Representative Ed Lewis's Capitol Report
Rep. Lewis appointed to Education Inter-State Education Committee
I was recently appointed to the Education Committee of the Council of State Governments Southern Office, by the Speaker for a 1-year term ending December 31st, 2023. Established in 1947, the Southern Office is a member-driven organization and the largest of the four regions operating under The Council of State Governments. The mission of CSG South is to promote and strengthen intergovernmental cooperation in education among our 15 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Predominately, this is achieved through the ongoing work of our committee, the Executive Committee, and our five additional standing committees. I am honored the Speaker chose to appoint me to this Committee.
City of Moberly Community Revitalization Grant
The Missouri Department of Economic Development announced Thursday that it has awarded a total of $94.15 million through the Community Revitalization Grant Program for 70 projects across the state. the program, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, is focused on investing in communities of all sizes to support local priorities, encourage economic recovery, and build resilience for the future. The City of Moberly was announced as one of the recipients. The city was awarded $494,266 for the Community Center
Curbing Violent Crime
HB 301 is a wide-ranging public safety bill that includes a key provision that would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in areas of the state with an excessive homicide rate. The bill specifies the governor would be empowered to appoint a prosecutor in any circuit or prosecuting attorney’s jurisdiction that has a homicide rate in excess of 35 cases per 100,000 people and where the governor determines there is a threat to public safety and health. The bill also contains several other provisions designed to improve public safety in Missouri.
House Speaker Plocher said of the bill, “With hundreds of murders each year and thousands of unprosecuted criminal cases, we see a St. Louis that is anything but safe and that drives people and employers away from our area. I’m confident HB 301 can give us an important tool to restore law and order to St. Louis or any part of our state where violent crime has grown out of control.”
Supporting Law Enforcement
HBs 702, 53, 213, 216, 306 & 359 will take the politics out of policing by placing the St. Louis Police Department under the control of a state-appointed board of commissioners, which will stabilize the department so it can perform the basic job of law enforcement. The bill also specifies that the board must appoint and employ a permanent police force of no less than 1,313 patrolmen. Additionally, the bill requires the board to increase annual salaries for officers by at least $4,000 by July 1, 2024.
The bill sponsor said his legislation is “going to re-fund the police department, and increase the morale, and increase employment – more officers, more funding, more support for that department so they can do their jobs.”
Improving Police Officer Pay
HBs 640 & 729 will help the Kansas City Police Department attract and retain the very best law enforcement personnel by allowing the department to offer better pay to officers and the chief of police. The legislation would eliminate the current authorized salary ceiling for the Kansas City police chief and allow the Board of Police Commissioners to establish a salary ceiling by resolution. The bill would also eliminate the existing salary ceilings for police officers, computed according to rank, and empower the board to use the salary minimums as a base in pay ranges for officers in crafting their comprehensive pay schedule program.
The bill sponsor said, “I would like to see the best salary schedule in the Kansas City metro area. Hopefully we can use that to help with recruitment, and hopefully we can keep people on the force longer.”
Missouri House Approves Fiscal Year 2024 State Operating Budget
The members of the Missouri House of Representatives this week approved a $45.6 billion state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July. The 13 appropriations bills passed by the House include full funding for the state’s school foundation formula, funding increases for institutions of higher learning, additional support for law enforcement and school safety, and new funding for nursing homes and childcare providers.
With the FY 2024 state budget plan, House members are making an enormous investment in the both the K-12 and higher education systems. The House allocated approximately $9.7 billion for the state’s elementary and secondary education system. That number includes full funding for the state’s foundation formula that is used to fund K-12 public schools. It also includes an additional $233 million to provide a total of $347 million to fully fund school transportation for the second time in as many years. The House Budget Chairman included another $55.1 million in funding for Close the Gap grants that will help Missouri families address the learning loss that occurred as a result of the pandemic.
The budget includes approximately $1.4 billion for higher education and workforce development. Included in that figure is a 7% funding increase for community colleges and a 5% increase for four-year universities. The spending plan also includes an additional 2% increase for four-year institutions that will be allocated through a performance-based system. The FY 2024 budget also includes full funding for the state’s scholarship program such as Bright Flight, Access Missouri, and the A+ Scholarship Program.
With the approval of the state budget, House members also showed their strong support for law enforcement and public safety. The spending plan now on its way to the Senate would provide a 20% pay increase for the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Capitol Police. The budget also includes $50 million for school safety grants for Missouri schools to make physical security investments on their campuses, develop safety plans, establish school resource officer programs, and increase active threat trainings. Additionally, the budget provides an additional $2 million to the Missouri National Guard to assist with recruitment.
The version of the budget approved on the House floor also includes funding for some of the governor’s top priorities. The plan has an additional $78.5 million to expand childcare access, improve facilities, and help employers increase staff wages. The House-approved budget also sets aside $56 million recommended by the governor to expand pre-kindergarten options to all four-year-old children eligible for free and reduced priced lunch at no cost. The funding for the pre-kindergarten expansion is tied to legislation that must be approved by the General Assembly.
The bills now move to the Missouri Senate for consideration. The House and Senate will have to reach final agreement on the bills by Friday, May 5.
Education Budget Highlights
$9.7 billion in funding for the state’s system of K-12 education which includes full funding ($3.6 billion) for the school foundation formula.
$233 million increase to provide a total of $347 million to fully fund school transportation for the second time in as many years.
$31.9 million to expand the Teacher Career Ladder Program.
$1.3 million for a Curriculum Transparency Portal.
$2 million for Classroom Support Grants.
$55.1 million in funding for Close the Gap grants that will help Missouri families address the learning loss that occurred as a result of the pandemic.
$56 million recommended by the governor to expand pre-kindergarten options to all four-year-old children eligible for free and reduced priced lunch at no cost.
$70.8 million to increase funding for state colleges and universities. Community Colleges will receive a 7% increase while four-year institutions will receive a 5% increase and an additional 2% boost based on a performance-funding system.
$35.5 million for MoExcels workforce development projects on college campuses.
Full funding for state scholarship programs such as Bright Flight, Access Missouri, and A+.
$50 million for school safety grants for Missouri schools to make physical security investments on their campuses, develop safety plans, establish school resource officer programs, and increase active threat trainings.
A couple of weeks ago, I had two students from district, shadow me as part of the FCCLA legislative shadow program.
Last Tuesday, the Breckenridge scholars came to the Capitol. Representative Tim Taylor and I presented a resolution to Maci Crutchfield, who attends Westran High School.
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