resignations in late 2015 and early 2016. The board is the governing authority for the four-campus University of Missouri System.

The new curators are Mary Nelson of St. Louis, general counsel for the St. Louis Community College District; Jon Sundvold of Columbia, a former MU basketball star during the early 1980s and president and founder of Sundvold Financial, an investment advisory firm; and Thomas Voss of Eureka, a former CEO of Ameren Corp. who currently is chairman of Smart Wires, a global grid optimization company.

The board has been shorthanded at a crucial time as the UM System continues to deal with fallout from last fall’s student protests over perceived indifference by university leaders to racism at Mizzou and other issues that led to the resignations of UM System president and MU chancellor. The board is in the process of hiring replacements for both key leadership positions.

With the new appointees, Nelson becomes the only black member currently on the board and just the second woman, joining board President Pamela Quigg Henrickson, who is white. The other seven curators are all white men.

 

NIXON SIGNS LEGISLATION TO COMBAT CREDIT CARD FRAUD

Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation into law on June 6 that seeks to combat identity theft by making it a crime to knowingly possess a fraudulently obtained credit or debit card. Existing law doesn’t allow charges to be brought against people who possess stolen credit devices unless there is evidence the devices have been used.

Under Senate Bill 624, violators could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill also clarifies that stealing from a financial institution is a Class B felony, as opposed to a lower-level felony, regardless of whether force is used. The new law will take effect Aug. 28.

 

JUDICAL COMMISSION SELECTS COURT OF APPEALS FINALISTS

The Appellate Judicial Commission on June 7 selected three finalists to fill a vacancy on the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District. The finalists are Edward Ardini, Nixon’s chief legal counsel; Jackson County Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell; and Teresa Woody, a private practice attorney in Kansas City.

Under the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, Gov. Jay Nixon must appoint one of the finalists no later than Aug. 6 or forfeit the selection to the commission. The appointee will replace Judge Joseph Ellis, who was appointed to the state Court of Appeals by Gov. Mel Carnahan in 1993 and resigned in March.

 

CONSERVATION DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR TO RESIGN IN JULY

Missouri Department of Conservation Director Robert Ziehmer will resign July 15 for an undisclosed private-sector job, according to a June 6 news release. Ziehmer has worked at the conservation department for more than 25 years, including serving as department director since January 2010.

The four-member state Conservation Commission, the department’s independent governing authority, will select Ziehmer’s replacement. Only eight people have held the post of director since the department’s founding in 1937.