Missouri representatives file bills for new session

Abby Hoover
Nikki Lansford

In 2020, all 163 seats in the state House of Representatives were up for election. Prior to the November 3 election, Republicans held a 113-48 majority with two vacant seats.

Ahead of the August 4 primary, the Northeast News and local partners hosted a candidate forum for the Missouri House of Representatives District 19 race.

Republicans expanded their supermajority in the 2020 House elections, though each party gained one seat, making the House’s post-election partisan balance 114-49.

Following the 2020 census, Missouri’s 2020 state legislative elections affected partisan control as the state legislature is responsible for congressional redistricting. An appointed demographer and two commissions handle redistricting, but congressional district maps are subject to gubernatorial veto.

Representative Ingrid Burnett, a Democrat representing Missouri’s House of Representatives 19th District, was re-elected and has begun serving her third term. Her priority there is to protect public education, she said in an interview with the Northeast News.

“In order to have strong, robust private schools, religious schools, charter schools – alternatives to public education – you need to have a strong and robust public school district, for them to exist in because there are so many ways that the public school district affects and impacts all of the other schools that are within their boundaries, and the way that you’re able to work together makes a huge difference,” Burnett said.

Burnett has sat on the Joint Committee on Education in the past, and hopes to continue her work on that and other committees she has experience with, including the budget committee.

“That’s important that there is some continuity there among the members,” Burnett said. “It’s a really heavy lift on time and understanding and really getting in, digging in, and knowing how their budget process works.”
In one of the first budget hearings that Burnett attended, the public defender talked about how they needed funding to re-establish two juvenile units in this state. Ten years ago, the state shut down units, which were specifically resources for juvenile cases, because of lack of funding.

“There’s a lot that goes into juvenile law and how that intersects with education and other kinds of services that juveniles are entitled to,” Burnett said. “They were reporting to us that for the most part, juveniles that were being assigned counsel, were not necessarily – or most often – getting attorneys who really practice in juvenile law, and that in many cases, these children were being coerced or convinced they, and their parents were being convinced, to waive their right to counsel.”

She said such actions can lead to lifelong consequences, and since then she has been carrying a piece of legislation to prohibit that. HB 218 modifies provisions relating to a child’s right to counsel.

“I think that’s really important to protect our kids, and I think it’s a good preventative measure, too,” Burnett said. “The kids that have – it’s really shocking – the kids that have counsel have a recidivism rate that’s like 40% less than kids who don’t. It really does make a difference, so that’s one I’m going to really I’m going to continue to work on as a separate policy.”

Burnett is sponsoring two bills relating to higher education tuition, HB 219 establishes the “Missouri Tuition Equity Act,” and HB 220 modifies provisions relating to higher education tuition.

“Currently, we have language in our budget that requires our higher ed institutions that use public funds to charge students like our DACA kids, who don’t have legal documentation – regardless of how long they have gone to school and or have lived here – requiring them to be charged the tuition rate at the international level as opposed to in-state tuition,” Burnett said. “Like for Metropolitan Community Colleges, that’s three times the rate that those students are charged, even if they have gone to school here from the time they were in kindergarten.”

Burnett said ironically, many states bordering Missouri have reciprocal agreements with state universities that would charge in-state tuition if you live in that metropolitan area.

The bill would require a certain number of years of school attendance in the state, and a condition that such students sign a waiver that they will seek naturalization when they can.

Burnett is sponsoring HB 224, which would designate the first full week of February each year as school counseling week in Missouri. It would coincide with National School Counselor Week, giving counselors the opportunity to use that week as a way to disseminate information to the public and other school employees on the benefits of having strong school counseling programs.

“It’s a job that requires a lot of heart and I would like them to be recognized for that, I really would like for that to happen,” Burnett said.

Burnett is also sponsoring the following bills: HB 221 increases the penalties for the offense of animal abuse and HB 222 increases the penalties for the offense of animal abuse and establishes an animal abuse registry; HB 223 provides that a full-time judge shall not be a judge or prosecutor for any other court; HB 225 requires school districts to provide “period products” at no cost in middle schools and high schools and charter schools and repeals provisions prohibiting abortion services providers from providing instruction on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases; HB 226 designates “Missouri’s Great Flood of ‘93 – Revisiting an Epic Natural Disaster” by Kenneth L. Kieser as the official state work chronicling the 1993 Flood; and HB 227 repeals the state prohibition of local governments regulating paper and plastic bags.

House District 23 Representative Michael Johnson, a Democrat, was elected in November 2020 to replace Barbara Washington when she ran for state senate.

Johnson is sponsoring HB 774 to establish a program within the department of economic development to provide high-speed internet access to underserved areas and HB 813 to require only one motor vehicle license plate for certain motor vehicles.

In addition to his legislative duties, Johnson is an insurance agent at his own agency, Johnson Hazley Agency, LLC. He previously served in the U.S. Army. He grew up in Kansas City and attended Northeast Law and Military Magnet School. After ROTC, he became an Expert Infantryman in urban warfare.

Johnson has three children and attends Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Johnson’s uncle, Charles A. Hazley was a city councilman for 20 years in Kansas City from 1971 to 1991.

Constituents can reach Johnson at 573-751-0538 or michael.johnson@house.mo.gov. His office in Jefferson City will be in Room 105-F at 201 West Capitol Avenue.

“By close of the House Journal on Wednesday, a total of 825 bills have now been filed for consideration of the 2021 session,” Burnett said in an email to constituents. “Bills can only be filed while the House is in session, which is one of the reasons for technical sessions where no debate takes place, but other procedural actions occur.”

Leaders of the Missouri House of Representatives cancelled the session for the week of January 18 through 23 to minimize the presence of lawmakers and legislative staff in the Missouri Capitol in the event violence does unfold. Other concerns at the State Capitol include the spread of COVID-19 as some House Members and staff continue to test positive.

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