In November, State Rep. Lynn Morris, R-Nixa was re-elected for a fourth and final term in the Missouri House of Representatives, and he says he wants to make the most of it. He recently sat down with the Christian County Headliner News to discuss a plethora of house bills he hopes to help push forward. They would allow for Missouri veterans with Purple Hearts to receive free VA Purple Heart license plates, require label warnings, as well as doctors’ verbal warnings, for medical marijuana, and more.
Two key focal points for the 2019 session for Morris will be payday loan reform and an array of initiatives concerning senior citizens. Morris is the chairman of the newly-created House Committee on Aging.
Morris first hopes to restore the Missouri Rx program. The plan ensured seniors’ copays were cut by 50 percent. The other half was paid by the state.
“We’d done that for several years. It’s something that’s helped our seniors buy medicine, especially when they’ve been in the Medicare gap,” Morris said. “That’s when it’s even more critical to help them pay their copays, because otherwise, they just do without their medicine.”
The help to seniors ended in 2017.
“We balanced the budget on seniors backs and they cut six senior programs, and one of them was MoRx,” Morris said. “I voted against every one of those cuts—Republican cuts, budget cuts, I voted against every one of them.”
Last year, under Gov. Greitens, 60 percent of the Missouri Rx program was reinstated, but Morris is still worried about the other 40 percent that don’t have any help.
“We need to restore the rest back to where it was,” Morris said.
House Bill 253 has been filed two years in a row.
“The first year, 2017, it didn’t go through—it didn’t even make a committee,” State Rep. Lynn Morris said. “My party is a party that doesn’t want to tell businesses how to run their business.”
House Bill 253 protects consumer credit rates, Morris said. It requires interest rates for payday loans be no higher than 36 percent.
“The speaker didn’t like our bill. He said it was controversial,” Morris said. “It probably is controversial, but it’s one of those issues that I do side with the minority party.”
Morris said that when the bill was filed, he’d hoped members of the payday loan industry could come to the table to talk, compromise and make an agreement. That didn’t happen.
“They’re pretty confident that their lobbyists will beat down the bill,” Morris said, but he’s determined to see it through.
“When we looked into it in 2017, 2018, 80 percent, or one out of five businesses that do payday loans—they are out-of-state owners,” Morris said. “They’re not even based here.”
But they’re still causing a lot of trouble for Show-Me State residents, Morris said.
“Back in December 2017, there was a young man in his 20s that committed suicide in Springfield. He only borrowed $500 or $600, but every time he made a payment, he was farther and farther behind,” Morris said. “He was without work, and even though he made the suggested payment, it wasn’t covering anything, so he kept getting further behind.”
Today, the man’s mother lives in Tennessee, but Morris said she still makes the drive to Jefferson City to testify against payday loans on her son’s behalf. He sympathizes with those who feel forced to take out payday or title loans and hopes this is the years some changes are made. He hopes many area federal employees haven’t turned to them as a result of the government shutdown.
“I would think it would be almost impossible to pay them back,” Morris said. He’s hopeful the bill will pass this year. “There’s so many things that can happen to a bill, but the longer you work on it, I think, the better chance you have. You don’t want to give up.”