Capitol Report: Operating budget sent to Senate

State Rep. Allen Andrews

House members made a strong statement this week in support of the state’s most vulnerable citizens and in defense of the lives of the unborn. The House approved legislation that will provide essential funding to the state’s Medicaid program, also known as MO HealthNet, and passed a pro-life bill meant to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to abortion providers. 

Lawmakers were called into a special legislative session last week by Governor Mike Parson to renew the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) program. Under the program, hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies provide funds to the state and MO HealthNet uses these funds to draw down matching federal dollars. The state collects approximately $1.6 billion, which draws down $2.9 billion in federal support. Gov. Parson told lawmakers he would have to cut $722 million from budget if the FRA isn’t renewed.

Lawmakers took up and passed SB 1 to renew the FRA program. Specifically the bill extends the sunset for the program from September 30, 2021 to September 30, 2023. House and Senate members also agreed to pro-life language in the bill. The provision prohibits the state’s Medicaid program from covering any drug or device approved by the FDA that may cause the destruction of, or prevent the implantation of, an unborn child. 

The House also advanced its own pro-life legislation, HB 2, meant to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to abortion providers in the state. The bill makes it unlawful for any public funds to be expended to any abortion facility, or to any affiliate or associate of the facility. 

One supporter of the bill said, “Every single right we have is only possible for each one of us if we have the right to life. For without the right to life we cannot enjoy any other right.” She added, “We must ensure no public dollars fund abortion providers and their affiliates. We must keep our promises and defund Planned Parenthood.”

The sponsor of the bill noted the legislature had previously moved to defund Planned Parenthood through language contained in the state operating budget. However, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that the Missouri Constitution prohibits lawmakers from using appropriations bills to create policy. HB 2 is meant to comply with the constitution by implementing the language in a policy bill.

The sponsor also noted the bill contains provisions to protect the state from a possible repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. The bill makes it clear that no federal act, law, order, rule, or regulation can infringe on the rights of the people of Missouri to encourage childbirth over abortion in the use of taxpayer funds, and to restrict public funds from being used to perform or assist in an abortion.

While SB 1 will now become law with the governor’s signature, HB 2 still requires Senate approval before moving to the governor’s desk. 

Following the approval of both bills, House Leadership issued a statement saying, “We are proud of the work done by the House today to approve the FRA renewal so the vital programs that assist many of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens can continue to be funded. We’re also proud of our members for taking a strong stand in defense of the lives of the unborn as we approved House Bill 2 to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to abortion providers. We urge our colleagues in the Senate to take immediate action to pass these important pro-life protections so the governor can sign them into law.”

If the Senate does not take action on the bill before the special session concludes, lawmakers have been assured that Gov. Parson will work to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood by implementing an administrative rule.

As always, it is an honor to serve you.

Allen Andrews is the First District State Representative.