MO: Ethics reforms, health-care bills among priorities for lawmakers in 2013

Posted By Johnny Kampis On December 27, 2012 @ 7:06 am

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CAPITOL: It’s quiet now, but in a little more than two weeks lawmakers return to Jefferson City.

By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog

ST. LOUIS – Ethics, voter ID and Medicaid will be the hot topics in Jefferson City as lawmakers return to the Capitol after the holiday break.

The five-month-long legislative session should see a flurry of bills and debates, as members of both parties began laying the groundwork for 2013 shortly after the general election was completed.

Here are some issues we can expect to see addressed next year:

Affordable Care Act fallout

While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was constitutional, the nation’s highest court still left some power in states’ hands. Namely, that court said states could not be penalized if they choose not to participate in the expansion of Medicaid, effectively allowing legislatures the choice of whether to expand enrollment by lowering the income threshold. [2]

The Kaiser Foundation said nearly 308,000 Missourians could receive coverage if the state opts into the plan [3]. Kaiser said Missouri would need to invest $431 million to receive nearly $8.4 billion in federal money during the first five years if Medicaid is expanded in the state.

Some of that $8.4 billion would come out of the pockets of Missourians in some manner, in addition to the $431 million state investment.

Republicans are cool to the idea, and since the GOP has a supermajority in both the state House and Senate, it seems unlikely a Democratic-backed bill on expansion would pass.

Another ACA component likely to come up in 2013 is the idea of setting up a state health-care insurance marketplace. Rep. Chris Molendorp, R-Belton, told Watchdog.org he would try to create the exchange “in the final exercise in state sovereignty” related to the health-care act. [4] State voters passed a proposition last month that gives lawmakers the power to create the marketplace and took that power out of the hands of Gov. Jay Nixon.

Other Republicans are not as interested in establishing an exchange, saying the state is better off letting the federal government run the exchange, as they fear Missouri would bear more of the cost if run in-house.

Ethics reforms

Some House Democrats announced their plans to push sweeping ethics reforms in the General Assembly in 2013. This legislation

[5]

MOOLAH: Ethics reforms could curb secret spending in elections, and limit the influence of lobbyists on lawmakers.

would require nonprofit groups to disclose their donors if they participate in political activity [6], impose greater restrictions on former legislators serving as lobbyists, limit the gifts lobbyists can give to lawmakers [7] and boost the enforcement powers of the Missouri Ethics Commission [8], among other goals.

This bill, or some other form of ethics legislation, stands a good chance of passing during the next session. That’s because a previous ethics reform bill received bipartisan support and passed easily before it was overturned on a technicality by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Top Republicans have announced they’re working on an ethics bill, as well. House Speaker Tim Jones named it one of his priorities in 2013. [9]

Voter ID

Photo identification requirements for voting were a controversial issue across the United States during the 2012 election, as several states, such as Kansas, implemented them for the first time.

Expect it to be discussed heavily in Missouri in 2013, with the issue appearing on ballots for voters to decide in 2014.

The issue has been a political priority for Republicans in the General Assembly for years, but Nixon’s veto power has kept the requirement at bay. Now that the GOP has a supermajority in the Legislature, that won’t be an issue.

“I think Missourians want it done,” Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, told the Kansas City Star [10]. “I’m very optimistic that this is the year we can finally get it done.”

Proponents of the legislation say the measure helps deter voter fraud while opponents argue it could disenfranchise poor and elderly voters who might not have common forms of photo ID, such as a drivers’ license. Kraus’ bill would require Missouri to cover the cost of getting the ID for those unable to afford it, and exempts anyone born before 1941.

Because of a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court ruling, voters must approve a state constitutional amendment for a photo ID voting requirement to be put into place. Kraus said he hopes to have it on election ballots in 2014.

Second Injury Fund

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KOSTER: Second Injury Fund is running out of money.

A lesser-known budget issue in Missouri is what’s known as the Second Injury Fund, created in the World War II era to protect employers from the high costs of paying the cost of workers’ long-term disabilities. The fund, which helps injured workers find new employment, has dwindled after the Legislature capped the amount of surcharges on workers’ compensation and self-insurance policies at 3 percent in 2005.

Much like pensions, the SIF now owes more in obligations than it has in reserve to pay out for injured workers.

Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster champions reform, [12] and said he has had to curtail payments because of the fund’s budget crisis. Tim Jones said fixing the SIF is an important goal in 2013.

Contact Johnny Kampis at johnny@missouriwatchdog.org.  For more Missouri Watchdog [13] updates, visit Facebook [14] and Twitter [15], or sign up for a free newsletter [16].

 


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URL to article: http://watchdog.org/65115/mo-ethics-reforms-health-care-bills-among-priorities-for-lawmakers-in-2013/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2012/12/Capitol-3.jpg

[2] Namely, that court said states could not be penalized if they choose not to participate in the expansion of Medicaid, effectively allowing legislatures the choice of whether to expand enrollment by lowering the income threshold.: http://watchdog.org/24299/mo-lawmakers-doubtful-on-medicaid-expansion/

[3] The Kaiser Foundation said nearly 308,000 Missourians could receive coverage if the state opts into the plan: http://www.kff.org/healthreform/upload/Medicaid-Coverage-and-Spending-in-Health-Reform-National-and-State-By-State-Results-for-Adults-at-or-Below-133-FPL.pdf

[4] Rep. Chris Molendorp, R-Belton, told Watchdog.org he would try to create the exchange “in the final exercise in state sovereignty” related to the health-care act.: http://watchdog.org/24090/mo-politicians-talk-medicaid-insurance-marketplaces-after-health-care-ruling/

[5] Image: http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2012/12/100dollarbill.jpg

[6] require nonprofit groups to disclose their donors if they participate in political activity: http://watchdog.org/62831/mo-lawmakers-seek-tougher-disclosure-laws-after-election-fueled-smear-ads/

[7] limit the gifts lobbyists can give to lawmakers: http://watchdog.org/62630/mo-legislators-proposing-lobbyist-gift-caps-have-enjoyed-plenty-of-handouts/

[8] boost the enforcement powers of the Missouri Ethics Commission: http://watchdog.org/63901/mo-increased-ethics-commission-powers-could-be-moot-without-more-funding/

[9] House Speaker Tim Jones named it one of his priorities in 2013.: http://semotimes.com/house-speaker-tim-jones-announces-plans-for-broad-based-ethics-reform-legislation/

[10] told the Kansas City Star: http://midwestdemocracy.com/articles/supporters-of-photo-id-for-missouri-voters-look-to-2013-session/

[11] Image: http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2012/12/Chris-Koster-2.jpg

[12] Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster champions reform,: https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/27657/voices_koster_ag_102212?coverpage=1964

[13] Missouri Watchdog: http://missouriwatchdog.org/

[14] Facebook: http://facebook.com/missouriwatchdog

[15] Twitter: http://twitter.com/mowatchdog

[16] free newsletter: http://sites.activatedirect.com/1074m91ign69sx4/forms/MO+Watchdog+Email+Sign+Up

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