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Volume XLIII, Issue 1                                                                                        January 4, 2013

In the League of Women Voters of Missouri, a nonpartisan political organization, members educate themselves on issues and reach consensus on positions.  The League encourages informed and active citizen participation in government, encourages communication with legislators, works to increase understanding of public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

This issue will introduce you to the session itself and the legislative priorities of LWVMO.  Advocacy/Legislative Committee members will be reporting to you on the progress of bills and other activities.  These volunteers study bills and report to you the action Leaguers need to take.  We hope this is not a “one-way conversation,” that you will inform yourself and help us urge passage of legislation that will best serve all Missourians.  The League’s priorities were chosen based on member interest and timeliness.  LWVMO and LWVUS positions guide us in selecting bills/issues to support or oppose throughout each legislative session.


LWVMO Legislative Priorities 2013

Electoral process that is accurate, accountable, accessible, fair, efficient and uniform


Equal access to comprehensive quality health care


Equitable tax policy promoting financial stability and adequate funding for state services

Electoral Process - Nancy Copenhaver, Director and Public Advocacy for Voter Protection (PAVP) Chair

As most of you veteran Leaguers know, we have been fighting for several years now to keep the electoral process in Missouri fair, accurate, efficient, accessible, accountable, and uniform.  In fact, these descriptors are straight from our League positions and this has to be a top priority since we are the premier group advocating for voters.  Other organizations, professional associations, unions, and public interest groups focus on many other issues important to League, but we must be “front and center” to protect the right to vote and participate in government.

 

This year in the legislature, efforts to force a change in the current identification requirements for voting (which work perfectly well) will continue.  Bills have already been filed and more are expected to require a state-issued photo ID to vote.  We know from past experience that the difficulty and cost involved with a required photo ID is not with the ID itself but in the expense, difficulty, and sometimes impossibility of obtaining the supporting documents necessary to acquire the photo ID.  It is League’s position that encouraging better participation of voters is crucial to a democracy, so putting roadblocks in the way is not conducive to our mission. 

 

We also anticipate bills to make it easier for military and other citizens overseas to vote absentee will be filed, particularly with our new Secretary of State Jason Kander who has made this an issue.  Early voting proposals will also be on the agenda and we will be closely monitoring those, supporting ones that actually make it easier to vote. 

Proposals to tighten up ethics laws are also expected as well as efforts to reinstate campaign contribution limits.  We will closely monitor and keep you informed on both of these areas as well.  As soon as Governor Nixon has presented his priorities in the State of the State Address and committee assignments in the House are made, there will be many more bills filed.  As soon as bills are assigned to committee, we will summarize those most critical for League monitoring and keep you informed as to the purpose and movement of our priority issues.

Tax Policy - Sydell Shayer, Director and Tax Chair

State taxes are a state League legislative priority for the 2013 legislative session.

It is premature to evaluate the very few tax bills that have been pre-filed in December, 2012.  However, we can anticipate some of the bills that will be filed based on several sources (pre-filed bills, last session bills that did not make it through the session and news reports).
 
We expect to see bills decreasing the corporate and small business tax; replacing the income tax with a sales tax,  decreasing tax rates, limiting expenditures, increasing the cigarette tax and collecting sales taxes on purchases made out of state.  

The League’s main concerns are that taxes are fair and that they provide the income to support necessary governmental services.


Health Care - Barbara Davis, Director and Health Chair

The League of Women Voters has supported comprehensive, quality health care for all as an official position for over twenty years.  League advocacy has been and will continue to be an active part of the Missouri health care scene.  But now it is also prime time for the Missouri General Assembly to “step up to the plate” for the state health care system.

Gov. Nixon has put money in the budget to begin implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often referred to as the PPACA or ACA), specifically for Medicaid Expansion.  Time is now limited for getting the two major components of the ACA in place:  Medicaid Expansion and the Health Care Insurance Exchange.

Depending upon which study is referenced, between approximately 161,000 and 300,000 Missouri residents would become eligible for Medicaid because the ACA allows the new eligibility limit to be set at 138% of the Federal Poverty Level instead of the current 17%. Unlike now, childless adults would become eligible at the 138% FPL. From 2014-2016, the federal government would pay 100% of the costs for the newly eligible, after which it would phase down annually until reaching 90% in 2019 and beyond.

Medicare Expansion would yield economic benefits for Missouri in a variety of ways, such as a greater need for health care workers and clinic facilities, a healthier work force,  purchase of supplies, and an increase of sales and income taxes.

Another reason that it is very important to expand Medicaid is because of the drastic decrease beginning in 2017 of DSH (disproportionate share hospital) payments to hospitals for treatment of patients without insurance.  Where do people without family doctors and insurance go when ill or injured? . . . .The local hospital.  Those of us who have insurance absorb some of the costs of their treatment through increased premiums for our insurance, and right now DSH payments cover at least some of the costs of uncompensated care.  

The costs of uncompensated care in small, rural hospitals, particularly in already economically distressed rural regions, could cause those hospitals to close, leaving people in need of care, especially emergency care, having to travel long distances.  Some estimates indicate that up to half of rural Missouri hospitals might have to close without Medicaid expansion.

Missouri will have a Federal Health Care Insurance Exchange designed by the federal government because of the passage of Proposition E in November, 2012.  Insurance must be available for purchase in October, 2013, with coverage beginning January 1, 2014.

Public Education - Marty Ott, Director and Education Chair

We begin a new year, and a new General Assembly with some newly elected state representative and state senators.  We see some new pre-filed bills, re-filed older bills and some revisions of bills previously filed.

House Speaker Tim Jones announced his three E priorities: Economic Development, Energy, and Education Reform. At this date not much has been pre-filed in the area of Education, but we can expect certain issues will arise again: elimination of teacher tenure, evaluation procedures, parent trigger bill, voucher/tax credits, and open enrollment.

According to various education sources, don’t expect an increase to the foundation formula, even if our economy is growing. Early childhood education may get a slight increase, but the outlook is not good.

The League does not have a position on many of the above-mentioned issues, but we need to watch closely those on which we have a position-education funding, tax-credit vouchers, and early childhood education.

97th General Assembly Calendar

Jan 9 General Assembly Convenes at 12:00 noon

Jan. 14 Inauguration of Statewide Elected Officials
              Inaugural Ball Evening

Jan. 21 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday — NO SESSION

February 28 Last day to introduce Senate bills

March 14 Spring Break begins upon adjournment

March 25 Spring Break ends

April 1 Easter Break — NO SESSION

April 2 Easter Break ends

May 10 Appropriation Bills must be Truly Agreed and Finally Passed

May 17 SESSION ENDS at 6:00 p.m.


 

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