Dear Friends and Supporters,The Missouri General Assembly wrapped up its final week of the 2018 legislative session on May 18. During the successful and productive session, we worked to ensure students have the skills they need to succeed, provided that public labor organizations are accountable to their members, enacted policies to make the state more economically competitive, lowered taxes for hardworking Missourians, and protected patients from unfair and costly insurance company practices.
I am happy to report my Senate Bill 603, the Missouri 21st Century Course Access Program, was passed by the General Assembly on May 17. This bill allows any eligible student to enroll in online courses of his or her choice as long as the student’s school approves the program and the provider meets certain requirements. By expanding the options for online and virtual courses, students will have the option to take the courses they need to be college- and career-ready, even if those courses are not available through their local school. This is a win for students and their schools. Students’ educational opportunities will no longer limited by their zip code. There is also the possibility of saving school districts money by relieving them of the cost of hiring additional teachers to teach specialty classes. Through 21st century technology, we are giving students the tools they need to succeed in today’s world.
In the final week of session, the Missouri General Assembly passed an important labor reform proposal. House Bill 1413, a bill I handled in the Missouri Senate, is meant to provide transparency and accountability in public sector collective. Government union members now exceed those in the private sector; however, government unions are not held to the standards of transparency and accountability as their counterparts in the private sector. One provision of HB 1413 requires annual authorization before dues or other fees can be collected out of an employee’s paycheck. This authorization also ensures employees have the ability to opt in or out of political activity. Additionally, HB 1413 allows public sector union members to vote on their representation every three years. This gives members the ability to choose representation by the same union, a different union, or no union. This provision will allow members to hold their leadership accountable. The legislation also provides for increased financial transparency similar to that required of private sector unions under federal law.
The Missouri General Assembly also brought much-needed tax relief to hardworking Missourians and Missouri businesses. By passing House Bill 2540, Missourians will be keeping more of their paychecks as the state’s top income bracket is lowered from5.9 percent to 5.5 percent beginning in January of 2019. This .4 percent decrease may also be accompanied by further tax rate reductions if the state meets certain revenue thresholds. Businesses will also be keeping more of their earnings as the corporate tax rate drops from 6.25 percent to 4 percent due to the passage of Senate Bill 884. The money these corporations save once the tax cut takes effect in 2020 can be used to invest in their businesses and hire more workers. Small businesses and corporations are the backbone of the economy, and I believe we should reduce the financial burden that hinders them from succeeding. I also believe Missourians know how to spend their money better than the government does, so I was glad to support these bills and provide tax relief to hundreds of thousands of Missourians.
Additionally, the Missouri General Assembly worked to protect patients from some unconscionable insurance practices. Last year, one of the country’s largest insurance providers made changes as to how the company managed emergency room claims. Ignoring the potentially life-threatening symptoms that sent a patient to the ER, the insurance company only looked at the resulting diagnosis to determine coverage. For example, if a patient went to the emergency room with chest pain, thinking he was having a heart attack, and after evaluation the final diagnosis was indigestion, the claim was rejected and the patient was left with a costly emergency room bill.
This policy change conflicted with the traditional prudent layperson standard, which states that if a reasonable person believes they need emergency medical attention, the claim was covered by insurance. This is why I worked with my colleagues to pass Senate Bill 982, which reinforces this reasonable standard of coverage and prevents insurance companies from engaging in unreasonable practices to deny emergency room coverage. I was glad to work with the sponsor of the bill and other stakeholders to ensure the legislation protects patients for years to come.
It is a tremendous honor to represent you in the Missouri Senate. As always, thank you for your interest in our work at the State Capitol and I look forward to sharing further updates with you through upcoming newsletters.
Robert F. (Bob) Onder, Jr.
State Senator District 2
Serving Western St. Charles County
Assistant Majority Floor Leader