Area legislators push bills through house

Area legislators push bills through house

Rep. Rachel Storch

Storch, a St. Louis Democrat, has introduced three bills, including one intended to help low-income students pay for college and another that would force power companies to give their customers a price break for having to endure extended outages.

The first bill would establish a new college scholarship program designed to lower the high school dropout rate, reduce drug and alcohol use and better prepare students to enter the workforce. To be eligible, 8th grade students eligible for free lunches would sign an agreement to graduate from high school without driving drunk, using drugs, or running away from home. They also must maintain a C average.

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Students who fulfill the agreement would receive full tuition at a community college, state university or state technical school or a similar amount for use at a private university.

Storch said Indiana has offered a similar program that has helped more than 200,000 students attend college or job-training programs since the early 1990s.

Storch’s second bill is designed to compensate people who suffer through extended power outages. It would require power companies to pay customers $25 for every day power is out beyond 48 hours, up to a maximum of $100.

The bill, she said, is in response to the three extended and widespread power outages that have hit St. Louis since last July.

“This is recognition of the inconvenience and expense that many people incur, particularly when power goes out during life-threatening weather conditions like those last summer and in December,” Storch said. “We need to send a message that the current situation is unacceptable. Missourians have the right to expect a reasonably priced and reliable source of power. Right now we have neither.”

Storch also recently tried to put into state law a requirement that Medicaid cover the cost of attendants who care for about 84 severely disabled Missourians who want to be gainfully employed. The patients, many quadriplegic, need help with the most basic needs, from getting out of bed to eating and dressing.

The state currently covers the $2.2 million cost, but is not required to fund the program. Storch was rebuffed in her first attempt, but vowed to try again later.

“This program keeps people living on their own and out of a nursing home,” Storch said. “But we have left people in fear that this funding will be cut year to year.”

Rep. Sam Page

Page, a Creve Coeur Democrat, has filed two bills to help protect investors from fraud and young women from cervical cancer.

The first would strengthen the regulation of variable annuities, which involve an investment combined with an insurance contract. Such investments, often purchased by retirees, have been subject to abuse by sales representatives seeking to maximize their commissions.

Enforcement of the law has sometimes been difficult because sales reps argued that the investment laws did not apply because they were selling an insurance product. Page’s bill would make state law clear that such products are regulated as an investment security.

“This makes it easier for people who are ripped off to get restitution,” Page said. “And it makes it easier to see that the perpetrators get punished.”

Page’s second bill would require Missouri girls entering sixth grade to be immunized against the human papilloma virus. He said the goal is to require health insurance companies to cover the cost of the vaccine, which protects women against most forms of cervical cancer.

The bill would make the new vaccine a routine immunization required for schoolchildren along with vaccinations against polio, mumps, tetanus, and other illnesses.

A parent or guardian could object in writing to any of the vaccinations for religious reasons or because the vaccination would aggravate an existing health condition. To object to the papilloma vaccine, parents would have to acknowledge that they had received the information about the virus’s link to cervical cancer.

Rep. Jake Zimmerman

Rep. Jake Zimmerman, a freshman Democrat from Olivette, said he is working on two proposals to strengthen the state’s “no-call” list and help foster children make the transition to adulthood.

The first would impose new restrictions on automated phone calls, whether for business promotions or political candidates.

Regulations should establish how quickly automated calls should let go of the phone line. And political calls should immediately name the candidate on whose behalf the call is being made and tell the listener that they can hang up before the call is over, Zimmerman said.

“That sounds obvious, but many senior citizens don’t know that and are too polite to stop,” he said.

Zimmerman said he also was working on a plan to allow foster children who turn 18 to keep health care benefits through Medicaid until they turn 21, or until 23 if they remain in school full time. Such a plan would require Medicaid to treat foster children the same way that private health insurers treat policyholders’ children, he said.

“Given the hand these foster children have been dealt, we ought to give them every opportunity to get ahead and make a life for themselves,” Zimmerman said.