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05 March 2010

Schupp: Classes visit Capitol, Budget and Committee Updates

While the week was busy in terms of constituent visits and events, the surprise has been how slowly we are moving on reconciling the budget.  Budget meetings originally scheduled for this week were postponed by Budget Chair Icet.

While the Democrats have always worked to make funding education a top priority, the budget presented by the Republican Budget Chair late last night included what appears to be fully funding public education.  The question will be, if cuts are needed, will the majority party be willing to make those cuts, or as the party in power, simply send an unrealistic and unbalanced budget on to the Governor and force his hand?

Additionally, what areas of the budget (such as Parents as Teachers) will be quashed or "heroically" restored as part of the politically-charged realities of truly difficult economic times in an election year.  Watch, ask your questions and weigh in as the legislature tackles distributing your dollars in ways that we hope, in the end, will work best for our state.

On a lighter note, events this week included a visit from Andrews Academy's fourth grade class, an awards luncheon honoring winners of Missouri's Poetry Out Loud contest (including one of our 82nd district on) a visit from the current class of Leadership St. Louis, and the Freshman Class dinner, where I was asked to speak, hosted by Governor and First Lady Nixon.

Our office welcomed 30 students from Andrews Academy 4th grade class for Andrews' first visit to Jefferson City.  The students toured the Governor's Mansion, took a trip to the top of the Capitol Dome and visited the Supreme Court. Thank you to Mary Witt, Andrews Academy's Dean of Students, for coordinating the trip with my office.

How exciting it was to welcome Parkway North High School's Wendy Low, a Junior, her parents and teachers as she was invited to celebrate her skills as an invited participant in the Poetry Out Loud conference held in Jefferson City. First Lady Georgeanne Nixon hosted a lovely lunch for these award-winning students that included a visit and recitation from Missouri's newly announced poet laureate, David Clewell.

How wonderful to meet the group of leaders from Leadership St. Louis who joined us in the Capitol!  These people are among those in the community of St. Louis whose skills and work can and do lead us to greatness!  My long time dear friend Lynn Wittels, Laura Dierberg Ayers and Melinda Ohlemiller were among the members of this esteemed group.

At right: Rep. Schupp and fellow St. Louis legislators pose on the side of the House floor with members of the Leadership St. Louis Class on their Wednesday visit to the Capitol.

Finally, it was a wonderful honor to be seated next to Governor Nixon at the Freshman Class Dinner at the Mansion this week.  In addition, in my role as Democratic Caucus Chair, the Governor asked that I offer some remarks to the class. In light of the state of the economy, my remarks focused on a reminder to this skilled and focused group of 74 Freshman legislators, that we have an opportunity to work together toward the vision of all that Missouri can be.  By working together, we will be delivering what Missourians want and expect from their legislature.

This begins our spring break week.  I'll be taking a week off from the newsletter.  Take care of yourselves,


Committee News

Higher Education

HB 1812:  We heard testimony on the bill that equalizes financial awards through the Access Missouri grant program for students regardless of whether they attend private or public institutions. Currently, private school students receive larger grants through the program.  Awards are in the amounts of up to $2,150 for those attending state colleges or universities and up to $4,600 for those attending private institutions.  This bill would combine the two categories and make the minimum award $1,500 and the maximum $2,850.  It would also increase the award for students attending community colleges from $1,000 to $1,500.

There was standing room only with a multitude of witnesses testifying on both sides of the issues, including many students donning college tees.

HCR 24:  House Concurrent Resolution 24 is yet another non-binding resolution.  It encourages students and educators at the state's institutions of Higher Education to make international education an "essential component" of both curricular and extra-curricular life in order to prepare students to participate in the global society.

Children and Families

HB 1235: This bill, sponsored by Committee chair Cynthia Davis, prohibits healthcare providers from withholding or withdrawing food and water from a patient unless a 60-day rehabilitative effort involving the patient's swallowing reflexes has elapsed or oral feeding is offered at least three times per day after discontinuing artificially supplied nutrition and hydration.  Frankly, the testimony against this so called "Terry Schiavo" legislation was compelling.  Swallowing is a reflex, not necessarily an indication of desire to eat or drink.  Having the government intervene in the rights of a patient or family to make decisions about palliative care seems over stepping the bounds of government.

HB 1238: This bill is very similar, if not identical to HBs 1327 and 2000 that add hurdles and restrictions for women seeking abortions and creates the crime of coercion of abortion.

Budget Process Slows Down

Falling revenues add uncertainty

Democratic Communications Director states:

Net state general revenue collections dropped by 14.6 percent in February 2010 compared to February 2009, putting year-to-date collections for FY 2010 12.7 percent, or about $710 million, behind collections at the same point in FY 2009. As a result Gov. Jay Nixon is expected to make another round of midyear spending cuts on top of the $760 million in reductions he's made since the current fiscal year began on July 1, 2009.
The continuing decline in revenues also places in doubt the revenue estimate for FY 2011 that the Republican budget chairmen in the House and Senate and Nixon agreed on in January. Although a revised estimate hasn't yet been finalized, significant additional spending cuts are expected for the upcoming fiscal year.

Despite the news, House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, on March 3 submitted an FY 2011 spending plan that includes $300 million that he admits believing the state likely won't receive. Icet's budget allocates some of the money to provide the $105 million needed to fully fund the formula for distributing state aid to local public schools. Nixon's budget plan called for an $18 million increase in the formula.

This Week on the House Floor

House approves speedy tax returns

The Missouri House of Representatives on Thursday voted 150-0 in favor of legislation that would require the state to issue state income tax refunds within 45 days of the annual April 15 tax filing deadline. Under existing law, the state has 120 days from the deadline to issue refund checks.
For taxpayers who file their state returns late, the 45-day deadline would be measured from when a return is postmarked. The bill, HB 1408, now advances to the Senate.

Freshmen Dems' Caucus Sessions

The Freshmen Democratic Caucus welcomed Machelle Watkins, Transportation Planning Director for MODOT, to our weekly session to discuss state roadways and the future of transportation in Missouri.

We also began the discussion of toll roads in Missouri presented to us by Senior Member and Assistant Minority Leader J.C. Kuessner and his right hand man, Wayne Henke.
The caucus will have a break this week, but will meet again on Wednesday, March 17 to hear more about nursing home regulations and the private nursing home industry from Jon Dolan representing the Missouri Health Care Association.

Green Tip of the Week

Stop by the free Spring Seminar & Environmental EXPO on Sunday, March 7 from 1:30 - 4:00 at the Creve Coeur Government Center Multi-Purpose Room.

The event features two speakers - Doug Seely, Certified Arborist, will speak at 2:00 on tree care & maintenance. Don't miss this opportunity to ask an arborist all of your questions on tree planting, pruning and more.

At 2:45 Richard Reilly, LEED-AP Environmental Consultant, will speak on greening your home, including information on weatherization, tax credits, do-it-yourself projects and green certification systems. Both presentations will offer steps you can implement in your yard and home immediately.

The EXPO will be open before and after the presentations and will feature education booths on a variety of topics from organizations such as:
  • AmerenUE Pure Power
  • Wild Ones
  • St. Louis Green
  • Missouri Botanical Garden - Ask a Master Gardener
  • Meridian Electric
The EXPO provides guests an opportunity to chat one-on-one with experts on topics like renewable energy, CFLs, native plants, composting and much more. Stop by one presentation, or stay for them all, this is an afternoon that you won't want to miss. Free ninebark saplings and other handouts will be provided first come first served to guests at the event.

Any questions may be directed to Melissa Weiss, Public Information Officer & Management Analyst, at mweiss{at}ci{dot}creve-coeur{dot}mo{dot}us.

**Information taken from the Creve Coeur City Newsletter.

Events at Tappmeyer

Miniature Show
Sat, April 10th
Sun. April 11th

1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
$2 per person

Tappmeyer House is located in Millenium Park behind Barnes West in Creve Coeur.

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