Business here in the State Capitol has been long and steady. We have continued to work late into the night to perfect and pass bills from the House to send to the Senate, and with a few days left in the session, I hope the Senate will begin to introduce bills and allow us finally having a very productive session. Finalizing the budget remains the top priority, and that will take up a good chunk of our remaining time.
Missouri House approves legislation to create the Parents’ Bill of Rights (HB 1858)
Members of the Missouri House of Representatives last week approved legislation that gives parents a greater say in their children’s education by giving first-round approval to
HB 1858, which creates the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2022.
The bill aims to address the concerns of parents who want to know what is being taught to their children in the classroom at school. Some feel they have no recourse when school boards do not answer their questions. In some situations, parents are ignored and not listened to. This bill aims to empower parents so that they can participate in the education of their children. 11 states currently have similar laws outlining parental rights.
HB 1858 provides a list of rights that parents can demand that school districts respect. Some of the parental rights set out in the bill include the right to review curricula, books, and learning materials; the right to visit the school during school hours with restrictions; and the right to have sufficient accountability and transparency with respect to school boards.
The bill also prohibits school districts from requiring nondisclosure agreements for parent review of curriculum or individualized education program meetings. It prohibits schools from collecting biometric data or other sensitive personal information about a minor child without obtaining parental consent. In addition, it requires school board meetings dealing with programs or general safety to be held in public and allow for public comment.
An amendment added during debate on the bill clarifies that no school or school employee may compel a teacher or student to adopt or personally affirm ideas in violation of Title IV or Title VI of the law Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This includes ideas such that individuals of any race, ethnicity, color or national origin are inherently superior or inferior; or that individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, ethnicity, color or national origin .
The bill ensures that teachers and students will not be forced to believe certain theories or ideas. Controversial topics can be taught, but students cannot be forced to agree. People shouldn’t be forced to have collective guilt, but neither should they have collective amnesia.
The bill also allows parents to bring a civil action against a school district or school that violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights.
Other provisions of the bill require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop an online database that provides access to each school district’s curriculum and professional development materials. It requires that the salaries of public school employees be included in the state accountability portal. It also requires school boards to schedule a time for an open forum at the start of every board meeting. Finally, it allows parents to bring civil action against school districts that violate the policy. The bill requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
House announced plans to provide economic relief to Missourians (HB 3021)
House members discussed helping Missouri workers with the ever-escalating cost of living. HB 3021 creates a one-time economic recovery tax credit for Missouri residents who paid in-state personal income tax in 2021.
The bill earmarks $1 billion from the state’s General Revenue Fund to provide a one-time, non-refundable economic recovery tax credit. Under this plan, anyone filing a personal Missouri tax return would receive up to $500 in credit. Married couples filing jointly would receive up to $1,000 in credit. The credit is limited to individuals who were a resident of Missouri throughout the tax year.
As families struggle to make ends meet in these times of rising inflation, this bill will help our fellow citizens recoup some of their hard-earned money. The state is fortunate this year to have a record surplus that we can use to provide direct economic relief to workers in Missouri.
The majority of House members do not favor spending every available dollar to increase the size of government, but instead believe that individual Missourians are the best decision-makers on how to spend their own taxes. The bill went to a public hearing in the House Budget Committee.
Bills sent to the Senate
HB 1637 is a sweeping bill designed to prevent crime in Missouri. The intention of the bill is to clarify the law when a person commits the offense of mail theft by deliberately taking mail from another person’s mailbox or premises without the recipient’s consent and with the intention to deprive the recipient of the mail. The mail theft offense would be a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class E felony for a second or subsequent offense. The bill ensures clarity and consistency in law enforcement after law enforcement reported inconsistencies and problems with current law, which unfortunately resulted in many cases not being prosecuted.
Some of the other provisions added to the bill create a violent offender registry, create ATM offences, create the offense of unlawfully entering a motor vehicle, create the offense of unlawfully discharging a firearm and take steps to prevent abuse and neglect in nursing homes.
HB 1757 establishes the “Working Group on the Use of Government Buildings”. The tasks of the task force will be to assess the conditions of all state government-owned and leased real estate, as well as the current funding received for the maintenance of each real estate. Real estate owned and leased by public schools is excluded from the Task Force assessments. The bill will help identify vacant and underutilized properties and encourage the sale or transfer of these properties.
HB 1860 changes the average unemployment rate requirements for the insured worker to receive unemployment benefits. At an unemployment rate of 3% or less, people could receive eight weeks of benefits. Individuals could receive a maximum of 20 weeks of benefits if the unemployment rate is above 9%. Unemployment benefits decrease as jobs become more plentiful, and benefit duration is reduced when job opportunities remain high.
HB 2623 amends provisions relating to required background checks for persons employed or associated with licensed residential care facilities, child placement agencies or residential care facilities. Under current law, all owners, officers, managers, contractors, employees, and other support staff of licensed or certified medical marijuana facilities must submit their fingerprints to the State Highway Patrol for background checks. criminals by the state and the federal government. The Department of Health and Senior Services may require the submission of fingerprints from owners, officers, managers, contractors, employees and other support staff to obtain a permit authorizing that person owning or working in a medical marijuana establishment. The bill limits who must submit to these fingerprints to employees, contractors, owners and volunteers.
HB 1705 clarifies that the State Highway Patrol must maintain on its website a registry of violent offenders who are on probation or parole for the offense of first or second degree murder in Missouri or an equivalent offense in any other state. The bill adds to the Sex Offender Registry a registry for people on parole for second degree murder. Individuals would be removed from the registry once their parole is complete. It does not mix the data. This is a separate column that can be searched separately. The goal is to let the public know who is on parole for second degree murder because there are times when that information would be very helpful.
HB 2376 determines that the residence of children in state custody for purposes of determining state and local funding shall be determined by the child’s place of residence. If a child resides in a residential treatment facility and cannot attend the residential public school due to safety or behavioral issues, and the residential facility provides education for the child, the facility is entitled to at least 80% of all public funds provided to the resident district on a per student basis plus any additional funding provided by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Proponents say the bill helps foster children who, for certain reasons, cannot attend public school to receive educational services at their residential care facility. The bill also includes provisions for gifted children, quality early learning assistance, neighborhood youth development programs and child care centres.