The House Interim Committee on Disaster Recovery has approved its report on the state’s handling of this year’s disasters. It offers nine recommendations to improve response in the future based on testimony heard during hearings in Jefferson City and at six sites hit by flooding or tornadoes this year.
It does not recommend use of the Budget Reserve, or “Rainy Day” fund, though Chairman, Representative Shane Schoeller (R-Willard) is quick to note that could still be called for in the next legislative session. The Committee does suggest that any time the rainy day fund is used, a joint oversight committee review expenditures from it.
Regarding the Governor’s withholding of money from the budget in response to state disasters, the report says:
The constitutionality of this process will be determined in Schweich v. Nixon, currently being reviewed by the Missouri Supreme Court. The legislature may wish to examine the budgetary process in light of the governor’s constitutional powers and the legislature’s use of discretionary notations, depending on the decision made by the Supreme Court.
The committee recommends legislative oversight of any emergency spending authorized by the governor.
During the summer’s hearings, lawmakers heard about regulatory issues faced by medical professionals coming to Joplin to assist in the response to the May 22, EF-5 tornado there. It recommends providing immediate reciprocity for professionals licensed in another state to come to Missouri and practice due to an emergency.
Schoeller says, “What we’ve tried to do is create that opportunity for the local hospital to kinda be that convergence point where those who have those skills necessary to help, they would have to check in there before they would be allowed to be able to do their work.”
A similar recommendation was that fees and licenses for be waived for construction companies and professionals coming from out of state to assist in disaster response.
Representative Sylvester Taylor (D-Black Jack) was concerned that those coming to Missouri might not be prepared to work to the standards required in a stricken area. “The difference of a contractor in Leesburg, Mississippi, who has no building codes, is totally different that somebody who is a contractor from, let’s say, Blue Springs. Working with a contractor that’s used to not dealing with building codes and now these are the people that’s gonna be in charge of rebuilding our community…I just don’t understand that.”
After discussing Taylor’s concerns, the committee agreed to change the proposed language and voted to approve the report 9-3.
Of the recommended legislative action in the report, Chairman Schoeller says representatives whose districts have been impacted by disasters will be given the first chance to sponsor bills based on that.
Representative Tom Flanigan (R-Carthage) shared some of the latest cost estimates related to this year’s disasters. He said statewide, the total costs have come to $13.8 million; a figure he says will likely increase. The latest estimate of total payout from insurance companies in Joplin is nearly $2 billion.
The draft of the committee’s report can be found here. It does not reflect the change made today to proposed language regarding construction professionals.