News from the Missouri House of Representatives

House Members Approve Bill to Fight Human Trafficking (HB 1246)

HB 1246 was the first bill heard in the House this session.  Patricia Pike was proud to testify as the bill sponsor.  This bill is meant to provide rescue information to victims of human trafficking and educate citizens across the state about the growing criminal industry. The House approved HB 1246 by a bipartisan vote of 139-5.  When approved by both chambers and signed into law, Missouri will join more than 20 other states that already have similar informational posters in place.

House Members Approve Lobbyist Gift Ban Legislation (HB 1303)

House members worked once again to pass legislation meant to diminish the influence of lobbyists. Similar to legislation the House has passed in each of the last two sessions, the bill would ban gifts from lobbyists to legislators and other statewide elected officials.

Missouri currently has no limits on lobbyist gifts. The bill House members passed will create a gift ban on gifts such as meals or tickets to concerts or sporting events. The bill contains some common sense exceptions such as one that would allow for events to which every member of the House and Senate are invited at least three days in advance. The sponsor explained the exception is meant to allow for grassroots-driven events where large groups of Missourians have the opportunity to meet with all members of the legislature. The bill also contains an exception that would allow a legislator to receive an award or accept flowers for the funeral of a loved one without breaking the law.

The bill passed with bipartisan support with a vote of 134-12. It now moves to the Senate for consideration. Previous versions of the bill did not receive Senate approval before time ran out in past legislative sessions.

Developing Missouri’s Workforce (HB 1465)

The Missouri House of Representatives has approved legislation to help ensure Missouri’s system of higher education is working to meet the state’s workforce and education needs. House members passed a bill that would give institutions greater flexibility to offer degrees that meet the needs of their local communities and businesses. The bill would in effect allow community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in certain programs.

The bill is meant to address the lack of skilled workers in certain fields in various parts of the state. To address the workforce shortage, a community college could apply to the Coordinating Board of Higher Education to offer a four-year degree in a field that is underemployed. Community colleges would need to meet several standards in order to be approved and would need to show there are no other available options like collaborating with a four-year university.

The community college would also need to prove the program is necessary to address a workforce shortage, and that the institution has the ability to provide a high-quality program.

The bill has now moved to the Senate for consideration.

Expanding Virtual School Options for Missouri Students (HB 1408)

House members also gave initial approval to a piece of legislation meant to better prepare young people for success in the workforce. The bill approved by the House is meant to expand course options and access for K-12 students. The legislation would change the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to “The Missouri Course Access Program” (MCAP) and allow any K-12 student to enroll in MCAP courses.

The Missouri Virtual Instruction Program was established in 2007 to offer online courses to public, private, and home school students. The program allows students to take advanced courses that are not currently offered by their local school districts. However, the existing MOVIP has seen funding dwindle in recent years, which has limited free tuition to students who are unable to attend traditional schools because of health issues. As a result, many students in districts without certain high-level math, science, and advanced placement courses are not able to enroll in these courses online.

The legislation would change the program so that it does not rely on a direct appropriation, but would instead redirect a portion of the per-pupil funding provided by the state. In order to give students in all parts of the state access to advanced coursework, the legislation would allow students to take online courses that would be paid by the school district or charter school. Students would be eligible if they have attended the school for at least one semester, and the course is not available in the school district. The bill requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to review the online courses to ensure they meet state standards.