(via Rep. Ingrid Burnett)
HB 2014, the Supplemental Budget bill was introduced to a nearly empty chamber on Wednesday after having cleared the Senate earlier in the day, which also passed HB 2456, the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) bill that morning. Both were then sent to the Governor on the 8th, and he approved the Supplemental bill on April 10th. HB 2014 provides the governor additional spending authority for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. In addition to other purposes, the bill provides $6.32 billion in overall spending authority with. $5.6 billion in spending authority related to the pandemic. However, only about $2.7 billion of that spending authority is expected to be backed up by actual dollars. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 28-1 and the House voted 147-4 to send it to the governor. The FRA bill allows hospitals to draw down additional federal funds through the Medicare program. Hopefully, the governor will approve that one as well.
It’s important to note that legislative appropriation provides the state with the legal authority to spend money, and an appropriation doesn’t mean there will be sufficient money in the state treasury to cover the authorized spending. By over-appropriating funds anticipated from the recently enacted federal stimulus package the Legislature has provided Gov. Parson flexibility to determine how that money should be allocated within yet-to-be finalized federal guidelines. It’s a risky move, but our general consensus was that it was necessary because of the lack of direction from the federal level. It means we will need to be vigilant.
Also, some of the federal money will be used to back-fill state general revenue cuts, particularly for colleges and universities, Parson imposed last week as state revenue collections slow to a trickle with much of the economy shut down due to the pandemic. In addition, the excess spending authority will position the administration to spend additional federal dollars that Congress might send to the states in the coming weeks.
What I find particularly alarming about the appropriations in HB 2014 is what is NOT in there. Things like appropriations to be used to protect fair and safe voting practices. There also is no allocation for County Health Departments or FQHC facilities like Samuel U Rogers, KC Care Clinic and Swope Health Centers who are responding to the pandemic with testing and treatment. There is $1.5M “for distributions of charter school closure refunds” with no guidance of who receives the refund. I was not allowed to offer an amendment over three weeks ago that would have provided a grant stream for schools to contract with food banks to provide meals to students on free and reduced lunch status. There isn’t a stream for rent and mortgage assistance. It seems to me that these are things we should have done right up front to provide a safety net until a more structured approach got developed. I don’t know what the anticipation of need is for the extra funding for the National Guard, and I pray that it is for help with food distribution, maybe assistance with mobile testing units?
There are good appropriations in this bill also that come from the CARES Act Funding including Community Development Block Grants to get quarantine/treatment/testing/mobile testing, and delivered meals to quarantined people; Suicide Prevention Programs, HIV/AIDS Assistance, Meals and Supportive Services to agencies on aging, Homeless Assistance, and Domestic Violence Victim grant funds. There are more, and I am happy to have conversations and communications with people who wish to know more.
Conservative Media Owner Highlights GOP House Leader's Failure
In the aftermath of the State Legislature's important day in dealing with the COVID 19 crisis, the Republican owner of the Missouri Times (a publication dedicated to Missouri government) had some commentary about how things got too political and were very wrong on the House floor. The Republicans didn't want to waste an opportunity to turn a tragedy into a campaign opportunity, but it went too far even for other conservatives. Here is the editorial from Scott Faughn right after last week's session:
To be fair, yesterday was always going to be a good day for House Democrats. You have very few good days in the House minority, but they did call for a different and large response to the pandemic, and Rep. Crystal Quade was going to deservedly have a good day.
However, Smith’s statesman-like response essentially diffused the issue — that was until House Floor Leader Rob Vescovo took to the microphone. Now to be fair, Vescovo is no Ronald Reagan and yesterday wasn’t even Ronald McDonald, but this speech was so tone-deaf it couldn’t have been rehearsed or written beforehand.
The essential point was a typical House speech accusing Democrats of running ads and politicizing the COVID-19 issue. But while he was clumsily launching the attack, the House Republican political operation, which he exclusively runs on his own, was running attack ads at Quade literally as he was speaking those words.
It would be hard to contemplate a more comical look on a more serious day. If he is being run by those who pander to paranoia by whispering into his ear the windmill of the day to fight, then House Democrats will be significantly empowered in the chamber next year by failures like this.
MAJOR changes to the State and National Delegate selection process have been announced. Delegates will be elected via electronic and mail-in ballot for the first time.
The State Convention will go on but has been rescheduled for June 13 in Columbia.
If you want to vote on delegates or run to be a state or national delegate, visit www.missouridemocrats.org/2020
to get all the information. We'll be explaining this process more in the coming days so everyone who wants to participate can get a chance but here are some important dates: