Tim Taylor's Capitol Report

Tim Taylor
Special to the Boonville Daily News
Missouri 48th District Representative Tim Taylor reaches out to Fitzgibbon Hospital in Marshall and Bothwell Hospital in Sedalia about possible vaccination events for constituents in the District 48.

We have had numerous constituents reach out to our office regarding the availability of COVID19 vaccinations in our district. 

I reached out to Fitzgibbon Hospital in Marshall and Bothwell Hospital in Sedalia about possible vaccination events for constituents in the District 48.

Bothwell Hospital’s COVID-19 vaccines are being administered at the MO-AG Theatre on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. Currently they have opening for Saturday, February 27 from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The National Guard assisted COVID-19 vaccination event will be held on Tuesday, March 9 and Wednesday, March 10 from 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the MO-AG Theatre on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. Anyone wishing to receive the vaccine should pre-register at www.brhc.org. No walk-in appointments will be accepted.

Legislation Approved to Create Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (HB 349)

This week the members of the Missouri House gave approval to a piece of legislation meant to help young people who are not having their educational needs met by their local school. The legislation would create Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to give parents the option to send their kids to schools that may provide them with a better educational experience.

The sponsor of the bill said ESAs will be “a lifeline for many children in failing schools across our state. And even if their school district is the best school district in the world – I have some very good schools in my district – it’s not always the best school or the right fit for every child.

This account would empower those parents with choices and alternatives so they can find the fit that is best for them.”

The sponsor added, “If you are a person of means, you can send your child to the school of your choosing. But if you do not have those means, you do not have school choice, and that’s what this bill tries to rectify.”

The bill would create nonprofit groups known as Education Assistance Organizations (EAOs) that would be responsible for awarding the scholarships. Funding would come from individuals who donate to the EAO and receive a tax credit for up to half of their overall tax liability. The program would be capped at $50 million per year and could be adjusted for inflation each year up to a maximum cap of $75 million.

Each EAO will make sure scholarships are distributed in a prioritized order. The top priority will be students with an approved individualized education plan and students living in a household whose total annual income meets the income standard for free and reduced price lunches.

Scholarships can be utilized for things like tuition, text books, computer hardware and software, educational therapies, tutoring, virtual school, and after school programs.

Each EAO is responsible for ensuring student recipients are tested to measure learning gains in math and English, and for reporting these results along with graduation rates, college attendance, and a parental survey.

The bill includes a number of accountability measures to ensure ESAs are used appropriately. It would require EAOs to be registered with the IRS, bonded, to conduct background checks on their employees, to keep overhead costs to a minimum, and to allow the State Treasurer to audit them at any time. The bill also contains a penalty provision for any EAO or parent who tries to misuse the scholarship funds.

The House also added several amendments to the bill during debate. One would prohibit the program from going into effect until funding for K-12 public school transportation is increased by approximately $18 million. Another would limit the scholarships to students in cities with a population of 30,000 or more. A third amendment would allow public schools who see students leave the district because of an ESA to continue receiving funding for those students. The provision would end five years after the bill goes into effect.

Missouri House Approves Bill to Reinstate Voter ID Law (HB 334)

The Missouri House has approved legislation that would reinstate a voter ID requirement that was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court last year. When they go to vote, Missourians will need to present a photo ID, but the bill will also allow people without a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot.

The bill’s sponsor said, “This bill is a necessity as a response to the Missouri Supreme Court judgement in a case in January 2020 called Priorities USA that utterly and wholly gutted the intent and practicality of the statute.”

The legislature approved a voter ID bill in 2016 that required a photo ID at the polling place, but also allowed those without a photo ID to vote by provisional ballot or by signing an affidavit stating they don’t have a form of personal identification approved for voting. The bill approved by the legislature was contingent upon the passage of a constitutional amendment, which 63 percent of Missourians supported.

The Missouri Supreme Court in January 2020 then struck down the affidavit provision saying it was contradictory and misleading. The removal of the affidavit requirement prevented the legislation from effectively impacting voter identification procedures.

The bill approved by the House this week removes the affidavit language that was struck down, and will allow voters without an ID to vote by provisional ballot. In order for the provisional ballot to be counted, election officials would have to verify the voter’s signature based on voter records, or the voter would need to return later that day with a valid photo ID.

“Preventing fraud so legal votes of our constituents are not disenfranchised by allowing inperson fraudulent votes to be cast illegally is the main focus of this bill,” said the bill’s sponsor.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Approves Legislation to Prevent Abuse of Eminent Domain (HB 527)

The Missouri House has once again approved legislation meant to protect the rights of land owners. The bill would prevent the use of eminent domain to take property from Missourians for use by the Grain Belt Express power line.

The Grain Belt Express is a wind-energy power line that is planned to run from Kansas to Indiana. The project was approved to use eminent domain to seize land if land owners refuse to sell easements. The Missouri House approved similar legislation last year to protect the rights of land owners. This year’s bill aims to prevent the use of private land for the project without the permission of property owners. It specifically states no entity has the power of eminent domain for the purposes of constructing merchant lines.

The bill’s sponsor noted, “This is a private out-of-state company using eminent domain as a public utility and there is very little benefit for the state of Missouri. Only six percent of the power will be used here.”

The bill would not apply to rural electric cooperatives or to power lines that provide energy substations every 50 miles. The bill’s sponsor said the provision is meant to encourage companies to give Missourians greater access to the energy being transmitted.

He said, "What this bill does is say if you're going to use and take Missouri farm owners' land, that we're actually going to have access to the power.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

First Responders Protection Act Receives House Approval (HB 59) 

The members of the Missouri House took action this week to protect law enforcement officers and other first responders and their families. The House approved the First Responders Protection Act to ensure the personal information of these individuals is not used against them.

The bill would make illegal the “doxing” of law enforcement officers and first responders.

“Doxing” is the posting of personal information on the internet with the intent of causing harm to the individual.

The sponsor of the bill said, “Our first responders and our law enforcement officers leave their families every day to protect ours. The least that we can do is protect them by ensuring one less avenue through which their families become victims.”

The legislation also establishes the "Police Use of Force Transparency Act of 2021.” The act provides that all law enforcement agencies must, at least annually, collect and report local data to the National Use of Force Data Collection through the Law Enforcement Enterprise portal administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on use-of-force incidents involving peace officers.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.