Budget progresses in Mo amid school funding feud

The Senate continued its work on its version of the state’s budget this week.  It has been Senate tradition that while the budget bills are amended and re-worked in the appropriations committee to reflect Senate priorities, they are generally not amended on the Senate Floor.  However, this tradition was broken this week when Senate Education Chairman Gary Romine (R-Farmington) offered a series of amendments on the Senate Floor to fully fund the K-12 school funding formula, which were adopted. Because Missouri has a balanced budget amendment, this means that when the House and Senate meet to work out the differences between the two versions, they will have to find roughly $45 million in savings from elsewhere.

Additionally the Senate acted to move forward with the expansion of Medicaid managed care.  Medicaid recipients in the I70 corridor have been in the managed care system for roughly 20 years.  In 2014, the general assembly moved to include 100% of the state’s Medicaid population in the managed care system.  The expansion is supposed to be fully funded in the 2018 fiscal year budget.  This funding expansion had become the point of much contention in the Senate.  However, Senate Appropriation’s chairman Dan Brown (R-Rolla) was able to fight off an attempt by Senator Rob Schaaf to remove the funding for the expansion.

Update on Senate Functions

As a recap, last week Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) had been using his power as a Senator to slow down several pieces of legislation in anticipation of a fight over the expansion of managed care and ethics reform.  The Senate abruptly adjourned for the week when Senator Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) began inquiring of Schaaf about his relationship with a contract lobbyist.

After a tumultuous weekend in which a non-profit organization associated with Governor Greitens’ campaign attacked Schaaf online and on the radio, Senator Schaaf gave a lengthy speech on the Senate floor in which he announced he would be moving out of the home of the lobbyist.  Schaaf also declared he would be holding up all Governor Greitens’ priority legislation until ethics reform, including a disclosure requirement for donors to 501c4 organizations.  Later, Senator Schaaf told the Missouri Times he would not filibuster the budget and would instead focus all his attention on ethics reform.

House Sends Tort Reform to Governor Greitens

On Wednesday the House gave final approve to another tort reform measure.  This measure would make significant changes to time limited demands and reservation of rights.  This is one of several tort reform measures House and Senate Republican leadership hope to send to Governor Greitens before session ends on May 12.

Senate Passes Education Savings Account Legislation

The Senate sent Senator Andrew Koenig’s (R-Manchester) bill to the House.  The bill would allow children who have special needs, have been in foster care or who have a parent who is a member of the military to access education savings accounts. He legislation contains a provision that would clear up some confusion around the state law that allows children in unaccredited districts to transfer to accredited districts in the same or adjoining counties.

House Sends Project Labor Agreement Reform to Governor Greitens

On Thursday the Missouri House gave final approval to legislation that would cause cities and counties in Missouri to lose state funding if they require non-union contractors to pay workers union dues for public projects.  The legislation was a priority of republican leadership in both chambers and Governor Greitens.

Governor Greitens Signs Bill to Create Statewide Ride-sharing Legislation

On Monday roughly 100 people gathered at Saint Charles Community College to watch Governor Eric Greitens sign legislation that allows companies like Lyft and Uber to operate statewide in Missouri. Governor Greitens declared passing this legislation a priority because it loosens unnecessary regulations and will create thousands of jobs across the state.

Greitens Appoints New Supreme Court Judge

Gov. Eric Greitens has selected Judge Brent Powell to fill late Judge Richard Teitelman’s spot on the Missouri Supreme Court.

The Governor’s Commission on Simple Fair and Low Taxes Seeks Input

The Governor’s commission that was appointed to, among other things, study and make recommendations regarding the state’s tax credit program is now officially asking for information from practitioners regarding tax credits you may be receiving.  The opportunity to submit information is in question 1 in this link.

FCC moves to nix Obama-era net neutrality rules

Today the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued a draft notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) to reverse the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet order that reclassified broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service for the first time under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Originally adopted on February 26, 2015, the FCC then based its authority on a hybrid section 706 of the Telecommunications Act and Title II approach, calling it a “Title II tailored for the 21st century.”

Previewing the release of the draft NPRM in a speech on Wednesday, April 26th, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai criticized that approach, saying that the FCC under then Democrat Chairman Tom Wheeler, “on a party line vote, decided to impose a set of heavy-handed regulations upon the Internet” and “to slap an old regulatory framework called ‘Title II’ – originally designed in the 1930s for the Ma Bell telephone monopoly – upon thousands of Internet service providers, big and small.”

A fact sheet entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom” that accompanied the draft NPRM explained that the notice would: “Propose to reinstate the information service classification of broadband Internet access service and return to the light-touch regulatory framework first established on a bipartisan basis during the Clinton Administration; propose to reinstate the determination that mobile broadband Internet access service is not a commercial mobile service and in conjunction revisit the elements of the Title II Order that modified or reinterpreted key terms in section 332 of the Communications Act and our implementing rules; propose to return authority to the Federal Trade Commission to police the privacy practices of Internet service providers; propose to eliminate the vague Internet conduct standard; seek comment on whether to keep, modify, or eliminate the bright-line rules set forth in the Title II Order; propose to re-evaluate the Commission’s enforcement regime to analyze whether ex ante regulatory intervention in the market is necessary; and propose to conduct a cost-benefit analysis as part of this proceeding.”

The announcement of plan to include the NPRM on the FCC’s upcoming May 18th open meeting agenda sparked the expected support and opposition. United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement commending Chairman Pai “for taking bold action today to turn back this portion of the Obama Administration’s eight-year regulatory assault on all aspects of our economy.” Representing the views of the other side of the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted the warning that “neither the American [people] nor Democrats will tolerate the FCC conspiring [with] industry insiders to roll back critical consumer protections.” Other Republican and Democrat Members issued similar statements in line with the views of their Leaders, highlighting the usual partisan tensions surrounding this issue.

If adopted on May 18th, the NPRM will start a three month formal comment process, with initial comments due on July 17, 2017 and reply comments due on August 17, 2017.