Going Public: Rep. Kathy Swan Takes A Look Back On 2019 Legislative Session
Summer break for Missouri legislators started a month ago today. The 2019 legislative session was a dense one, and in that last week, they finished a bridge-repair bonding plan, completed language for the HB 126 abortion bill, and completed a proposal to establish term limits for statewide officials, among other things. In this episode of Going Public, we speak with State Rep. Kathy Swan from Missouri District 147 about some of the issues both the House and General Assembly faced this spring.
Kathy Swan: Well, workforce obviously and then workforce-slash-education were a tremendous focus of this current legislative session. Missouri Works with Economic Development Department is the largest incentivized-type tool that the state has to try to keep businesses here, and to attract businesses to come here. And that incentive, then, is through tax credits or withholding taxes to help them expand or add jobs. Still, we did a little tweak on that. This year was a deal-closing fund, because there are a variety of percentages of tax credits with that Missouri Works program. So we added one, and it is up to 9% of the payroll allowed for a tax credit for jobs created - 10 or more jobs - with the wage of 100% of the average county wage. There are different levels of those tax credits, so this was a new one that both the governor's office and the legislature felt that would be beneficial in that effort to try to attract and to retain business. Also, Fast Track - which was one that I was very fortunate to be able to handle - that was the governor's priority from this session. We have $10 million in the budget. The initial ask was 22. But, through the next fiscal year, the 10 would probably be adequate, because we're just getting started on that and the bill would take effect August 28. And, that is a needs-based scholarship or grant program for a baccalaureate degree, a credential, or an industry-recognized certificate in an area of workforce need. Those areas of workforce need will vary throughout the state depending on what business and industry exist in the different parts of the state.
I've been reading up on some of the bills that you sponsored this session. Has the legislature been tackling a lot of education issues lately?
KS: We were at a bit of a slow start this session, and even after the spring break when we had the week off. It seemed to even be a little slow. So what happens in that case is a lot of House bills get added as amendments onto the Senate bills. And there was a House bill that actually had several other bills added to it. The underlying bill was a school turnaround act, which is a wonderful idea. So the department could identify schools who are not performing well or struggling a little, and will get them on a program to remediate to themselves, and the department will contract with turnaround school experts. The school district school board will not have to foot the bill; there is a school turnaround fund that was created in that bill - as well for any appropriation - that the budget committee and legislative sessions in future will see that is appropriate to add some money to that to help fund that. That was one of the primary educational things. The other thing was a school calendar bill that had been debated for three to four years, and that actually moved the start date back. Right now, you may not start school 10 days prior the first Monday in September, and that one moved it four days.
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that you voted in favor of the eight week abortion ban.
But did you have a direct role in organizing and pushing for the legislation?
KS: Actually, I did. I had an amendment. The piece of that that was mine was a late term pain-capable act. I actually had filed that bill as well. The language is a little bit different on that than it is on the bill that I had filed: research has shown that unborn children about the age of 18 to 20 weeks gestation can feel pain. In fact, when surgeries are done on unborn children while they're still in utero, particularly spina bifida, has been a successful surgery for those children. They're given anesthesia, so both the mother's given anesthesia and the unborn child is given anesthesia. So that was my amendment that was on that particular bill. What we're doing is protecting the vulnerable, and unborn children are definitely vulnerable.
Do you think that the courts will be on your side in the issue? Is this going to be upheld?
KS: What we've seen in other states - some of the pieces may not hold up in court, but the late-term Pain Capable Unborn Child piece - which was mine - has withstood court challenge. In fact, in Texas, apparently that was added to a bill and, when Texas had a court challenge to the bill, that piece of it was not even noted. So that was one of the later court cases, and that particular one was not even brought up. There is a severability piece in that bill which is important to know, and means that if one part of it is thrown out in court, then the other pieces of that particular legislation survive.
The narrative has been that these state laws are a direct challenge to the federal legality of abortion. Is that true to your mind and to the minds of the other lawmakers that worked on it?
KS: I think some of it does involve that, and I know that the bill was constructed so that there probably would be a court challenge particularly with the 8- and the 10-week piece. I have read as you've read regarding what's been going on around the nation and the other states. So perhaps there's some grand plan I'm not knowledgeable that there is, but there does seem to be more movement toward that.
If the abortion ban stands, do you think that some of the division and the contention that have been going on ever since its passage will sort of be remedied?
KS: You know, it would be great to predict the future but I don't know. I don't really see that. I'm thinking the only way that that might occur is if something is done federally.
Any other issues you wanted to highlight?
KS: Well, I would also mention this was the third year for the shared parenting fix on the bill we had passed that was mine. It was brought to me by a constituent here in Cape regarding fathers, custody, and parenting time between mothers and fathers. So we did pass the initial bill at that time, but we needed additional language, legal language in statute, rebuttable presumption language that when a couple would go in divorce proceedings and child custody issues that the judge would look at it very objectively with a default that he or she would maximize the amount of time spent with each parent. Obviously ,we have to consider where school is, where both parents’ jobs are - that sort of thing.
Going Public is KRCU's premier interview program and audio newsmagazine. It features a variety of local voices on a variety of topics, often focusing on local politics.