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Four Missouri House bills to watch

Four Missouri House bills to watch

By Raymore Journal staff

High-profile bills are sitting in the Missouri General Assembly during a midterm election year, including those involving Medicaid, Second Amendment rights, voting rights, and the legalization of marijuana.

While campaigns for a seat in the Missouri General Assembly flood screens in the coming months, here are a few bills introduced in the state House of Representatives that could have significant effects.

House Joint Resolution 117 — Medicaid expansion stripped

In 2020, voters approved to amend the Missouri Constitution to expand Medicaid. In defiance of the voters, state lawmakers omitted funding for the expansion. A Missouri Supreme Court decision finding the ballot measure constitutional forced Gov. Mike Parson to fund the program. Now, state lawmakers are again trying to circumvent voters’ decision.

Amendment 2 on the August 2020 primary ballot passed with 53% approval. The measure expands eligibility for MO HealthNet, better known as Medicaid, to Missourians 19 to 64 years old with an income level at or below 133% of the federal poverty level. Additionally, the amendment explicitly prohibits further restrictions on eligibility.

Introduced by Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, HJR 117 wants to amend the Medicaid expansion language in the Missouri Constitution that essentially leaves it toothless.

Proposed amendments will take state lawmakers off the hook for funding the expansion. Specifically, Smith wants the General Assembly to determine funding for the program on an annual basis.

If passed, the amendment allows lawmakers to omit funding for the more than 200,000 Missourians who gained eligibility because of the expansion at their discretion. Medicaid funding will go to only populations specified in the budget.

HJR 117 also strips language prohibiting further barriers and replaces it with more restrictions. The bill will require 80 hours a month of “work and community engagement” for able Medicaid participants ages 19-64, including employment, education, community service, job search and readiness assistance, substance abuse treatment program, and providing childcare services to an individual who is participating in a community service program.

As of press time, HJR 117 has one co-sponsor: Rep. Dan Stacy, R-Blue Springs.

House Bill 2679 — Castle Doctrine Expansion

Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, wants the so-called Castle Doctrine to apply to the workplace.

Currently, state law allows Missourians to defend themselves with deadly force and without a duty to retreat if someone unlawfully enters a residence or vehicle.

Trent’s bill will add “place of employment” to places Missourians have a right to deadly force if someone unlawfully enters. As such, those protecting themselves at work do not have a duty to retreat.

Furthermore, the bill adds “a retail establishment or other place of business wherein an individual using such force has a right to be” to places where people are justified in using deadly force for self-defense.

HB 2679 has one co-sponsor: Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold.

Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, introduced a companion bill in the Senate, SB 1134. That bill has one co-sponsor: Sen. Jason Bean, R-Holcomb.

House Joint Resolution 79 — Stricter requirements for initiative petitions

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonn Terre, HJR 79 will make it more difficult to get a Missouri Constitution amendment on the ballot and passed by voters.

As state law currently stands, an initiative petition to amend the constitution needs to be signed by 8% of voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts to get a spot on a statewide ballot. For an amendment to pass, it needs a majority of the statewide vote.

Henderson’s bill will raise those thresholds. HJR 79 will raise the requirement to get on the ballot to 10% of voters in all eight congressional districts. Rather than a simple majority approval, constitutional amendments will require a two-thirds majority to pass.

Proponents say a simple majority allows just a few cities to decide on amendments to the constitution. Opponents counterargue by claiming the bill strips power away from the people.

If proposed requirements were in place two years ago, the 53% vote in favor of Medicaid expansion would not have passed.

The following House reps are co-sponsoring the bill:

John Simmons, R-Washington

Dean Vanschoiack, R-Savannah

Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis

Jamie Burger, R-Benton

Ed Lewis, R-Moberly

David Evans, R-West Plains

Darrell Atchison, R-Williamsville

Ron Copeland, R-Salem

House Bill 2704 — Cannabis Freedom Act

Perhaps the least controversial of the four bills with bipartisan support, HB 2704 will legalize marijuana for adult, recreational use and expunge past criminal offenses related to marijuana.

Although marijuana is legal for those with a state sanctioned medical card, it is still illegal for Missourians without a card to so much as possess marijuana. Rep. Ron Hick, R-Defiance, introduced a bill that essentially legalizes marijuana much in the same way as alcohol.

If passed, marijuana will be legal for adults 21 and older. Driving, flying, and boating while impaired by marijuana will remain illegal.

Under the bill, use or possession of marijuana cannot prevent someone from owning a firearm. Missourians with non-violent marijuana-related offenses will have those records expunged. The bill also bans Missouri law enforcement from enforcing federal marijuana laws inconsistent with the state’s laws.

Marijuana business owners are also protected. HB 2704 prohibits special zoning requirements or excessive licensing fees. Banks providing services to legal marijuana businesses are also protected.