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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 21, 2014

Some first time marijuana offenses would no longer be subject to prison time under a measure that reached Gov. Jay Nixon's desk, Thursday, April 24.

This bill would take away the possibility of jail time for marijuana possessions of under 10 grams.

The current penalty in Missouri, for marijuana possession of up to 35 grams is a year in jail or up to $1,000 in fines, or both.

In addition, the bill sets longer jail time for child molestation between family members.

The measure passed in the Senate with a 29-2 vote and 140-15 in the House.

Supporters of the bill are unsure whether Nixon will sign off on the bill, as he has expressed concerns over the magnitude of change it could create.

If passed, the bill would not go into effect until 2017.

A committee only got to one of three impeachment resolutions for Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday, April 23.

Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, filed a resolution of impeachment on the issue of taxes and gay marriage. It states that since Missouri does not recognize same-sex marriage and Nixon allowed same sex couples to file joint tax returns, he willfully and knowingly did not follow his job duties.

“It’s clear, Missouri’s Constitution says we shall not recognize marriage between other than a man and a woman and the governor has done the exact opposite,” Marshall said.

Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, asked why they could not wait to see what the courts will do about the executive order in question. Marshall said the courts hate getting involved in politics. Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis City, one of the only democrats on the committee, said that this issue would be better dealt with in the courts.

It will be up to the committee chairman, Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, as to whether the committee will vote on the resolutions to be put in front of the entire general assembly.

“I will be discussing with my committee whether or not they want to vote on the resolution,” Cox said.

The hearings will continue Wednesday, April 30, and the committee will hear two other resolutions to impeach Nixon.

The House on Wednesday, April 23 gave first-round approval to a measure that would allow adults over the age of 21 to not wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

When asked what the premise of this bill was about, bill sponsor Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, had one word to say.

"Freedom," he said.

Other members didn't see it that way.

There was bipartisan opposition to the proposal and one Republican who spoke against the bill was Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin.

"Doing away with the helmet law is going to do one thing and that is going to increase the demand on our limited resources we have for Medicaid, for health care," White said.

Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, had a harsher way of describing what the bill does.

"It will have a positive effect on the economy in one very specific area and that is in the funeral business," Frederick said.

Speaking in support of the bill, Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi, cited Gov. Jay Nixon's many vetoes of the bill.

"Every year, we send it to the governor. Every year, he vetoes it. Well, let's give him another opportunity."

Rep. Delus Johnson, R-St. Joseph, also spoke in favor of the bill and much like Burlison, he said the bill is about freedom.

"We need to allow an adult responsible motorcycle rider the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to wear a helmet," Johnson said.

The bill was approved by the House and will now move to the Senate for debate.

Students who have already transferred to accredited districts would be allowed to stay in their receiving district under a House education commitment amendment.

The House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education passed amendments to a Senate school transfer bill Wednesday morning, April 23. Rep. Vicki Englund, D-St. Louis County, and Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, proposed amendments that would allow current transfer students to graduate from their receiving district. Students could stay if they continued living within the boundaries of their sending district as it existed when they first transferred.

Barnes said without his amendment, current transfer students could be forced to return to their sending district if that district gains accreditation.

"They've made peer groups, and if their parents want them to stay, they're probably doing well," Barnes said. "We shouldn't disrupt their lives and put them on a Yo-Yo."

Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis City, expressed concern about whether the state is willing to pay for these students.

"We're going to have to make some tough decisions to foot the bill for this kind of stability," Butler said. "We have to be willing to pay for it and not put that burden on the local school districts which are already financially strapped. But the state is also financially strapped."

The bill has been approved in the Senate. It was approved by the committee and will now move to the House for debate.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt visited the Missouri House Tuesday, April 22, urging lawmakers not to rely heavily on the federal government.

During a press conference before his appearance in the House, Blunt offered no comment when asked about the impeachment hearings being held for Gov. Jay Nixon Wednesday, April 23.

Lawmakers began the impeachment process following Nixon's announcement that Missouri would honor tax returns for legally married gay couples.

"One of the things I decided when I went to the Congress several years ago as a former statewide elected official, was that I wasn't going to give a lot of advice to people in Jefferson City about how to do their jobs until I solved all of the federal problems," Blunt said.

He also discussed Medicaid expansion. Blunt said because President Barack Obama has changed the federal health care act "by his own determination two dozen times" it is hard to rely on anything within the law.

He said the federal government needs to "re-think" Medicaid before expanding it.

The Missouri House voted to approve a measure that would allow hemp oil extracts to be used to treat children with epilepsy.

The measure would allow the Agricultural Department to cultivate hemp and extract the oil to be sold to patients suffering from epilepsy.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, said multiple studies have shown positive outcomes with the use of hemp oil to stop seizures.

Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, said he applauded Jones for his efforts but had a few reservations. He said although the drug is in the process of being approved by the FDA there has been no conclusion on the safety of its use.

Jones said this particular drug has little to no trace of THC and very high levels of CBD, which is what stops many of the seizures. He said the drug would not cause any imparement.

"If we were dealing with something that could get people high there's a lot of ramifications that would have to be discussed, whether it be the criminal side or their ability to drive, but thankfully this isn't something that doesn't get you high, doesn't cause hallucinogenic effects, so I don't think it really brings up too much of an issue," Jones said.

The bill was approved by the House and an emergency clause was adopted stipulating the bill will take effect immediately following passage. It will now move to the Senate for debate. 

 A House committee authorized a bill that would increase Missouri's revenue bonds for building projects across the state, including rebuilding the state's oldest mental hospital in Fulton.

The bill would add $400 million to the revenue bonds cap making its limit $1.175 billion. The extra $400 million will be added primarily for renovation of existing buildings and a new mental health hospital in Fulton, Missouri.

The bill passed with a unanimous vote from the House Budget Committee Tuesday, April 22.

In an earlier hearing in January, the House Budget Committee criticized Gov. Jay Nixon for wanting to use supplemental bonds to fund a new facility.

According to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the Fulton State Hospital opened in 1851, making it the oldest public mental health facility west of the Mississippi river. Its poor working conditions are dangerous to both patients and staff.

The bill will soon be debated in the House.

Gov. Jay Nixon's office issued a statement Tuesday morning that the legislature's tax-cut bill has a mistake in language that effectively would cut the state's total revenue collections by more than half.

Nixon's administration argues that when fully implemented, the bill would exempt Missourians making more $9,000 in taxable income from the state income tax. Nixon cited a section in the bill that provides that when the phased-in tax reductions are fully implemented, "the bracket subject to the top rate of tax shall be eliminated." 

"This provision would cost $4.8 billion a year when fully implemented, wiping out 65 percent of the state's general revenue budget, ultimately pushing Missouri into fiscal chaos," Nixon said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. "It is hard to overstate the crippling impact this would have."

The Nixon Administration requested an opinion on statutory language from Cheryl D. Block, a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. Based on over thirty years' experience as a professor, Block concluded that under the new law those with incomes between $8000 and $9000 would have to pay a 5.5 percent tax rate, while those over $9000 would pay no tax at all.

Republican House and Senate leadership also held a press conference Tuesday to voice their concerns with the governor's interpretations of the bill.

"The Missouri House and Senate leadership, and the governing Republican majority caucuses in both chambers, completely stand behind and continue to support [the bill]," said House Speaker Tim Jones during the press conference.

"If this were a true, good faith argument, Budget and Planning would have put this fiscal note at $4.8 billion," said House Republican Leader John Diehl, R-St. Louis County. "They didn't do that. They looked at it twice, they never discovered that. This is made up, and it's made to distract from the real issues."

The Republican leaders also cited that the governor had not once approached them regarding his issue with the language before it moved through both the House and Senate.

Nixon received the final draft on April 16, meaning that he has until May 1 to decide the fate of the bill.

This year, however, some of the Republicans who had voted to sustain the governor's veto last year said they remained supportive of this year's plan.

Last Week

Families and medical professionals urged lawmakers to approve a measure that would authorize the use of hemp extract to treat epilepsy.

The measure, heard by the House General Laws committee on Tuesday, April 8, would allow the Agriculture Department to cultivate hemp and extract the oil to be sold to patients suffering from epilepsy.

According to testimonials, CBD oil has few to no side effects, something that cannot be said for legal medications that June has already tried.

Ginny Jesse's daughter June is epileptic and suffers from daily seizures. She spends most of her time in hospitals and therapy sessions, which prevents her from living a normal childhood. June has been prescribed 11 different medications to treat her epilepsy, and none have worked. Hemp oil extracts is one option, but it is not legal in Missouri.

"In addition to being safe, CBD oil is showing to be effective. The anecdotal evidence of patients and families is that CBD oil results in remarkable seizure control with improvements of quality of life," Jesse said.

Hemp oils have been legalized in states like Colorado to treat epileptics, and have produced promising results.

The measure was approved in committee.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced $22 million in education budget cuts during a press conference on Thursday, April 10, blaming the legislature and a decline in Missouri gambling. 

According to the governor, the General Assembly failed to make up for shortfalls in lottery and gaming revenues, and decided to only include half of the governor's suggested $44.1 million in the 2014 supplemental budget. The shortfall arises because Missourians are gambling less, so there is less gambling tax revenue going to education.

"Unfortunately, despite our clear and repeated warnings about the consequences, the General Assembly has once again failed to make funding for education a priority," Nixon said during the press conference held in his Capitol office.

Relatively speaking, the $22 million cut is not a lot of money. It accounts for less than one percent of the overall education budget.

The House budget chair, Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County, expressed surprise over Gov. Nixon's discontent, citing that the governor had not once personally approached him about the issue.

"If we took another $22 million and put it into this year's funding, we would have to take that $22 million out of the general revenue that we've applied to the fiscal year 2015 budget," Stream said .

Nixon originally projected a 2.8 percent growth in this fiscal year compared to last year, but his administration reported last week that net general revenue collections have only increased by 1.7 percent in the past nine months.

Without any alterations, the Missouri Ways and Means Committee voted to pass an income tax cut bill onto the House Rules committee.  Legislative staff estimate the bill would cost the state $620 million in tax collections. 

The Republican-backed bill would reduce the maximum tax rate on personal income by one-half of a percent over a period of years, beginning in 2017. But, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, said the cut will not go into effect until the state's general revenue exceeds the amount of money collected the previous year by at least $150 million.

Those in opposition to the bill said it benefits only the state's highest incomes.

There was an attempt early in the session by Gov. Jay Nixon and Kraus to form tax cut legislation that worked for both parties. But that compromise effort fell apart when a Republican amendment added on in the Senate created a larger tax cut.

Nixon announced Thursday afternoon that the bill would be too costly to the state.

The bill now awaits a hearing with the House Rules committee.

Democratic Floor Leader Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, openly married to a woman, is sponsoring a measure that would prohibit discrimination of individuals based on their sexual orientation. 

The bill would add "sexual orientation" and “gender identity” to the state's enumerated list of outlawed reasons to discriminate against someone.

The list currently includes race, gender, religion and disabilities.

John Scott for the Secretary of State said people do their best work when they feel comfortable in their workplace.

Some who testified in opposition to the measure said including sexual orientation to the list would create more lawsuits. Others questioned how you could prove if someone was gay or lesbian.

"The chamber does not support any legislation that will create a new protected class in the Missouri Human Rights Act and would expose our members and Missouri businesses to increased liability in the courts," Jay Atkins, for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.

Bev Ehlen for a right-wing conservative group said the free market is working and the legislature should not create laws to regulate it.

Justus did not agree.

“While I would love for the free market to be able to take care of this, you’re always going to have an employer who does something for the wrong reasons,” Justus said. “And, this tool needs be available for those people being discriminated against.”

A several-hour medical malpractice debate hit the Senate floor Wednesday, April 9,  and lawmakers have not yet reached an agreement on the fate of patients and doctors.

Two Democratic Senators expressed support about capping medical malpractice damages unrelated to "economic" damages. However, they disagreed with Republicans on what amount the cap should be.

The measure would cap pain and suffering damages at $350,000.

Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis City, suggested an amendment to the measure. His amendment would change the cap to one million dollars, and adjust the cap at the beginning of each year based on the previous year’s cost of living.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said he thinks one million is too high and would drive doctors away from Missouri.

Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, said doctors should be able to do what they need to do without looking over their shoulders worried about litigations.

“While caps aren’t going to alleviate all of that concern, they are going to hopefully empower doctors to air on the side of doing what they think they need to do for the patients,” Sifton said. “Understanding that sometimes they’re going to be wrong and medical mistakes do happen.”

Missouri set the $350,000 cap in 2005, which did not account for inflation.

"By not capping non-economic damages you do limit the ability the jury has," said Sen. Brad Lager, R- Maryville. Lager proposed an amendment to impose a pain and suffering award cap at $500,000, decreasing that number by $50,000 each hour of debate after his proposal.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled the cap unconstitutional in 2012.

The measure passed through the House in March, and discussion in the Senate has been stalled.

The Missouri House narrowly gave first round approval to a measure allowing workers to not pay union dues to their employer.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, would prohibit employers from requiring a worker to join a union or pay union dues as part of their job.

Burlison said this bill is necessary for worker freedom.

"We believe that workers in our state deserve a right to choose what's in their best interest," Burlison said. "It's just not right that in today's world, anyone should have a government-created monopoly that supplies them members and revenues without their choice."

Minority Leader Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis City, gave a fiery floor speech in which he said this law was bad for workers and their families.

"You've picked a fight with working families across the state and I promise you that everyone is ready," Hummel said. "We didn't start this fight, Mr. Speaker. You did. But you can be sure we're gonna damn well finish it."

Lawmakers gave the bill first round approval with a 78-68 margin.

The bill is currently 4 votes short of the required amount to ultimately pass the House.

After the vote, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon praised members who voted against the bill and criticized those who support the leglislation.

"At a time when we should be focused on policies that create jobs and move our state forward, this misguided political maneuver would take us backward by undermining workers and weakening our economy," Nixon said.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-St. Louis County, passed away after a battle with liver cancer early Wednesday morning. He was 72.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle commented on Ellinger’s death.

House Democratic Leader Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis City, said Ellinger was well respected and will be remembered.

“You know I think he is going to be known and remembered as the liberal lion of the Missouri House,” Hummel said. “I think that everyone feels like they did not have the chance to properly say goodbye.”

In the Senate, while talking g about medical malpractice, Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, lost his train of thought and blamed it on Ellinger’s passing.

“Forgive me I am thinking of Representative Ellinger as I stand here,” Sifton said. “Our House colleague who we lost this morning.”

On Facebook Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, offered his condolences.

“It's very hard to hear the news about Rory Ellinger. We rarely agreed, but he embodied the passion and dedication to service that every member of the General Assembly should have. Brigit and I are praying for his loved ones during their time of loss and mourning. Rest in peace, Rory,” he wrote.

Lawmakers sprung into action when hearing of Ellinger’s failing health and put his final bill on the fast track to passage which was signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon in Ellinger’s hometown of University City last week.

His final proposal defines women’s rights when it comes to breastfeeding while on jury duty.

The Missouri House passed and sent to the Senate, a constitutional amendment that would raise the state sales tax by one penny per dollar to fund various transportation projects.

The proposal would require statewide voter approval in order to take effect.

The measure's sponsor -- Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair -- said the state needs to pick up the slack where the federal government is not.

"Without being able to count on the federal government coming through on a new funding transportation bill, we got to take things into our own hands," Hinson said.

Supporters have warned that the state lacks sufficient funds to maintain existing state highways.

Although approved by a GOP-controlled House, 38 Republicans voted against the measure -- including the House Speaker.

In 2013, a filibuster on the legislature's last day blocked a final vote on a similar measure.

Lawmakers attacked Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education while discussing a bill that aims to intervene earlier in provisional and unaccredited schools.

Rep. Jeanie Lauer, R-Jackson County, sponsored a bill that would send performance improvement teams to individual schools as soon as test scores failed to meet DESE requirements for accreditation.

Under a measure passed in 2013, DESE currently intervenes after a school has reached an unaccredited status. Lauer said this does not work, and compared it to dealing with a struggling employee a business environment.

"You don't wait until you're ready to fire the employee to put them on a performance improvement plan," Lauer said.

Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis County, criticized DESE's involvement in creating legislation to improve failing districts.

"They haven't engaged with the sponsor of this bill, they wiped their hands of this whole process," Montecillo said. "This morning instead of being here, they're tweeting about Common Core."

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, sits on the Senate Education Committee and serves on her school board. She said her district is fully accredited on paper, but the district's APR scores have stayed consistent with provisional accreditation for several years. She said DESE assigned an area supervision team to advise her district, but in four years on the school board, the senator said DESE's team has never visited her district.

"While we're supposed to be getting guidance, and while we already have teams, DESE has dropped the ball," Chappelle-Nadal said.

The House Education Committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Students from unaccredited school districts would be able to transfer to nonsectarian private schools with public funding under a measure heard by legislators.

The bill, which has been approved in the Senate, was heard by the House committee on Elementary and Secondary Education Tuesday, April 8.

Opponents of the bill argued that if private schools are going to be funded with public money, they need to be held to the same performance standards as public schools.

"I do not believe school choice is beneficial to students. We need to get serious about educating students where they're at," said Mike Lodewegen with the Missouri Association of School Administrators. "Moving students out of those schools doesn't do anything to help those students that are left behind."

Proponents of the bill argued that poverty stricken students in these unaccredited districts need more options for a quality education.

"I think we already have school choice for rich kids because their parents can determine where they're going to buy their house," Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City said. "They have that accountability to be able to move. So is their no accountability to allow the parents to say no, we don't think this school is write for our child."

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

The state Board of Education would be required to develop and recommend new academic performance standards in place of the federal Common Core standards under a measure approved by the Missouri House.

Legislators debated Tuesday, April 8, a bill that would prohibit the State Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from adopting and implementing the Common Core Standards developed by the Common Core Standards Initiative.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, presented an amendment to his bill, because he said the initial bill was too harsh, meant to force the debate of Common Core. His amendment would require the State Board of Education, by October 1, 2014, to create "work groups" composed of education professionals to develop and recommend new academic performance standards that will take the place of the common core standards.

The amendment would create separate work groups for English language arts, mathematics, science, and history and governments. For each of the four subject areas, two work groups, one for grades kindergarten through grade five and one for grades six through twelve would be formed.

The work groups would be required to recommend new standards to the State Board of Education by October 1, 2015, and the approved standards will be implemented beginning in the 2016 school year.

Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, also offered an amendment that would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary education to pilot the assessments formed by the work groups in the 2014-2015 school year. He said this will ensure the proper implementation of the new standards and allow time for the students and teachers to adjust.

Rep. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy, said he has spoken to superintendents in four different counties and they are all saying the Common Core program has to be saved. He said they don't want it "thrown out the window."

"They've spent too much time, too many hours, too much money to at least start implementing Common Core," he said.

Both amendments were approved.

No direct opposition to the bill was presented during the House debate.

The bill was approved by the House and now moves to the Senate.

From young girls to elderly men, hundreds of individuals from all walks of life were present for a rally on Women's Lives to protest legislative proposals to restrict abortion rights.

"My body, my choice," is just one of the many chants that could be heard from the East side of the Capitol Tuesday, April 8, as Missourians gathered to rally for pro-choice rights.

The primary speaker at the rally, Susan Talve, a rabbi from Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, said over 30 bills have been filed this legislative session that seek to restrict women's health care.

One such bill would triple the mandatory waiting period for abortions.

Elizabeth Read-Katz, of Columbia, said she received an abortion at age 27 after finding out her child had a chromosomal defect that was not compatible with life.

She said her mind would not have been changed by a three day waiting period, and that it would have only made the process more agonizing.

Kevin Elmer, R-Christian, the sponsor of the bill that would prolong abortion waiting period, said the bill would simply provide women with more time to think about this major life decision.

Talve said legislators should focus on expanding Medicaid instead of endangering women's health with restrictions on choice.

Missouri House members passed a measure that would affect child support for students enrolled in higher education institutions.

The bill requires a child who is enrolled in a vocational or higher education institute to receive passing grades each semester while enrolled in at least 12 credit hours in order to remain eligible to receive child support benefits.

The current law requires a child to complete 12 credit hours, without passing grades as a factor.

If the child does not complete 12 hours of credit with passing grades and the court does not find any extenuating circumstances or if the child fails to provide documentation of their grades to the noncustodial parent within 30 days, then child support must be terminated.

The parent support obligation should continue until the child finishes school or until they reach the age of 21, whichever comes first.

Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis County, opposed the bill.

"The way that I see your bill, it amends it to a way that makes it even more difficult for children who happen to not graduate until high school until their 18th birthday to complete college," Mitten said.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, disagreed.

"If a child is flunking out of college, the noncustodial parent is no longer going to send a monthly payment to the custodial parent, which in many cases never actually at that age sees its way to the child him or herself but instead stays with the custodial parent," said Barnes. "The bill right now is a good bill. It encourages parents who are custodial who have kids in college to get those kids passing college classes."

The bill will now move to the Missouri Senate.

Getting caught with pot does not equal time behind bars under a bill given first-round approval by the Missouri Senate.

The measure would change the state criminal code. One revision would keep first-time marijuana offenders with less than two ounces of pot out of jail. The bill aims to downgrade the offense to a class D misdemeanor and would give a financial penalty of anywhere between $250 to $1,000.

Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Greene County serves as Senate Judiciary Committee Chair. He suggested current jail time is already being waived by judges.

"People aren't going to jail for these offenses now," Dixon said. "But this way we're not potentially involving the public offender and those tax dollars. This $250 minimum fine may get their attention more."

Bill sponsor Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, said the bill makes the state's criminal justice system more effective and efficient.

""It was a consensus document between public defenders and prosecutors who say that these are the appropriate penalties for the crimes that we have on the books in the state of Missouri," Justus said.

The measure found no opposition in its first-round approval and was approved my the Senate. It now moves to the House for debate.

This represents an eight-year effort by the Missouri Bar Association to revise state laws assessing criminal penalties.

Randy Aulbur, a Central District Maintenance Engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the department had to spend more money this winter to deal with the bitterly cold weather and storms.

The result of this spending will affect MoDOT’s budget in the long run. But, Aulbur said the affects will not be seen until the next fiscal year or even the one after that.

“It’s not something you would see immediately,” Aulbur said. “It’s something that gets spread out over time. Our budgets in the future will be affected based on the way our weather patterns are.”

Holly Dentner, a spokeswoman for MoDOT, said the winter weather had the same affects on the whole state of Missouri.

He said MoDOT is on track with maintenance projects like patching and striping highways.

For this spring, Aulbur said rain is the main factor that MoDOT has to worry about.

“[We] just try to maximize how much you can do in the window of nice weather,” Aulbur said. “And, so we’ll just continue to work toward that.”

A new measure in the Missouri legislature would redefine misconduct in the workplace that may disqualify a person from getting their unemployment benefits.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, says he read Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto letter on a similar measure last legislative session and made the necessary changes.

One of those changes stipulates that an employee cannot be fired over a rule that is not fairly or consistently enforced.

LeadingAge Missouri is an association that represents senior service providers across the state.

CEO Denise Clemonds said most appeals for unemployment benefits win, and one judge wrote a dissenting opinion for an elderly abuse case.

“Telling a resident to shut up is never acceptable under any circumstance,” Clemonds said.

“Leaving a resident soaked in his own urine is never acceptable, that this employee knew and understood and was capable of taking care of this resident but chose not to,” she said. “This particular employee received unemployment once they were fired.”

Richard Craighead represents United Steelworker’s District 11 and testified against the measure for the Missouri AFL-CIO.

“We don’t want this going into the personal lives of employees and being fired or denied unemployment for something that happened (of work),” Craighead said.

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, admits he was one of the plan’s biggest opponents last session, but appreciates the changes Kraus made this year.

The bill has been passed in the Senate and now awaits debate in the House Rules committee.