Rep. Chris Kelly discusses 2013 legislative session with constituents

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 | 10:46 p.m. CDT; updated 9:02 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 5, 2013

COLUMBIA — Five days after the 2013 state legislative session ended, Rep. Chris Kelly spoke to a group of about 30 people Tuesday evening at Columbia Public Library about his thoughts on the session.

The questions for the Columbia Democrat spanned a broad range of issues. Gun legislation, modular nuclear reactors and marijuana legalization all came up during the discussion.

The two dominant themes in the meeting were Medicaid expansion and a capital improvements bond issue. No one in the room disputed Kelly when he said that the legislature’s failure to expand Medicaid this session was a serious loss.

“It won’t kill our hospitals,” Kelly said, referring to those in Boone County. “What it will kill is mental health beds in rural hospitals.”

In April, Missouri’s Department of Mental Health released a study on how expanding Medicaid would affect mental health care in the state. The department estimated that expansion would provide behavioral health services to 50,000 Missouri residents who are currently uninsured.

The study found that uninsured mental health patients place a heavier burden on hospitals than uninsured medical patients.

“Among the four hospitals participating in this analysis, only 7 to 18 percent of all patients served by the hospitals were uninsured, but the acute psychiatric units of the hospitals provided 24 to 58 percent of all indigent care days,” the department’s report stated.

An effort to improve the state’s mental health hospital was part of the $1.2 billion bond issue Kelly cosponsored that never made it to a vote in the Senate this session. The bill would have authorized borrowing $200 million to pay for a new mental health facility to replace Fulton State Hospital.

“The hospital in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ would be an improvement,” Kelly said.

The bond issue also included:

  • $600 million for capital improvements at Missouri’s colleges and universities.
  • $100 million for a project at the state capitol building.
  • $40 million to improve state parks.
  • $20 million for capital improvements for elementary and secondary schools.

The rest of the money would have gone to a general state building and infrastructure fund.

On May 13, Kelly posted on his website that the bond issue would not go to a vote in the Senate. He told the group he had worked to pass a capital improvements bond issue for years, and he was disappointed that it did not pass at a time when interest rates are low.

Kelly said he lacks the political power necessary to get the bond issue passed in a Republican-controlled legislature.

"I'm too tiny," he said.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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