SLAHU’s WEEKLY OVERVIEW…A WEEK TO REMEMBER: 

This week, the Missouri Senate melted down.  After spending about twelve hours on Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning (5:30 a.m.) debating a bill that would remove circuit breaker tax benefits from elderly and disabled citizens who rent housing, the bill was laid over.  This forced the Senate Appropriations Committee, which was counting on the approximate $56 million in savings to balance the budget, to retreat and rewrite portions of the budget.  On Thursday, Senator Rob Schaaf refused to allow debate on the “Blue Alert”, a bill that would provide additional protections to law enforcement officers because the House had taken up and defeated a measure identical to a Schaaf bill relating to truck weigh stations. Schaaf told his Senate colleagues that “actions have consequences” and proceeded to read from a bill relating to ethics (The Art of Receptivity”).  After a heated and personal exchange between Schaaf and Senator Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), the Senate abruptly adjourned until 4:00 p.m. on Monday, despite having told members that the Senate would work on Friday.

On Monday, the Senate will be debating SB 190 which makes numerous changes to regulation of public electric utilities. Starting on Tuesday and for the remainder of the week, the Senate will devote most of its floor time to passing the budget bills.

Meanwhile, the frustration among members of the House with the lack of activity in the Senate has reached pique level. The House continued to Perfect and Third Read House bills this week, knowing that time is running out for any real progress on the bills as they are sent to the Senate. It is anticipated that next week the House will take up for debate SB 43 (Romine), an employment discrimination bill that has sparked high emotions from supporters and opponents.

This report and the reports for the next two weeks are going to be shorter than previous reports.  There will be no reporting on House bills that are being heard in House committees since those bills have no chance of passage.  I will continue to provide pertinent information relating to bills of interest on the calendars and bills being heard in committees that have passed the original chamber.

There are three weeks remaining in this legislative session.  The General Assembly will adjourn at 6:00 p.m. on May 12.

Senate Floor Action:

 RENTERS CIRCUIT BREAKER: This week the Senate dedicated most of its floor time attempting to Third Read House Committee Bill 3. This bill would repeal the so called “circuit breaker” property tax credit for low income seniors and the disabled and place the proceeds in a new fund that will be used to provide services for low income seniors and the disabled. The legislation is a key piece to the state’s budget puzzle and would save an estimated $56 million.

An amendment was proposed and defeated to eliminate the 2% sales/use tax timely filing allowance. That amendment was defeated on a 22-7 vote with no Republicans voting in favor. The Senate began debate on this bill Tuesday afternoon and finally laid the bill over on the Senate Informal Calendar around 5:30 Wednesday morning failing to approve the measure.

House Floor Action:

 PDMP:  This week, the House voted to send SS/HCS/HB’s 90 & 68, the prescription drug monitoring legislation sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), to conference committee to work out the differences of the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill. One of those major differences is an amendment adopted in the Senate during debate on the bill last week that would purge data from the data base after 180 days. The motion to go to conference must now be agreed to by the Senate. 

OMNIBUS INSURANCE BILL:  On April 19, the House perfected House Committee Bill 10, sponsored by Rep. John Wiemann (R-O’Fallon).  HCB 10 contains the following bills:

HB 341 – Rep. Shull (R) – Suicide Exclusion

HB 345 – Rep. Shull (R) – Insurance Interest

HB 741 – Rep. Engler (R) – Commercial Insurance Forms Exemptions

HB 829 – Rep. Matthiesen (R) – Long Term Care Riders

HB 863 – Rep. McGaugh (R) – Festival Liability Insurance

HB 611 – Rep. Carpenter (D) – Long Term Care Insurance

HB 958 – Rep. Wiemann (R) – Property Insurance

HB 708 – Rep. Hill (R) – Short Term Major Medical Policies

 There was little debate before the bill was Perfected by voice vote. 

 CHIROPRACTIC REIMBURSEMENT FOR MO HEALTHNET: This week the House Third Read and Passed with 136 ayes and 11 noes HB 209, sponsored by Rep. John Wiemann (R-O’Fallon).  This bill permits the MO HealthNet division within the Department of Social Services to make MO HealthNet payments to chiropractic physicians practicing within their scope of practice for conditions currently reimbursed under the MO HealthNet program.

The bill has been reported to the Senate and First Read.

 COMMERCIAL INSURANCE OFFERINGS: This week the House Third Read and Passed with 144 ayes and 4 noes HCS HB 741, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington).  Beginning January 1, 2018, this bill specifies that certain commercial insurers are exempt from filing rates and policy forms with respect to certain lines of commercial insurance where the aggregate total annual premiums for a single commercial policyholders exceeds $100,000. The bill has been reported to the Senate and First Read. 

House Committee Action:

 TIME LIMITED DEMAND: On Tuesday, the House Committee on General Laws conducted a public hearing on SB 213, sponsored by Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia).  This act provides that a time-limited demand occurs when a claimant offers to settle a claim with a defendant with liability insurance in a personal injury or wrongful death case for an amount within the insurer’s limit of liability insurance and the acceptance of such offer has a time limitation.  A time-limited demand must be in writing, reference the applicable section of law, sent by certified mail to the defendant’s liability insurer, contain the time period for acceptance which shall not be less than ninety days, the amount of money requested or a request for the applicable policy limits, the date and location of the loss, the claim number, a description of the known injuries sustained, a description of the parties and claims to be released from liability if the demand is accepted, and an offer of unconditional release for the liability insurer’s insureds from all present and future liability. The demand also must be accompanied by additional information as provided in the act, which includes authorizations to allow the liability insurer to obtain records from all relevant employers and medical care providers.

A liability insurer with the right to settle on behalf of an insured may accept the time-limited demand in writing within the time period provided in the demand.  The act does not apply to offers to settle made within ninety days of the trial.  In a lawsuit filed by the claimant as assignee of the defendant or by the defendant for the benefit of the claimant, a time-limited demand that does not comply with the act cannot be considered as a reasonable opportunity to settle for the insurer and shall not be admissible in suit alleging extra-contractual damages against the liability insurer.

Testifying in support was the Missouri Insurance Industry, Associated Industries of Missouri, Missouri Chamber of Commerce, American Family, the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, Shelter Insurance, Farmers Insurance and the Chubb Insurance Group.

Supporters stated that the bill contains fairness standards for this process and should actually speed up the settlement process.  They asserted that any time limited demand can be made and this bill allows for enough information to evaluate the claim.

Testifying in opposition was an attorney from Goldblatt and Singer and the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.

Opponents believed that this bill could lead to more lawsuits.  They testified that this bill provides for the provision of private information that would not necessarily be admissible. They noted that the bill does not allow for due diligence and would encourage more lawsuits.

The committee took no further action.

RX CARES FOR MO PROGRAM: The House Budget Committee met in executive session and voted SCS SB 139, sponsored by Senator David Sater (R-Cassville) “do pass” 20-9.

The legislation creates the Rx Cares for Missouri Program to promote medication safety and prevent prescription drug abuse. During discussions, Representative David Wood (R-Versailles) offered a substitute to include HB 986 language relating to the MO HealthNet Pharmacy program, specifically including provisions on polypharmacy expansion, rebates, MO Rx renewal for dual eligibility and preferred drug lists. Representative Tila Hubrecht (R-Dexter) offered an amendment removing all psychotropic drugs from the preferred drug list. After considerable debate, the amendment was adopted by a 17-11 vote. Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) offered an amendment making the controlled substance abuse fund subject to transfer appropriations, to allow the legislature to sweep the funds. After no discussion, the amendment was adopted.

 HEALTH INSURANCE: On Wednesday, the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee held an executive session on HB 994 sponsored by Rep. Eggleston (R).  This bill establishes that an employee can receive either health insurance benefits or the premium paid by the employer, in form of compensation or a health savings account.

HCA1 – Frederick – Removes the ability to obtain a cash payment and provides that the monies must be deposited in a health savings account.  The amendment failed 3 to 7.

The committee then defeated the bill by a vote of 2 to 8.

Senate Committee Action:

 BUDGET UPDATE: The Senate Committee on Appropriations finished their committee mark-up process after a delay this week relating to failure to pass HCB3, which would have moved $56 million from the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit to use into the Senior Services Protection Fund and other avenues of the state budget.  The delay left the committee scrambling to cut $57 million out of General Revenue to avoid cuts to a variety of services including nursing homes, consumer directed services, and home and community based services, and early childhood transportation that were appropriated by the House with funding from HCB3.  After much negotiation and discussion all of the lines were finally closed and the money was found through fund switches, cuts to TANF funding, the additional use of Tobacco Settlement monies, a cut of $24 million to the Office of Public Defender, and a projected one time banked savings of $50 million in the core of Managed Care.  It is Chairman Brown’s intention to report the thirteen budget bills to the Senate floor on Monday evening when they reconvene for session.  The pressure to pass a balanced budget by May 5th continues to mount.  In ten days, the Senate must debate the budget and send it back to the House with time to allow for a conference committee to negotiate the differences between the two chambers.

Some items of interest to note:

The 3% nursing home provider rate cut has been restored and the points set at 24 with the assumption of passage of HCB 3.  If the bill does not pass, the 1.5% cut will remain and the points will remain at 24.  This item will be available for conference.

Please let me know if you have any questions at kynaiman@earthlink.net