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Legislature works to finalize prescription drug, redistricting plans

May 14, 2001
By: Jennifer Ginsberg, Ben Paynter and Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 72, SB 236, HB 678 & HB 1000

JEFFERSON CITY - With only four days left in the legislative session, the Missouri lawmakers worked to finalize several issues, from prescription drugs to parental notification.

The House approved Gov. Bob Holden's proposal to overhaul the state's prescription drug plan for seniors. Representatives also approved restrictions on the information that universities can disclose to parents. This came with a change to include the University of Missouri under the sunshine law.

Meanwhile, the Senate resolved problems with "predatory loan" agencies in the state, and approved a plan to award diplomas to some veterans.

Aiming to prohibit disclosure of some student records, the House approved a amendment Monday that restricts what colleges can tell the parents of their students.

The provision a proposed University of Missouri policy to notify the parents of a student cited for a drug or alcohol violation.

The measure passed by the House would prohibit such notification for students older than 18 who are financially independent of their parents.

Earlier legislative efforts to restrict parent notification ran into legislative arguments that parents would be kept in the dark about their children's performance.

"We're only addressing a very narrow category of those financially independent students," said Rep. Vicki Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, who sponsored the amendment.

However, university officials said the language would not affect the UM policy. Spokesman Joe Moore said the policy already applies only to students who are claimed as dependent children by their parents.

In another amendment to clear up long-standing legal battle, language was added to clarify that the University of Missouri System is a "public governmental body" covered by the state's Sunshine Laws that requires government agencies to open their records and meetings to the public.

A court decision had held that the current state law covers only the university's governing body -- the Board of Curators -- but not to the University System as a whole.

Missouri's Sunshine Law requires that most meetings and records of state and local government are be open to the public. Except for certain exceptions, members of the public can ask to see any records kept by governments.

The bill must return the Senate before it can be sent to the governor.

In other legislative action Monday:

* Tuesday morning, the Senate is scheduled to take up a compromise Congressional redistricting plan that has begun to run into opposition from St. Louis County Republicans.

The plan has been endorsed by eight of Missouri's nine Congressman.

But St. Louis County Republican Todd Akin, who represents the second Congressional district, gave only a non-opposition response. "I have agreed not to initiate any litigation or opposition regarding the proposal," Akin wrote in a letter to Missouri lawmakers.

St. Louis County Republicans complain that major St. Louis County communities like Ladue and Creve Coeur would be split with the first Congressional district of Democrat Lacy Clay.

* On Monday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill banning price gauging in pay day loans.

The mandate would extend to loans of $500 dollars or less, capping fees at fifty dollars or five percent of the loan's worth, whichever is lower.

"The small loan companies were refusing to make loans this small," Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis, said.

Yeckel said the provision would protect borrowers from predatory loan companies, currently under investigation by the Federal Reserve.

"What we do will drive people out of the market," Yeckel said.

The bill must gain House approval before being reviewed by the governor.

* Fewer elderly would be eligible for state support for prescription drugs under a plan approved overwhelming by the Missouri House.

Prescription drugs have been one of Gov. Bob Holden's legislative goals this session.

Speaker Pro-Tem, Rep. Mark Abel, D-Festus, sponsored an amendment to give "direct benefits to seniors who are having problems meeting their bills."

Under current law, every elderly person gets a $200 prescription drug credit -- regardless of need.

The House-passed plan would apply only to seniors who meet the income level of $15,000 or less and spend at least $800 a year on prescription drugs.

Once seniors meet their monthly deductible, determined by income level, they are only required to play a small co-payment.

Seniors receiving Medicaid are not eligible for Abel's plan. He estimates that this plan would affect between 50,000 and 75,000 Missouri seniors.

* Veterans from World War I, World War II and the Korean War would receive honorary high school diplomas under legislation passed by lawmakers in the Senate.