MISSOURI GOP REMAINS OPPOSED TO MEDICAID EXPANSION
As Kansas and other Republican-dominated states pursue Medicaid expansion following Congress’ abandonment of efforts to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, Missouri Republicans remain steadfast in their opposition.
Missouri House Republicans on March 29 voted 102-41 against a Democratic proposal to expand Medicaid, which would extend health care access to roughly 300,000 Missourians. Under Affordable Care Act, states can expand their Medicaid eligibility threshold to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and the federal government will pay for at last 90 percent of the cost in perpetuity.
The House vote came one day after Republican Gov. Eric Greitens said: “We’re not going to expand Obamacare here in Missouri, and the fact is that we still need to repeal and replace Obamacare,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
However, Greitens assessment is at odds with that of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who due to lack of support among his fellow Republicans canceled a planned March 24 vote on his bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Because of the intraparty impasse, Congress has no plans to revisit the issue. “We are going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” Ryan said, according to The Washington Post.
Days after Ryan’s comments, the Kansas Legislature granted final approval Medicaid expansion legislation. Although Republican Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the bill on March 30, Kansas lawmakers likely will try again soon if Brownback resigns to accept an expected appointment in the Trump administration. Other GOP-led legislatures considering expansion include Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
HOUSE VOTES TO BAN TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT CAMERAS
The House of Representatives on March 29 gave first-round approval to legislation to statutorily bar local governments from operating traffic enforcement camera systems. However, under a trio of 2015 Missouri Supreme Court rulings, governments essentially are already prohibited from using automated systems to issue traffic tickets.
Use of traffic cameras to catch red-light or speeding violations was common in Missouri until 2013 when a string of state Court of Appeals decisions called their constitutionality into question, prompting many local governments to suspend their use of traffic cameras. Most of the remaining holdouts followed suit two years later when the Supreme Court issued its rulings declaring local traffic camera ordinances to be in conflict with state law and unenforceable.
While the high court left the door open for the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing the use of traffic enforce cameras, House Bill 275 would slam that door shut and expressly prohibit their use. A second vote is required to send the bill to the Senate.
HOUSE ADVANCES BILL ELIMINATING PREVAILING WAGE
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on March 30 voted 89-60 to advance legislation that would repeal Missouri’s prevailing wage law. The measure, House Bill 104, now goes to the Senate, where at least one Republican senator hopes to seek a compromise under which prevailing wage is preserved with modifications.
Existing law requires contractors and subcontractors hired for taxpayer-funded public construction projects to pay a fair wage based on local standards. Under HB 104, they would only be required to pay minimum wage.
Although he said changes are needed in how local prevailing wages are calculated under the law, state Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, said prevailing wage helps to ensure “quality craftsmanship” on public works projects, the Southeast Missourian reported on March 30. “My goal is to fix it, not just throw it away,” Wallingford told the paper.
REAL ID COMPLIANCE LEGISLATION MOVES TO SENATE
The House of Representatives on March 30 voted 99-40-8 in favor of legislation that would bring Missouri driver’s licenses into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. The bill now advances to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.
Missouri has resisted complying with the REAL ID Act for more than a decade, and in 2009 went so far as enacting a law explicitly prohibiting state agencies from taking action to comply with the federal law. While many other states also initially resisted REAL ID, today Missouri is just one of five states continuing to hold out.
Compliance has taken on new urgency this year, however, as beginning next year state-issued identification that doesn’t meet the REAL ID requirement won’t be allowed to be used to board commercial flights or enter federal buildings.
HOUSE APPROVES PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING BILL
The House of Representatives on March 29 voted 109-40 to grant first-round approval to legislation to establish a statewide prescription drug monitoring program. Missouri is the only state that hasn’t enacted such a program, which is intended to combat prescription narcotics abuse by tracking patients who obtain multiple prescriptions from different doctors.
Missouri has continued to holdout due to fierce opposition from a group of conservatives who see prescription monitoring as an unwarranted government intrusion into patient privacy. A second vote is required to send the measure, House Bill 90, to the Senate, which approved a far more limited drug monitoring program four weeks ago.