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THE EGGLESTON REPORT – ADDRESSING VACCINE MANDATES

Representative J. Eggleston (R-Maysville)

Over the summer, Covid vaccine mandates being imposed on citizens by the federal government, local health departments, and employers became a very hot topic.  Many legislators asked the governor for a special session to address the issue last year, but no special session was called.  So when session began in January, a lot of pent-up feelings on the topic were turned into bills to push back on the mandates.

In all, House members have filed over two dozen bills relating to Covid vaccination and masking mandates.  These bills were referred to the Judiciary Committee for review and debate.  So far, 11 have been passed out of committee, and this week two of them were passed by the whole House and sent to the Senate.

The first bill passed was HB1686. This bill says that no state or local government employer (MoDot, school district, city government, etc.) may mandate a Covid vaccination as a condition of employment.  It also says employers who impose a vaccination mandate on their employees must respect an employee’s religious exemption request or doctor’s note allowing them to not be vaccinated if they wish.

The second bill was HB2358, which also established a religious exemption from the Covid vaccine.  It also says if an employer creates a Covid vaccine mandate for its employees and an employee suffers death or damage from taking the vaccine, the employer could be liable for damages.

I also have a Covid vaccine bill, relating to organ donations.  You might remember a few years ago I donated a kidney to my wife, and since then we have worked to help others in the same situation and advocate for organ donation. The bill, HB1861, says a transplant hospital can advise a transplant participant to be Covid vaccinated, but cannot mandate it as a requirement for the life-saving surgery.  The sponsor of HB2358 was kind enough to add my language to his bill, which passed 105-46 on a party line vote.

No member who has filed a vaccine bill has major issue with the vaccine itself, but rather the mandate to either take it or be fined, jailed, shamed, fired, or denied the normal privileges of life.  HB1686 and HB2358 now move to the Senate for consideration there.  I am sure more such bills will be debated before session completes, and time will tell which if any make it across the finish line.

Until next time, best wishes of safety, health and prosperity to you and your family.

 

PICTURES FROM THE CAPITOL

This week, I had the honor of offering an opening prayer in House session

 

FROM THE CAPITOL NEWS DESK

Supplemental Budget Bill Headed to the Governor’s Desk (HB 3014)

The General Assembly has given final approval to a supplemental spending plan that will provide vital funding for K-12 schools and the state’s Medicaid program, as well as a pay increase for state employees. With the governor’s signature, HB 3014 will authorize nearly $4.6 billion in funding to be utilized in the current fiscal year that ends in June.

The bill includes more than $2.2 billion in funding for K-12 schools in Missouri. That total includes nearly $1.8 billion in Elementary and Secondary Education Relief funds that are allocated to local education agencies. With this, Missouri’s school districts are fully funded. The bill also includes more than $444 million for the Office of Childhood for stabilization services.

HB 3014 also includes more than $1.5 billion in funding for the state’s MO HealthNet program. The funds are necessary to avoid a funding shortfall in the program due to the increased Medicaid population that resulted from Medicaid expansion.

Additionally, the bill allocates nearly $99 million for a pay increase for all state employees. During public hearings in the Budget Committee, members learned state jobs have a 26% turnover rate, and a more than 55% turnover rate in jobs that pay less than $30,000 annually. The plan approved by the General Assembly will ensure state employees receive at least a 5.5% pay raise. The House Budget Committee chairman said the bill makes an investment in the state workforce “to help retain and attract talented employees.”

The bill is now set to go into effect with the governor’s signature.

Medicaid Reform Constitutional Amendment Receives House Approval (HJR 117)

A proposed constitutional amendment is now on its way to the Senate that would allow voters to decide if key reforms should be enacted for the state’s growing Medicaid program. House members approved HJR 117, which would ask voters if three key changes should be made to the Medicaid program in Missouri.

One proposed change contained in the measure would clarify the legislature’s authority to appropriate based on population. In effect it would allow lawmakers to decide whether to appropriate funds for the Medicaid expansion population. The bill’s sponsor said the change “could be very important in future years when and if potentially Medicaid becomes prohibitively expensive that it continues to encroach upon other priorities within our state budget.”

Another provision in the proposed change to the constitution would put work and community engagement requirements in place for Medicaid recipients ages 19 to 64. They would be required to work at least 80 hours each month, or participate in education, job skills training, community service, or other alternatives. The proposal would exempt individuals with disabilities or serious medical conditions, as well as pregnant individuals and primary caregivers for young children or dependent adults. The provision also allows the Department of Social Services to permit further exemptions from the requirements in areas of high unemployment, areas with limited economic or educational opportunities, areas that lack public transportation, or otherwise for good cause. Under the provision, the Department of Social Services is required to apply for a waiver from the federal government to put the work requirements in place.

The final component of HJR 117 would ensure Missouri’s Medicaid benefits are provided only to residents of the state. The sponsor said the change is meant to fix a problem that occurs in Missouri, which is the only state to provide add-on payments for Medicaid recipients from other states who receive care in Missouri.

The proposed constitutional amendment now moves to the Senate.

Providing Direct Access to Physical Therapy (HB 1555)

Missourians would have their access to important health care services expanded under legislation approved this week by the Missouri House of Representatives. Lawmakers approved HB 1555 to give Missourians direct access to physical therapy without the need for a referral from a doctor.

The sponsor of the bill told his colleagues, “Right now we have to receive a prescription, or a referral, from a doctor before we can get physical therapy, and unfortunately that takes a lot of time, costs a lot of money. It could be weeks before we get in to our physician to get a referral. So what this bill does is it eliminates that requirement and provides direct access to health care that is both efficient and affordable.”

Under the bill, physical therapists would no longer need a prescription or referral from a doctor in order to evaluate and initiate treatment on a patient, as long as the physical therapist has a doctorate of physical therapy degree or has five years of clinical practice as a physical therapist.

The bill would require a physical therapist to refer any patient who doesn’t demonstrate measurable improvement after 10 visits or 21 business days to a health care provider. The bill also requires a physical therapist to consult with an approved health care provider before continuing therapy if after 10 visits or 21 business days the patient has demonstrated measurable or functional improvement from the physical therapy and the physical therapist believes that continuation of physical therapy is necessary.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Helping New Physical Therapists Work Sooner (HB 2149)

Members of the Missouri House took action this week to help new physical therapists get to work sooner. The House approved HB 2149 to allow physical therapy students to sit for their board exams before they graduate.

Under current law, anyone applying to be a licensed physical therapist must provide evidence of completion of a program of physical therapy education approved by the Board of Healing Arts.

The sponsor told her colleagues, “This means students who graduate in Missouri with a physical therapy degree in May cannot sit for their boards until July, and by the time they get their test results back, they cannot start practicing physical therapy until September. This is a long wait for students who possibly have a lot of student loan debt.” She added, “But there is an alternative that 39 other states in the United States are using, including the eight states that surround Missouri. In this scenario, students are allowed to sit for their board exams 90 days before they graduate while they’re working on their residencies.”

HB 2149 would allow an individual applying to be licensed as a physical therapist to sit for their board exams by providing evidence of eligibility to graduate from a reputable physical therapy program within 90 days.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Passes Bill to Support the Creation of New Businesses and New Jobs (HB 1590)

House members have approved legislation meant to support the development of new businesses and promote economic growth in Missouri. The House gave strong bipartisan support to HB 1590, which creates the Right-to-Start Act and provides tax cuts to new businesses.

Under HB 1590, the Right-to-Start Act would require the Office of Administration to compile a report each year that would detail key information on new businesses in the state. The report would be provided to the General Assembly, which would utilize it for guidance in creating new policy to encourage business and job growth.

The bill also provides tax cuts to new businesses that are meant to allow these businesses to keep more money in their pockets so they can continue to grow. For limited liability companies (LLCs), the bill would reduce the tax burden on their first $100,000 in income by 20% in each of their first three years in operation. For corporations, the bill would also reduce the tax burden for corporations during their first three years in business. They would see the corporate income tax reduced by 1% on their first $100,000 in income in each of their first three years.

“We’re trying to provide an opportunity for startups in our state to have a policy standard in our state that encourages entrepreneurship, encourages the growth of new companies, encourages risk taking in our state,” said the bill’s sponsor. He added, “Over the last four or five decades all net new jobs have come from new businesses. What we want to do in our state is have a policy agenda that says we encourage you to start a business, to take that risk, to go out and fulfill your dreams, take care of your families and communities by starting a business and hiring new people.”

The bill would also create the Office of Entrepreneurship within the Department of Economic Development. The office would work to promote policies and initiatives to support the growth of entrepreneurship in the state. The office would work with stakeholders and communities to provide information and technical support to entrepreneurs, and support and advise the Office of Administration with preparing the report making recommendations on improving access and resources for new Missouri businesses. The bill’s sponsor said the office would provide a much-needed voice for entrepreneurs.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Supporting Missouri’s Cottage Food Industry (HB 1697)

Legislation is now on its way to the Senate that would allow Missouri’s cottage food industry to grow and prosper. The House approved HB 1697 to allow Missourians who produce baked goods in their home to sell these items on the internet.

Under current law, the cottage food industry in Missouri is defined as an operation in an individual’s home that produces a baked good, a canned jam or jelly, or a dried herb or herb mix for sale to consumers. These cottage food industries are limited to an annual gross income of $50,000 and are prohibited from selling food through the internet.  HB 1697 would remove the income limit and eliminate the prohibition on online sales, provided that the cottage food production operation and purchaser are both located in Missouri.

The bill’s sponsor told his colleagues, “It’s a freedom bill. It’s getting government out of the way of small business. It’s a jobs bill. It’s going to inject more income into our economy. It will bring the cottage food statute into the 21st century and allow sales over the internet.” He added that the bill will “make the cottage food industry great again.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Sends Bills to Protect Missourians’ Freedoms to the Senate (HB 1686 and HB 2358 & 1485)

Two bills designed to protect Missourians from mandates that would take away their right to decide whether to receive a COVID-19 vaccination are now on their way to the Senate. The House approved both HB 1686 and HB 2358 & 1485 Wednesday morning.

HB 1686 would make it clear that public entities such as government agencies and public schools cannot require a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. It also prohibits fines or other penalties based on an individual’s vaccination status. Additionally, it reaffirms an employee’s right to raise a religious objection to receiving a vaccination.

The bill’s sponsor said the legislation is a response to the “heavy-handed intrusion from government” that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said, “The point of this bill is not whether or not you should take the COVID-19 vaccination. This bill doesn’t make it any more difficult for anyone to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The point of this bill is about the danger of concentrating power in government and about what values we should consider to protect as we consider the people we protect – values like personal liberty, informed consent, the right of the people to make decisions for their own lives, and common sense.”

The House also approved HB 2358 & 1485 to clearly affirm the right of an employee to receive an exemption from a COVID-19 vaccine requirement if the employee requests one based on certain sincerely held beliefs. The bill clarifies the religious exemption includes theistic as well as non-theistic beliefs. The bill would require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for the request unless clear and convincing evidence proves it would cause an undue hardship or be a direct threat to other employees or customers.

The bill’s sponsor said, “The heart and soul of this bill recognizes religious freedom. It recognizes in Missouri what is federal law – that the employee gets to make that decision about what their strong and sincere beliefs are. Most importantly, this bill is a lifeline to those many businesses that want to work with their employees; that want to give them reasonable accommodations.”

HB 2358 & 1485 also ensures an employee who is injured, disabled, or killed due to an employer-required COVID-19 vaccination would be compensated. The bill would treat the injuries resulting from the vaccine as an occupational disease. Additionally, an employee terminated or discharged for failing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccination requirement would still be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Both bills are now under consideration in the Senate.

 



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