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03 March 2010

Ervin: Session Notes - Part 2

"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." –Thomas Jefferson, fair copy of the drafts of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798

This week the Missouri House debated three separate proposed constitutional amendments.

HJR86 - Right to Raise Animals

Upon voter approval, this constitutional amendment, in order to protect Missouri's agricultural economy, affirms the right of Missouri citizens to raise domestic animals in a humane manner without the state imposing an undue economic burden on their owners.  No law criminalizing or regulating crops or the welfare of domesticated animals will be valid unless based upon generally accepted scientific principles and enacted by the General Assembly.  The resolution will not prohibit or limit the right of a city or county to enact ordinances and will not invalidate a state law that makes it a crime to grow a crop that has been declared a controlled substance.

HJR76 - Birds, Fish, Game, Wildlife, or Forestry Resources

Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment requires a four-sevenths majority for voter approval of initiative petitions relating to harvesting bird, fish, game, wildlife, or forestry resources.  Initiative petitions that establish, amend, or repeal sales taxes for conservation purposes will still require only a simple majority approval.

HJR48, 50, & 57 - Health Care Freedom Act

Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment prohibits any person, employer, or health care provider from being compelled to participate in any health care system.  Individuals and employers may pay directly for lawful health care services without being subject to fines or penalties, and health care providers can accept payment for health care services from individuals or employers without being subject to fines or penalties.  The purchase or sale of health care insurance in private health care systems cannot be prohibited by law or rule.

Also, this week the dark cloud of declining revenues grew darker.  The February revenue collections are getting worse, not better, with February collections being down from last year by 14.6% bringing our year-to-date revenue collections down to a negative 12.7%.  I have written extensively on my doubts that Missouri's revenue picture would improve and that the Governor's recommended budget was too optimistic along with the consensus revenue estimate, which now appears will have to be lowered.

The significance of the shortfall in revenue that we face this year, and next, cannot be underestimated.  This is the time when the Governor, the House, and the Senate must work together to fix the structural problems in our state budget.  This will require very difficult decisions, courage, and realism - it is not a time for gamesmanship and politicizing.  We can no longer hope that better times will come.  State government must live within its means just like the rest of us.

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns.  LaTonya Percival, my Legislative Assistant, and I are always available to answer questions and write me at doug{dot}ervin{at}house{dot}mo{dot}gov or regular mail at 201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 412A, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

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