- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 11, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House overwhelmingly voiced its support Tuesday for a proposal to extend a tax checkoff program for organ donations after an emotional speech from a representative with a personal connection to the fund.

Rep. Steve Cookson, of Butler County, announced for the first time publicly that he has been diagnosed with liver failure and will need a transplant if he is to survive. He said the liver failure stemmed from blood viruses transmitted to him through a blood transplant in the 1970s.

Cookson said he hopes to get a transplant after the legislative session and wants to finish the rest of his term if he can maintain his health.

“I just would ask the body to think about how they may personally be affected by this (bill) and how important it would be for them, their spouse and their children,” he said. “I would ask that the body overwhelmingly support this bill for all those people that just want to have a chance at continuing life.”

The bill extends checkoffs on state income tax returns that started in 2011. It allows people to donate at least $2 on an individual return or at least $4 on a combined return to the Missouri Organ Donor Trust Fund. It still needs one more voice in the House before it goes to the Senate.

The proposal removes the expiration date for the checkoff. It would expire on Aug. 28, 2017 if the Legislature doesn’t extend it.

The donor fund maintains the organ and tissue donor registry and educates people about the benefits of organ donation.

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