As the Missouri General Assembly wraps up the first month of the 2018 legislative session, several bills and proposals are being debated and voted on in both legislative chambers. One of those proposals, Senate Bill 563, aims to restore prescription drug funding for more than 60,000 seniors. It’s no secret, last year was a tough budget year for our state. My colleagues and I had to make several tough decisions in order to balance Missouri’s bottom line. One of those tough decisions involved reducing the budget of the MO Rx program. This program was created to help Missourians with out-of-pocket costs pay for prescription drugs, particularly those who fall into the Medicare Part D donut hole. Last year’s budget situation forced lawmakers to amend the program to only serve individuals who were recipients of both Medicaid and Medicare. This change reduced the programs enrollment by more than 25 percent. While the move saved the state $12 million, for many of us, that extra revenue came at too high of a cost.

As a result of last year’s budget cuts, the Missouri Senate put its stamp of approval on Senate Bill 563. This legislation restores the budget cuts made in 2017 to the MO Rx program and removes the Medicaid dual-eligibility only requirement. As a result, every senior who was eligible for the program prior to the 2017 budget cuts will now be able to afford their needed prescriptions. I am committed to supporting our senior citizens in the Show-Me State. In today’s economy, many seniors face a difficult choice – buy life-saving prescription drugs or pay their electric bill. These are good citizens who have worked their entire lives, earned a paycheck, paid taxes and never asked for anything from their government. Policies, like the MO Rx program, are essential to supporting our citizens as they enter their golden years. In a $28 billion budget, restoring funding and eligibility to the MO Rx program is a small way we can give back to our seniors. The legislation now heads to the Missouri House of Representatives for consideration. I am confident this proposal will receive approval from the Missouri House and will make it across the finish line before the end of the legislative session.

Other Legislative News

The Missouri Senate passed legislation, Senate Bill 579, requiring stiffer penalties for those who harm law enforcement officers, firefighters or first responders. Under this measure, individuals found guilty of resisting or interfering with arrest, detention or stop who receive a Class A misdemeanor may, in the discretion of the court, be determined to be ineligible for probation and parole. If the offender creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death and is charged with a Class E Felony for resisting or interfering with arrest, detention or stop they will not be eligible for probation or parole. I believe individuals who cause harm to our law enforcement officers, firefighters or first responders should serve their full criminal sentence. As a result of the Senate’s actions, the proposal now moves to the Missouri House of Representatives for further consideration and debate.

Finally this week, my colleagues and I gave final approval to legislation giving law enforcement officers another tool in the fight against human trafficking. House Bill 1246 requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a poster that displays information regarding the dangers of human trafficking as well as other vital, life-saving information. As a result of the legislation, establishments where victims of trafficking are most likely to be found are required to display the informational poster. There have been reports of human trafficking in every state, and because of Missouri’s place at the crossroads of our nation, our state ranks among the top 20 in the frequency of reports of human trafficking. Through this legislation, we can provide individuals trapped in this modern form of slavery the information they need to escape the hellish existence created by those who aim to exploit them for profit. I believe this legislation has the potential to save lives. House Bill 1246 is the first piece of legislation to be truly agreed and finally passed during the 2018 legislation. The bill now awaits the governor’s approval before it can be become law.