NP Spotlight: Volume 7
NP Spotlight is a regular (weekly-ish) feature providing updates on local and statewide legislation and governance, links to significant information, and general news about Northland Progress.
MO House Republicans vote down Medicaid expansion, deny 300,000 low-income Missourians health care
Despite U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s statement that the Affordable Care Act “is the law of the land” and that it will be with us “for the foreseeable future,” Missouri Republicans remain obstinate in their refusal to take advantage of federal tax dollars and expand Medicaid for Missourians who earn approximately $10,000 to $16,000 per year. The federal program would pick up the tab for at least 90% of the cost in 2020 and beyond, and state officials estimate that it would bring health care coverage to 300,000 low-income Missourians.
Several other Republican-led states that initially refused the federal funds have recently taken steps to expand Medicaid, including neighboring Kansas which passed a Medicaid expansion bill through both houses and placed it on the governor’s desk this week. Nevertheless, a House bill pushed by Democrats that would expand Medicaid in Missouri was roundly rejected by House Republicans (102-41), including all Republican Representatives who hail from the Northland.
Despite budgetary woes – the justification given by Governor Greitens and other Republicans for not expanding Medicaid – Missouri also recently began rejecting federal funding for a Medicaid women’s health program that serves approximately 70,000 women, in an effort to cut off resources to facilities that perform abortions. The federal program previously provided $8.3 million for low-income patient care.
With the health care debate set to rage on, it is worth noting that a 2016 Gallup poll showed that 58% of Americans favored a federally-funded single payer health care system for all.
House passes prevailing wage repeal as petitions for citizens’ veto of so-called “right-to-work” move ahead
The Missouri House passed a bill that aims to repeal the minimum wage that skilled workers can be paid for public construction and maintenance projects, and the bill will now move to the senate. Several Northland representatives voted in favor of repealing prevailing wage: Reps. Nick Marshall (R-Parkville), Delus Johnson (R-St. Joseph), Jim Neely (R-Cameron), and Noel Schull (R-Gashland). Governor Greitens has expressed support for the bill, which is the latest piece of anti-labor legislation to emerge from Jefferson City during this session.
In February, Governor Greitens signed the so-called “right-to-work” bill into legislation, making Missouri the 28th state to enact such a law which prohibits payment of union dues as a condition of employment. Data shows that workers in states with right-to-work laws make less money on average. However, Missouri voters may get the final say on right-to-work, as this week Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft approved petition language that would put the issue on the ballot in 2018. In order to avoid the law taking effect, unions and workers’ rights groups need to gather approximately 90,000 signatures on petitions prior to August 28.
If you would like to volunteer to help get right-to-work on the ballot, contact Missouri Jobs With Justice.
Booming solar industry threatened by House bill that would charge solar users extra fee
The outlook for Missouri’s solar industry is sunny, at least for the time being. According to the Solar Foundation, Missouri added 500 solar jobs in 2016, a 28 percent increase from the previous year. However, despite being described as a state that is “coming up” in terms of solar power, Missouri has room for improvement when it comes to solar energy access and net metering policy, and received a grade of “F” when it comes to helping consumer connect their solar equipment to the electrical grid.
Missouri’s recent gains in the solar industry are being threatened by a bill in the Missouri House that will soon advance to a final vote, HB 340. If passed, HB 340 would allow utility companies to charge solar users an extra fee, and as PV Magazine noted, “the utilities will have the opportunity to keep one of its strongest competitors – the rooftop solar industry – from continuing to grow by essentially taxing it to death.”
A final vote on HB 340 is coming up soon – we urge you to call your state representative and tell them to vote no on allowing utility companies to tax solar energy.