MODDC’s 2023 Legislative Session and Moving Forward

Overall Summary:

In 2023, there were 2,251 pieces of legislation filed. Fifty-nine (59) of those made it through the General Assembly and are awaiting the signature of the Governor.

After this legislative session, the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (MODDC) is encouraged by the progress made for Missourians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Issues such as employment and guardianship received long overdue attention that expanded the rights of people with I/DD. Woven throughout all of these issues is the basic right to self-direction, or to make your own decisions, that systems so often do not afford people with I/DD.

Self-direction expands to the Council’s work and allyship with other groups that have been historically marginalized or excluded. The Council will continue to advocate and educate for the basic rights of people with disabilities.

MODDC Legislative Priorities:

For the 2023 Legislative Session, the MODDC identified four legislative priority areas. Below are the priority areas and key legislation for each area.

Priority 1: Workforce Shortage and Access To Quality Care:

Ensure that all individuals with I/DD in Missouri receive quality care. This includes both direct and indirect supports that are responsive and inclusive.

Advocacy occurred regarding a wage increase to help with the direct care shortage. Many self-advocates are unable to access the supports they need due to a shortage of employees.

At the beginning of session, the Governor recommended that Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) funding remain flat. After negotiations in the House and the Senate, funding was added in the final appropriations that intends to pay direct care staff a minimum of $16/hour.

MODDC also advocated in the appropriations (budget making) process for the benefits of including money for the “VR Match.” The “VR Match” refers to the fact that Missouri could spend $1.2 Million for Vocational Rehabilitation. If Missouri budgets for that money, the Federal Government would give an additional $4.6 Million – nearly a 400% return on investment. This will allow an additional 600 people with disabilities to benefit each year. It also allows for people to receive VR services with no waitlist.

Both of these items were included in final budget bills and are awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Priority 2: Guardianship:

Address system barriers that uniquely affect people with I/DD that are placed under guardianship. This includes addressing the school to guardianship pipeline and promoting alternatives to guardianship.

MODDC worked closely to provide information and education with legislators that were proposing guardianship legislation. Senator Lauren Arthur’s office collaborated with MODDC on a number of guardianship issues.

SB 182 proposes to presume that individuals are competent to vote, regardless of their guardianship or conservatorship status. It says that people with disabilities under a conservatorship or guardianship are entitled to register to vote. They can use reasonable accommodations in order to register. Finally, it says that voting machines should be used in all municipal elections.

SB 613 sought to provide more to Public Administrators through training and funding to better support wards under guardianships. It also established that anyone with concerns that a ward’s rights have been violated, can petition the court to take action.

Neither of these bills made it out of Committee and will not become law in 2023.

Priority 3: Abuse and Neglect:

Prevent the disproportionately high occurrences of abuse and neglect to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities this includes restraint and seclusion.

MODDC advocated with lawmakers to provide safeguards for individuals with disabilities to prevent abuse.

HB 367 was introduced as protecting all vulnerable victims of abuse, specifically naming people with disabilities. As the session progressed, the bill was changed to contain only language for children of sexual abuse.

HB 635 would remove the requirement that school districts provide their seclusion and restraint incident report to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). DESE currently collects this information and publishes it. This bill would have taken away this requirement so restraint and seclusion numbers would not be available to the public. MODDC advocated for the importance of this report in protecting students with disabilities and their families. This important data has the ability to help provide systems change and support to areas that need it.

HB 633 would have removed annual requirements for districts to provide training on important topics likes seclusion and restraint, bullying and sexual abuse. Advocates for the bill argued that it would remove another requirement for teachers and boost morale. Those advocating against the bill worried that, if left to the districts to decide, some would let these trainings lapse. This could lead to increased cases of restraint and seclusion in schools.

The language protecting all vulnerable victims in HB 367 did not move forward. HB 635 and 633 did not make it through the General Assembly and will not become law in 2023.

Priority 4: Equitable Community Inclusion:

Support equitable community inclusion of people with I/DD in Missouri. This includes in schools, workplaces and community living.

This year, Representative Melanie Stinnett carried two pieces of legislation HB 970 and HB 971. These two pieces of legislation were written to improve Missouri’s Ticket to Work program and to make Missouri an “Employment First” state.

HB 970, the Ticket to Work legislation, improves the ability of people with disabilities to save for retirement, consider marriage and keep access to personal care assistance services. It creates a disregard for the first $50,000 of a spouse’s income when considering benefits. It also excludes retirement accounts from the asset limit calculations.

HB 971, the Employment First legislation, makes Missouri an “Employment First” state. Employment will be a clear option given to people with disabilities who are of working age. It requires that support agencies collaborate and promote opportunities for competitive integrated employment.

Language from both of these bills passed the General Assembly. Language from both of these bills made it on to SB 45 and SB 106. These are awaiting the Governor’s signature. They are not final until either signed by the Governor or if no action is taken by July 14, 2023.

What’s Next

All bills that were Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed (TAFP) are on their way to the Governor for signature. The Governor can sign, veto, or do nothing. (If he does nothing, the bill will go into law.)

For budget bills, the Governor can approve, veto, or withhold funding across the state departments. He also has line item veto power when it comes to budget bills. He has until July 14, 2023 to sign or veto legislation. Bills that are vetoed can be overturned by the Legislature during the September Veto Session.

What You Can Do

  • If you wish to advocate or educate on any of the TAFP bills, you can contact the Governor’s office to have your voice heard.
  • You may contact his office by:
    • Sending an email
    • Calling 573-751-3222
    • Writing or typing a letter and mailing it to:
      • P.O. Box 720, Jefferson City, MO 65102

Contact Your Legislator

When session adjourns and legislators go back to their districts, this is the perfect opportunity to begin building relationships. It is very effective simply to introduce yourself and share your story.

You can look up your legislator, along with any filed legislation or voting record, on their website here and use that as an opportunity to thank them or present concerns. Even if you do not have an agenda, introducing yourself is a very valuable first-step in advocacy.