Representative Ed Lewis's Capitol Report

April 20, 2022

My Bills in the Senate

Three of my bills have passed out of the House and moved to the Senate here is where they are in the process. I think all three have a decent chance of passing out of the Senate this year.

HB 2116 The No Patient Left Alone Act had its hearing in the Senate. I testified as a sponsor of the bill in the Missouri Senate committee for Seniors, Families, Veterans and Military Affairs. It was 2 years ago that my mother fell and was admitted to the hospital. She died when hospital administration overreacted to the threat from COVID and forced my mother to die alone without family to advocate for her. The Senate must pass this legislation to protect those most vulnerable. This bill should be voted out this week from the Senate committee and be heard on the Senate floor. Senator White will be carrying this bill for us on the Senate side.

HB 2304 Substitute Teacher Bill- I testified on this bill Tuesday and it was passed out of the Senate Education committee on Thursday. Senator Cindy O’Laughlin is carrying this bill in the Senate. It has picked up a couple of amendments and looks like it may pass out of the Senate soon. This bill is going to make it easier for schools to acquire substitute teachers. It also has an emergency clause which would make it go into effect when the Governor signs the bill.

HB 2032 Anti-Sex Trafficking for Minors bill. This bill ensures that children who are caught up in sex-trafficking will get the help they need when they come into contact with law enforcement. It also creates the Statewide Council for Trafficking for Minors. This bill is now in the Senate where Senator Rehder is carrying this bill for me. It is referred to the Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence.

House Approves Legislation to Create Parents’ Bill of Rights (HB 1858)

The members of the Missouri House have approved legislation that would give parents a greater say in the education their children receive. The House gave first-round approval to HB 1858, which creates the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2022.

The bill’s sponsor said the bill meant to address the concerns of parents who “are not happy with what is happening in the classroom with their children.” He added, “Many times they are left with no recourse. School boards are not being responsive. There are situations where parents are being ignored, not listened to.” He said his bill “empowers parents. I think it empowers them to be able to be engaged in their student’s education.” He also noted that 11 states currently have similar laws outlining parental rights.

HB 1858 provides a list of rights that parents may require school districts to follow. Some of the parental rights outlined in the bill include the right to review curricula, books and instructional materials; the right to visit school during school hours with restrictions; and the right to have sufficient accountability and transparency regarding school boards.

The bill’s sponsor said, “There are a lot of things that could entail when it comes to things that are being taught in the classroom. Whether it’s age-inappropriate material, whether it’s books that should not be in front of students at those ages, or whether it’s critical race theory. Some of the things that are happening, we have to address.”

The bill also prohibits school districts from requiring nondisclosure agreements for a parent’s review of curricula or individualized education program meetings. It would restrict schools from collecting biometric data or other sensitive personal information about a minor child without obtaining parental consent. Additionally, it would require school board meetings dealing with curricula or general safety to take place in public and allow for public comments.

An amendment added during discussion on the bill specifies that no school or school employee can compel a teacher or student to personally adopt or affirm ideas in violation of Title IV or Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This would include ideas such as individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior; or that individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, ethnicity, color, or national origin.

The sponsor of the amendment said, “We’re making sure that teachers and students are not being compelled into believing certain ideas; not that they can’t teach those ideas. You can teach about controversial ideas that might cause people discomfort but you can’t force people to agree to those ideas.”

The amendment sponsor added, “We should not have collective racial guilt, but we should not have collective amnesia, or collective racial amnesia. What I think we ought to do is we ought to have collective pride.”

The bill also allows parents to file a civil lawsuit against a school district or school that violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights. Other provisions in the bill would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop an online database that provides access to every school district’s curriculum and professional development materials; require the salaries of public school employees to be included in the state accountability portal; and require school boards to provide a time for an open forum at the beginning of each board meeting and allows parents to bring civil action against school districts that violate the policy.

The bill requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

House Leadership Announces Plan to Provide Economic Relief to Working Missourians (HB 3021)

Members of House Leadership and the chairman of the House Budget Committee want to help working Missourians afford the ever-increasing cost of living. The Budget Committee chairman filed legislation this week that would create a one-time economic recovery tax credit for Missouri residents who paid personal income tax in the state for 2021. The plan immediately gained the support of the members of House leadership.

HB 3021 will appropriate $1 billion from the state’s General Revenue Fund to fund a one-time economic recovery non-refundable tax credit. Under the plan, anyone filing an individual Missouri personal income tax return would receive up to a $500 credit. Married couples filing jointly would receive up to a $1,000 credit. The credit is limited to individuals who were a Missouri resident for the entire tax year.

“As families struggle to make ends meet with the rising cost of inflation, it’s important that we do everything we can to help them keep more of their hard-earned dollars. The state is fortunate to have a record surplus that we can use a portion of to provide direct economic relief to working Missourians,” said the House Budget chairman.

The members of House Leadership issued a joint statement saying, “As a caucus we have made it clear that we do not support the idea of spending every available dollar to increase the size of government, but instead believe individual Missourians are the best decision makers for how to spend their tax dollars.”

The Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives noted that he and the House Budget Committee chairman have worked together over the past few months to find the best solution for providing substantive relief to working Missourians. He added that HB 3021 will be a legislative priority for the House in the final weeks of session. The bill has already received a public hearing in the House Budget Committee.