2016 Disability Legislative Review

Below is a summary of some of the disability-related bills that passed and that did not pass during the 2016 Missouri General Assembly session

Bills That Passed – 2016

HB1565 – Raises Medicaid Asset Limit for Persons with Disabilities
Representative Engler

This was an important bill to pass to improve access to healthcare services for persons with disabilities. HB 1565 will increase the amount of assets that individuals with disabilities can have and still be eligible for MO HealthNet services. Missouri’s asset limits had not increased for 47 years.

For each fiscal year after 2018 through 2021, the asset limits will increase $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for couples so that by fiscal year 2021, the limit for individuals will be $5,000 and for married couples will be $10,000.  Then, starting in State FY2022, the limits will reflect any cost-of-living adjustments. 

HB1695 – Support Service Providers
Rep. Rowland

The bill specifies that the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) will provide grants to organizations, subject to appropriations, to create new programs to train and provide support services for deafblind children and their families, deafblind adults, and provide training for support service providers (SSP).  The nature of the support services an SSP may provide varies widely based on the individual’s needs. Common tasks that require an SSP may include traveling to and from work, navigating a grocery store, describing signage, or relaying information from written documents.

HB2029 – Step Therapy for Prescription Drugs
Rep. Hoskins

This bill requires healthcare insurers to set up a step therapy override exceptions process for prescription drug coverage. In some cases, patients have been required by their health insurer’s prescription drug protocol to first try medications other than the one the patient’s doctor prescribed. This bill sets requirements for insurers to have a clear and convenient process to request an override, and limits the use of step therapy in certain circumstances to make it faster and easier to get the prescription needed.

HB2379 – Dyslexia Screening in Public Schools – Rep. Swan &
SB 638 – Elementary & Secondary Education
  – Senator Riddle

Both bills require schools to screen students for Dyslexia and related disorders. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is required to develop guidelines for appropriate screening and classroom supports. Both bills also set up a Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia made up of 21 members including a member recommended by Missouri Assistive Technology who has expertise in accessible print materials and assistive technology. (the provisions also passed in SB635)

SB794 – Sales Tax on Durable Medical Equipment
Senator Wallingford

This bill builds on the assistive technology sales tax exemption developed by Missouri Assistive Technology in 1998.  It specifies that all sales, rentals, repairs and parts of durable medical equipment, prosthetic devices and orthotic devices are exempt from sales tax. It also exempts parts and accessories of many of the assistive technology devices previously exempted including wheelchairs and scooters. Braille devices, AAC devices, electronic print magnifiers and items to modify vehicles are also exempt. The full list can be found in Section 144.030 (2) 19 of the bill. The bill has been signed by the Governor.

SCR43 – Capitol Improvements
Senator Richard

The resolution calls for the establishment of a Joint Committee on Capitol Improvements to examine the appropriate space needs of the general assembly. The resolution notes that there are a sizeable number of legislative offices that cannot be accessed by persons with physical disabilities. The Committee will include a total of ten members and will be made up of Senate and House members. It resolves that the committee prepare a report to submit to the General Assembly by December 31, 2016.

HB1631 – Voter Photo ID
Rep. Alferman

This bill enacts a Voter Photo ID requirement in Missouri. Under the bill, individuals would be required to either show a photo ID at their polling place in order to vote, or sign a statement under penalty of perjury that they are qualified to vote along with showing a non-photo ID. There will also be a ballot measure in the November election that voters would have to approve in order to allow the Photo ID requirement. The Secretary of State’s office estimates that there are over 200,000 registered voters in the state who lack photo ID including higher percentages for seniors and persons with disabilities. The bill was vetoed by the Governor, but the veto was overridden by the legislature.

Bills That Did Not Pass – 2016

SB1068 – Accessible Voting Equipment
Senator Holsman

Currently, under the national Help America Vote Act, each voting location in the state is required to have at least one accessible voting machine available for federal elections. This bill would have extended that requirement also to state elections, elections for the general assembly, or local elections, even if there were no federal contests on the ballot.  While the bill specified the use of the equipment for voters who are blind or visually impaired, accessible voting equipment features can also make it easier for voters who have developmental disabilities, brain injury, etc. The bill had a committee hearing, but advanced no further.

HB2778 – Guardianship Laws
Rep. Neely

This is the major (138 pages) guardianship reform bill that the Mo-Wings task force has been developing over several years. The bill is aimed at protecting the rights of individuals who have guardians or conservators. The bill was introduced in mid-March but did not receive a hearing.

HB1368 – Establish a Committee to Examine Schools for the Severely Disabled
Rep. Hubrecht

This bill would have required DESE to establish a Committee on Schools for the Severely Disabled to examine state and federal regulations under which the schools were established and recommend any changes to the regulations that would allow the schools to better serve students. The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council testified that studies show that social skills and academic achievement are improved when students with disabilities are in a more integrated environment.

HB464 – Motorcycle Helmets
Rep. Burlison

The bill would have removed the current requirement that that anyone on a motorcycle in motion on a state highway must wear a helmet. It would have changed the law so that only persons under the age of 21 would have been required to wear a helmet. Disability advocates were concerned about increases in brain injuries had the legislation passed. The bill passed the House and got to the Senate floor but did not pass.

HB1904 – Emergency 911 Communication Services
Rep. Lauer

The bill would have made revisions to 9-1-1 emergency communication services to improve the ability to locate and respond to callers experiencing an emergency. It would have implemented a 9-1-1 fee on cell phones to help support needed improvements, including the ability of 9-1-1 centers to accept texts, which can be critical for persons with hearing or speech disabilities. 

HB2569 – Braille Instruction in Schools
Rep Hummel

This bill required a student to receive instruction in Braille reading and writing as part of his or her IEP, unless, as a result of an assessment (either the National Reading Media Assessment or other research-based assessment), instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is determined not appropriate for the child. The bill was voted do pass in committee but did not advance to the floor.

HB1428 – Service Dogs
Rep. Sommer

The bill would have added “mental health service dog” and “psychiatric service dog” to the types of service dogs that may accompany a person with a disability in places of public accommodations, modes of transportation, lodging, etc. not to exceed the provisions of the ADA. The bill would have also required that any person causing injury or death of a service dog could be required to pay restitution to fully compensate the owner for the injury, loss or replacement of the service dog. The bill passed the House, but not the Senate.

SB925 – Medicaid Buy-In for Workers with Disabilities
Senator Sifton

The bill would have made changes to the Ticket to Work Buy-in for Workers with Disabilities Program to make it easier for qualifying employed persons with disabilities to be covered by MO HealthNet or employer coverage. Changes would include: removing asset limits from qualification calculations; simplifying the income eligibility calculations; allowing qualified persons earning up to 300% of the poverty level to receive MO HealthNet coverage (with premiums for those over 100% FPL); and disregarding spousal income. The bill had a committee hearing in the Senate.

SCR60 – Equal Technology Access for Persons with Cognitive Disabilities

The resolution urged a commitment to equal access to technology and information access for persons with cognitive disabilities. There are 28 million Americans with cognitive disabilities, and many have no access to comprehensible information and usable communication technologies. The resolution was heard and voted “do pass” out of committee.