Tim Taylor's Capitol Report: COVID-19 Vaccination Update

Tim Taylor
Special to the Boonville Daily News
Missouri 48th District Representative Tim Taylor gives a COVID-19 Vaccination Update.

COVID-19 Vaccination Update

In the past 6 weeks the Cooper County Public Health Center, in conjunction with the Cooper County EMA, City of Boonville, Boonville Police Department, Boonville Parks and Recreation, MU nursing students, Riverside Christian Church, Cooper County Commissioners, Cooper County Road Crew, Lance’s Landscaping and private citizen volunteers completed 3,017 immunizations. 

Recently, they held a COVID mass vaccination clinic at the Isle of Capri Casino Ballroom and completed 2,454 vaccinations. Currently the Cooper County Health Department has a COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic scheduled for Monday, March 22 and Tuesday, March 23 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Isle of Capri. 

An appointment is required through the NavigatorMoStopsCovid.com system.

They are working on a plan for small dose clinics to be held in rural communities throughout the county. They are looking for civic groups, small city governments to help host and provide assistance in running the clinics while the health center provides the nurses and vaccines, etc.

House Completes Highly Productive First Half of the 2021 Legislative Session

When the 2021 legislative session began on January 6, House Speaker Rob Vescovo told his colleagues their job was “to take on even the toughest challenges” and “to make the hard decisions that will improve the quality of life for Missourians of all ages.” The Speaker called on the members of the House to give Missouri families more options to educate their kids, to expand the adoption tax credit to encourage more families to adopt, and to improve Missouri’s foster care system to help more kids in need.

As the legislative session reached its midpoint, House members had approved and sent to the Senate more than 45 pieces of legislation, including the Speaker’s priority issues. The House also used the first half of the legislative session to tackle important issues such as protecting the Second Amendment rights of Missouri citizens, preventing the abuse of burdensome mandates issued by unelected bureaucrats, and supporting the state’s agriculture industry. 

The House and Senate also gave final approval to a supplemental budget bill that was signed into law by the governor.

House members will now spend time in their districts during their annual spring break and will return to the State Capitol on March 22. When they return they will focus their efforts on approving the state operating budget. Lawmakers have a deadline of May 7 to complete the state budget. The bills sent to the Senate by the House have until May 14, when the legislative session officially concludes, to receive approval from both chambers.

Highlights of the first half of session include:

Providing Financial Support to Foster and Adoptive Parents (HB 429 and HB 430) - The House has passed two pieces of legislation that would offer financial assistance to families that provide a stable home to children in need. HB 429 would authorize an income tax deduction for Missouri taxpayers for the expenses related to providing care as a foster parent. The bill would authorize a deduction of $2,500 for an individual and $5,000 for a married couple if foster care is provided for at least six months. HB 430 would expand the state’s existing $10,000 tax credit to any adoption. Currently the credit applies only to Missouri taxpayers who adopt special needs children.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (HB 349) - This session House members approved 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 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. 

Second Amendment Preservation Act (HBs 85 & 310) - Another bill passed this session would protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians against an overreaching federal government. The Second Amendment Preservation Act is meant to protect law-abiding gun owners from potential gun control legislation that could be passed in Washington, D.C. It states that laws and other actions that prohibit the manufacture, ownership, and use of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition within Missouri exceed the powers granted to the federal government. It also declares that all federal laws, acts, and orders that infringe on Missourians’ second amendment rights are invalid in the state.

Forgiving Unemployment Overpayments (HBs 1083, 1085, 1050, 1035, 1036, 873 & 1097) -

Thousands of Missourians who received unemployment overpayments would have the federal portion of their debt forgiven under legislation approved by the House. The bill would ensure Missourians who received the overpayments non-fraudulently do not have to repay the federal  dollars they received. The bill passed by the House would instruct the department to waive repayment of the federal portion of the overpayments for those who received them nonfraudulently. If the department determines a recipient received money through fraud, those overpayments would not be waived. Under this bill, the department would still seek repayment of the state portion of the overpayments. However the repayments would be made without interest and without penalties and the department would work out an affordable payment plan with each recipient. In effect, the state portion will end up being a zero interest loan.

Rent and Utility Assistance (HB 16) - A supplemental spending plan that will provide assistance to renters has already been passed by both chambers and signed into law by the governor. The bill appropriates more than $324 million to the Missouri Housing Development Commission to help Missourians with rental assistance and utility assistance. The bill allocates Missouri’s share of a $25 billion federal aid package for housing that was passed in December.

Missouri’s portion of the federal funds will be disbursed by the Missouri Housing Development Commission and can be used to pay landlords and utilities in arrears or to help keep renters current. The aid can provide up to 12 months of rent and utility assistance, ongoing rent and utilities for up to three months, and help cover missed rent or utilities since March 1.

Online Sales Tax and Income Tax Cut (HB 554) - The House has approved legislation to level the playing field so Missouri-based businesses can better compete with their online counterparts.

Commonly referred to as the Wayfair bill, it would allow the state to collect use tax on items purchased over the Internet. The bill would balance this new tax collection by cutting personal income tax for Missouri taxpayers. It would reduce the state’s top income tax rate from 5.4 percent to 5.3 percent. Under legislation previously approved by the General Assembly, the income tax rate could continue to drop to as low as 5 percent if revenues continue to grow at a healthy rate.

Protecting Missourians from Burdensome Mandates (HB 75) - Members of the House approved legislation in the first half of session that would provide oversight for the ability of local health officials to close businesses and schools during an emergency. The bill would allow local health officials to close businesses, schools, and churches during a public health or safety emergency, but only for 15 days at a time. Officials could extend the closure for an additional 15 days but only with the approval of the city council or other local governing body. The closure could be extended an additional 10 days at a time but would require a two-thirds vote of the local governing body each time.

License Reciprocity for Skilled Veterans (HB 476) - The House continues to make Missouri an attractive location for military members and their families to live and work. Members have approved legislation that will allow veterans to use the skills they obtained in the military to more easily find jobs in the private sector. The bill will allow skilled veterans to “quickly and easily obtain a license and immediately plug into our state economy here and become productive citizens of the state.” Specifically, the legislation would include a Military Occupational Specialty as a type of licensure when applying for licensure in Missouri in the same occupation under Missouri's Reciprocity Laws. In effect, it would treat military occupation specialties the same as an out-of-state license. Licensing boards in Missouri could still limit the scope of a license provided through the bill if the training and professional requirements are different between the military and civilian positions.

Reinstating Voter ID Law (HB 334) - Legislation approved this session would reinstate a voter ID requirement that was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court last year. The bill will ensure Missourians present a photo ID when they go to vote, but will also allow people without a  photo ID to cast a 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.

Initiative Petition Reform (HJRs 20, 2, 9 & 27) – The House has approved a constitutional amendment that would give voters the option to reform Missouri’s initiative petition process.

The legislation is a commonsense reform that preserves the right of every Missourian to petition their government, while aligning the state’s initiative petition process with the United States Constitution. The amendment, if approved by voters, will require a two-thirds majority vote at the ballot to change the Missouri Constitution.

Improving Local Government Transparency (HB 271) - Legislation approved by the House would create a database that allows taxpayers to search expenditures and payments received and made by counties and municipalities. The bill would create the Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database, which would be an easy to use, downloadable database housed on the Missouri Accountability Portal. The bill is meant to improve transparency by providing public access to local government expenditure data.

Protecting Information of Private Citizens (HB 362) - Two bills approved by the House this session would allow public governmental bodies to protect certain information shared by private citizens. The bill is meant to prevent individuals and organizations from obtaining contact information of members of the public to use for their own purposes such as political campaigning.

Preventing Abuse of Eminent Domain (HB 527) - The House has approved legislation this session 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 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 would not apply to rural electric cooperatives or to power lines that provide energy substations every 50 miles.

Protecting Missouri Farms from Unauthorized Inspections (HB 574) - The House approved legislation that would protect Missouri agricultural facilities from other states and outside organizations that want to gain access to the facilities without legal authority. The bill is meant to protect producers from animal rights activists who may seek access under false pretenses, and is also designed to limit the spread of disease by ensuring only qualified inspectors are allowed into the facilities. The bill specifies the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture, the county sheriff and any other federal or Missouri state agency with statutory or regulatory authority have exclusive authority to inspect the grounds or facilities in Missouri. Facilities include those used for the production of eggs, milk or other dairy products, raising of livestock, or the production or raising of dogs or other animals not used to produce any food product. The bill also allows a facility owner to request and allow groups outside those listed to inspect.