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29 January 2010

Rupp: Offering Protection For The Citizens of Missouri

If I had to sum up this week's Senate action with one word, that one word would be protection.

Missouri farmers received some Senate protection this week from the State Tax Commission, which had voted to raise taxes on farm land. By a vote of 30-3, we approved Senate Joint Resolution 32 and 35 that says we disagree with the commission's decision to give new, higher values to agricultural and horticultural property. I agreed to co-sign this bill, because 1) I'm against raising any taxes, and 2) our farmers are dealing with enough issues like rising costs and volatile markets and we don't need burden them with additional worries about how they're going to pay their property taxes.  Our state's farmers have enough on their mind as it is. The House of Representatives will examine the resolution soon, and as a Senate body we have vowed to get it passed in the time allotted for us to deny this unjust and badly-timed recommendation.

I testified on my Senate Bill 725 this week before the Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee. This bill protects taxpayers by requiring drug screenings for welfare recipients.

Basically, if a case worker suspects that one of their clients is using drugs, this gives that case worker the power to test their client. If there is a positive test, the drug abuser is required to participate in a substance abuse program.  If the individual fails to complete the substance abuse program or after completing the program still continues to test positive in subsequent drug tests the individual will be ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

This proposed legislation protects the children of welfare recipients by making sure the kids of those recipients who are caught using drugs still get their benefits. And, most importantly, it will offer help to those who may need protection from themselves.

Finally, we're one step closer to real protection for those individuals affected by autism and their families. My autism insurance reform bill, Senate Bill 618, was unanimously approved by the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industrial Relations Committee and will soon be considered by the full Senate body.

This legislation prohibits health insurance carriers from denying coverage for this devastating neurological disorder that is affecting more and more Missouri children. It covers treatment plans, and sets boundaries on a maximum benefit in a calendar year. A family shouldn't have to go broke while they try to get their child the help they deserve.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 586, sponsored by Sen. Matt Bartle (R-Lee's Summit), which would strengthen regulations for sexually oriented businesses in Missouri, including prohibiting anyone from establishing a sexually oriented business within 1,000 feet of a pre-existing school, house of worship, state-licensed day care, public library, residence, or other sexually oriented business. The bill would also require such establishments to close between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. and prohibit the sale, use and consumption of alcohol on the premises.


Committee hearings continued to dominate Senate activity this week as the chamber's major ethics reform bill—an issue touted as one of the Legislature's top priorities for the session—was presented in the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee. Senate Bill 577, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), would create the position of an independent investigator within the Ethics Commission, bar certain contributions to incumbent officials during session and expand income reporting requirements to include legislative staff.

Also receiving a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee was a bill that would ban texting while driving in Missouri—for all ages. A law passed last year prohibits drivers 21 years of age and younger from texting while driving. Senator Ryan McKenna (D-Crystal City), who also sponsored last year's provision, is sponsoring this year's SB 701. The measure would apply the text message ban universally so that all drivers, regardless of their age, are prohibited from texting while operating a motor vehicle.

Other hearings held this week included:
  • Senate Bill 583, sponsored by Sen. Norma Champion (R-Springfield), was heard in the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee. The measure would entitle consumers with long-term insurance policies and Medicare supplement policies to premium refunds, and restricts certain abusive sales practices with respect to Medicare products.
  • Senate Bill 594, sponsored by Sen. Rita Heard Days (D-St. Louis), was heard in the Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee. The bill would allow adopted individuals age 18 and over to obtain copies of their original birth certificates under certain circumstances.
  • A quartet of bills relating to drug-testing of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and applicants also received hearings in the health committee this week. The bills are SB 602 (sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau), SB 607 (sponsored by Sen. Stouffer), SB 615 (sponsored by Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon), and SB 725 (sponsored by Sen. Rupp). Watch a video clip of Sen. Stouffer discussing the issue.
  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 36, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale), urges Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. The resolution was heard in the rules committee along with SCR 37, also sponsored by Sen. Schmitt, which urges the attorney general to investigate the constitutionality of the Nebraska Compromise to federal health care legislation.
  • Senate Joint Resolution 23 was heard in the Senate General Laws Committee. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Luann Ridgeway (R-Smithville), would prohibit a political subdivision from receiving state funding if it provides health insurance to its employees through a public health insurance option plan—upon voter approval.
  • Senate Bill 596, sponsored by Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence), was heard in the Senate Progress and Development Committee. The bill would allow the governing bodies of any Missouri city to designate Show-Me Small Business Districts within a city for no longer than 23 years. During the designation period, eligible small businesses within these areas could receive tax-favored status for a term not to exceed 15 years.
  • Senate Joint Resolution 25, sponsored by Sen. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), was heard in the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. Upon approval by voters, the resolution would prohibit any laws from interfering with Missourians' health care choices.
  • Also heard in the same committee was SJR 29, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Purgason (R-Caulfield) and Sen. Ridgeway. The measure, upon voter approval, would replace all state income taxes with a sales and use tax. Watch a video clip of the resolution being presented to committee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also met this week to begin work on the fiscal year 2011 budget after receiving the governor's recommendations during his State of the State address on Jan. 20. Committee members will continue to meet throughout the weeks to come as they begin to develop their budget plan in conjunction with the House Budget Committee. The bills comprising the FY 2011 budget will eventually be debated, first in the House and then in the Senate (all appropriations bills originate in the House).

Fiscal year 2010 ends June 30, 2010. Fiscal year 2011 begins July 1, 2010, and runs through June 30, 2011. The Legislature must send a final state budget for FY 2011 to the governor by May 7, 2010.

Listen to the Senate Minute's report on the budget.

The Missouri Senate reconvenes at 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1. The Second Regular Session of the 95th Missouri General Assembly runs through Friday, May 14, 2010.

As the 2010 legislative session unfolds, I will continue to keep you, my constituents, apprised of all major developments, and I look forward to continuing to serve your needs and priorities in Jefferson City. As always, if you have any questions about this week's column or any other matter involving state government, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can reach my office by phone at (866) 271-2844.

Engler: Protecting Taxpayers: Senate Rejects Tax Increase on Farmers, Promotes Fiscal Responsibility

Missouri will not be like many other states in the country and take advantage of taxpayers in economically difficult times.  We remain committed to making sure that your tax dollars are spent wisely and that there are no job-killing tax increases.  This is a goal we continue to focus on as the legislative session progresses.

One legislative priority this session is to halt a tax increase imposed on Missouri farmers by the State Tax Commission. Late last year, the commission voted to raise the rate at which Missouri's most productive farmland is valued by 29 percent.  With the cost of production going up and the economy causing debt levels to rise, this is no time to add hardship to our farmers through a tax increase. The result of this tax increase would be an increase in the cost of grain for livestock producers and an increase in the cost of food Missouri families would pay at the grocery store.  We took the first steps to rejecting the tax increase this week as we passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 32 and 35.  We have 60 days to pass the resolution through the legislature, and I am pleased to see the legislation moving quickly through the process.

Last week, the governor released his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which failed to fully fund the foundation formula.  This week, I joined Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields in publicly stating that the Senate will fully fund the formula.  While the governor's budget makes promises and expands funding in other areas, it falls short in our core commitment to our classrooms. The legislature is going to have to sort through this budget that appears out of balance to make sure our commitment to education is fully funded so that we can avoid a massive tax increase imposed on us by the courts.

Another issue the Senate continues to address is our constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget.  The Senate Appropriations Committee met this week and many members expressed their concern that the governor's budget proposal is based on speculation rather than actual figures.  The governor's proposal uses $300 million in federal funding that has yet to even be debated on a federal level, let a lone passed.  We cannot be spending money we do not have, it's irresponsible.

My Senate colleagues and I remain committed to protecting Missouri taxpayers.  Whether this includes rejecting tax increases on farmers or insisting on fiscally responsible policies, we will continue our work to make sure that your tax dollars are spent wisely.

Roorda: Agricultural Land Values, Tax-Stacking Issue, Prescriptions for Pseudoephedrine

Three weeks of the short (17 week) legislative session are already behind us - fourteen weeks to go before we wrap up for the year.  As your representative, I am already hard at work representing all the issues we care about. But YOUR VOICE IS ALSO NEEDED. This newsletter serves two purposes: to keep the constituents of the 102nd District informed each week and to request that you take action. Call or email legislators on the issues that are near and dear to your heart.

Agricultural Land Values Legislation

Yesterday the Missouri House adopted a resolution rejecting the tax commission's recommendation to raise the taxable values of farm land. If the tax commission's recommendation had been taken it could have meant up to thirty percent tax increases on some farm land. "It has an effect that spreads out through the entire economy, and I think it's very important we take action here today," Rep. Roorda said. The resolution rejecting the recommendation was resoundingly approved, with a vote of 140 to 15. Representative Roorda voted to adopt the resolution.

For the full article click here:

Rep. Roorda Supports Legislation Aimed at Resolving Tax-Stacking Issue

Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, voted in favor of legislation that would clarify state law on the practice known as tax-stacking. HB 1442, which is similar to a bill Roorda sponsored, received first-round approval in the House on Wednesday.

Tax-stacking is a practice where municipalities implement multiple city general sales taxes or capital improvements taxes upon voter approval. Approximately 75 cities around the state currently have stacked taxes, which the Missouri Department of Revenue has stated is not illegal. However, a Farmington attorney filed lawsuits against several cities claiming they had violated state law by enacting more than one general tax.

"The legislative intent of the statute was to allow tax stacking," said Roorda. "Every tax has to be approved by voters. If the voters want to add a tax, they should be permitted to do so. There's not a single city on the list that has a tax that hasn't been approved by the voters."

HB 1442 would allow cities to have more than one general sales tax and more than one capital projects tax. The bill does not alter state law regarding the establishment of sales taxes earmarked for transportation projects, economic development, fire protection, or parks and stormwater projects. Current law is clear in establishing limits on those taxes.

"What this bill simply does is clarify existing law. The cities did not enact illegal taxes and we are making that clear with this bill. This is important to me and important to many of the small cities in Jefferson County," said Roorda. The bill requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate for consideration.

Meth as a Precursor Drug Bill Heard in Crime Prevention Committee

Yesterday the House Crime Prevention Committee heard arguments on a bill [HB1210] requiring prescriptions to purchase pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in meth. The arguments the committee heard in favor of the bill included rising number of meth lab busts in Missouri, and the estimated 32 million dollar meth related costs to the state last year. Opponents of the bill were limited to those with a stake in pseudoephedrine sales, but they argued that requiring a prescription for the decongestant could raise health care costs for the uninsured. Representative Roorda, who is in favor of the legislation countered, "Many alternative products still would be available without prescriptions if Missouri passes such a bill."

To read the full article click here: STLToday

President Obama Delivers State of the Union Address

President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to the United States Congress yesterday evening. His speech called for an increase in bi-partisanship. It was a call for increased cooperation between Democrats and Republicans to confront problems together to make our nation stronger. In these tough times, while we are confronted with important questions about our future, and have to make tough choices it becomes more important than ever to work with members on the other side of the isle. As the President reminded us, "In the end, it's our ideals, our values that built America - values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from all corners of the globe; values that still drive our citizens today." So, as we face the challenges before us, we must remember that we are working to make Missouri a great state not as Democrats or Republicans, but as citizens together.

Link to President Obama's State of the Union Address: State of the Union Address

Ruestman: Supporting Our Farmers

Session is still winding up and bills are beginning to get referred to committees.  In the next few weeks the House committees will be hearing many bills and preparing them to be debated on the Floor.  In these early days of session we are focusing on very pressing issues.  The House voted on one such issue on Wednesday.

At the end of last year, the governor's tax commission voted to raise property taxes on some of Missouri's farmers by nearly 29 percent.  The Commission has recommended a change in how crop land is valued, significantly increasing their value.  After such a recommendation the General Assembly has sixty days to disapprove.  The House and Senate overwhelmingly passed resolutions this week to stop this from going into effect.  The Republican Majorities in both chambers have once again voted to uphold their promise of no tax increases!

I have always been an advocate for our farmers.  Missouri's strong agriculture industry has been a reliable asset to the state and will continue to be far into the future.  It is wrong to ask our farmers to bear the burden of a budget shortfall by themselves, especially following one of the worst farm income years since 1945.  Let the message be clear that Missouri supports its farmers.

Farmers' Markets

In another effort to support our farmers and those who shop locally, my office filed House Bill 1864 this week.  This legislation exempts farm products sold at farmers' markets from state and local sales and use taxes.

According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture there were 131 farmers' markets statewide in 2007.  That number is still growing.  These markets are beneficial for everyone involved.  The producer is able to sell their products at retail prices and gain greater control over what products they grow.  Consumers see several benefits including social, economic and health.  Farmers' markets bring communities together and stimulate local economies and downtown districts.  Additionally, they offer access to fresh foods and promote healthy eating habits.  The positives of local markets are innumerable and we should do all we can to encourage their growth.

To learn more about farmers' markets and to find one near you, please visit this MU Extension website:

If you have problems, questions or wish to express concern over an issue, please do not hesitate to contact me or my Legislator Assistant, Jonathan, at my Capitol office either by phone 573-751-9801 or by e-mail at Marilyn{dot}Ruestman{at}house{dot}mo{dot}gov.

Schupp: Birthday Wishes, New Legislation, Catch a Ride

At right: Rep. Schupp (right) and Julie, our intern, posing with Rep. Schupp's birthday flowers. Rep. Schupp's birthday was this Wednesday, Jan. 27.

During the interim, many volunteers from the community helped me research and investigate legislative ideas, or attended in-district meetings on my behalf. These volunteers are each called R.A.'s, my abbreviation for Representative Assistants.

One of this interim's issues we worked on was a re-examination of the legislation I proposed last year on Smoking and Health. R.A. Fay Badasch worked to set up appointments and joined me in attending in-district meetings with the Heart and Lung Associations, the Cancer Society and the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Once we met, it became clear that statewide smoke-free legislation without exemptions would contribute greatly to a more healthful Missouri.  We knew we would need a majority-member sponsor on the legislation to move it forward.  Rep. Walt Bivens agreed to serve as primary sponsor.

This legislation has been filed, and we have requested that it be sent to committee for a hearing.  The bill number is HB 1766.  I am hopeful it will see some movement during this session.

We are starting to see more of you from home visit the Capitol for a lobby day, meeting or to watch your government in action.  Please stop by the office when you are here.  Let us know how we can be helpful in planning your visiting-day activities.  As always, I thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Representative Schupp's Legislation: Student Curator Bill and Indoor Clean Air Act...More to Come...

During this legislative session Rep. Schupp is sponsoring House Bill 1773.  This bill allows a student to serve as one of the nine members of the University of Missouri Board of Curators.  The Governor is responsible for appointing the curators to the board.  This bill does not mandate that a student serve on the board but allows that a student may be appointed, an important statutory distinction. This is something for which students of the University have been advocating for years.  In addition to several minority members co-sponsoring the bill, Rep. Steven Tilley, majority floor leader, and Rep. Bryan Pratt, speaker pro-tem, are also co-sponsors of HB 1773.

House Bill 1766, sponsored by Rep. Walt Bivins, is another piece of legislation that Rep. Schupp has initiated this session.  The bill aims to change the requirements under the state indoor clean air act.  This bill would establish Missouri as a smoke-free state, joining the 19 other states that have eliminated smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars.  Rep. Schupp and volunteer Fay Badasch worked with the American Heart and Lung Associations as well as the American Cancer Society to gather information and research during the interim.  When majority member Rep. Walt Bivins expressed interest in the bill, it was decided that he would carry it as the lead sponsor.

Freshmen Dems' Learning Sessions: CFOs and School Superintendent on the Foundation Formula; Legislators on House Rules

School District CFOs Ron Orr (Pattonville), Jason Hoffman (Jefferson City) and Superintendent Jim Jones (Blair Oaks R-II) presented to the Freshmen Democratic Caucus on Wednesday.  The funding of public education through the foundation formula is complex, and it is extremely helpful to understand how state funding varies by districts and regions.  The meeting was well attended by both Freshmen Democrats and some more senior members of the Democratic caucus.

After the hour-long session on the foundation formula, senior Reps. Rachel Bringer, Jeff Roorda and Terry Witte gave a refresher course on the House rules.  The House rules, which are determined at the beginning of each two-year term, are voted on by members of the General Assembly and dictate how the floor and committee procedures will run.

Next week, the Freshmen Democratic Caucus is slated to discuss public transportation and the future of Metro and other public transportation systems in our state.  The speakers include Bob Baer from Metro St. Louis, Mark Huffer from KCATA, Bob Jackson on behalf of the Springfield Utilties, and Mike Winter on behalf of the Missouri Public Transportation Association.

Gaming News: Gaming Commission Votes to Close St. Louis Casino

"Prop A for Schools,"  which was passed the November before last, eliminated loss limits in Missouri's casinos and provided another 1%  of gaming revenue to the state, designated for education.  According to the latest figures I've received, estimates of receipt of $100,000 from the casino to the state have been reduced to $22,000.

Locally, The Missouri Gaming Commission on Jan. 27 unanimously voted to revoke the license of the President Casino in downtown St. Louis as of July 1. Commissioners said Pinnacle Entertainment Corp., the casino's owner, has intentionally allowed the President Casino to decline since opening a new casino just blocks away in 2006.

Do you know that cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of woman?

Get yourself checked out!

St. John's Mercy Medical Center is hosting a Heart to Heart Fair at West County Center on Fri., Feb 19, 8:00 AM-1:00 PM and Saturday, Feb. 20 from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM.

There will be:
-Free heart disease screenings with immediate results
-Fitness, nutrition, medical and stress experts
-Lifestyle, nutrition and fitness activities.

Register now at the Heart to Heart Website or call 1-866-450-0575.

Constituent Spotlight: Councilwoman Kistner visits Jeff City

This week at the Capitol, Beth Kistner, longtime friend of Representative Schupp and member of the Creve Coeur City Council, stopped by to visit Jill.

28 January 2010

Tim Jones: Testimony Heard Today on "Healthcare Freedom Act"

Jefferson City — The Missouri House Special Standing Committee on General Laws heard extensive testimony today on a House Joint Resolution (HJR) that would bring the proposed Health Care Freedom issues to a vote by Missouri's citizens.

HJR 57, sponsored by Rep. Tim Jones (R-Eureka) and co-sponsored by 75 of Rep. Jones' House colleagues, calls for an amendment to the Missouri Constitution to preserve and protect the right of Missourians to make their own health care and health insurance choices. Specifically, it would protect the right of Missourians to pay directly for medical services, and it would prohibit Missouri families and small businesses from being penalized for not purchasing bureaucrat-approved and mandated health insurance.

The hearing lasted over three (3) hours as citizens from across the entire State of Missouri came to support HJR 57.  Specific individuals testified in support of the Resolution and hundreds of witness support forms were received and accepted by the Committee.  Most notably, joining every day, hard working citizens from across the State of Missouri in support of HJR 57 is the Missouri State Medical Association (MSMA), which is comprised of the doctors and health care providers who know our health care system the best and are in the best position to stand up for what is the best health care options for Missouri patients.  Several other associations and industry groups submitted written testimony and witness forms in support of HJR 57.  Only one entity/individual testified in opposition to HJR 57, the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA).  MHA admitted that their only opposition to the HJR is based upon a potential negative economic impact to some of their members although it was determined that their hypotheses are speculative at this juncture.

Rep. Jones stated, "Health care choices should remain in the hands of every Missouri citizen.  This HJR is the constitutional line in the sand and a clear message to Washington.  At what cost Liberty? At what price Freedom?  I want to thank the thousands if not millions of Missourians who support this very important piece of legislation."

Nance: Committee Updates, Uninsured Children, New Eagle Scouts in Richmond

"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." –Alexis de Tocqueville

Committee Actions

The House Special Standing Committee on Health Insurance held a hearing on HB 1311 and HB 1341. Both bills require health benefit plans to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
  • The House Special Standing Committee on Workforce Development and Workplace Safety voted do pass a committee substitute for HB 1544, which extends the state's eligibility to receive federal extended unemployment benefit money to provide unemployed individuals compensation beyond the current unemployment benefit period.
  • The House Job Creation and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on HB 1512, which establishes provisions to encourage the investment in and the development of technology-based early stage Missouri businesses.
In late December, the governor's tax commission raised taxes on Missouri farmers by almost 29 percent. This devastating blow comes after one of the worst farm income years since 1945.  Missouri farmers are currently carrying some of the highest debt load in the nation and simply cannot afford to pay a property tax increase at this time. By a vote of 140-15, HCR 3, 7 and 17 passed, speaking out against the tax increase on agricultural land.

Uninsured Children

I have two bills filed this session that try to address the uninsured children in the state. According to Citizens for Missouri's Children, it is estimated that 132,000 children are uninsured in Missouri and about 87,000 are eligible to receive public health care coverage.

HB 1467 requires the Department of Social Services to identify eligible children who are not participating in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by distributing to all public school districts written information regarding eligibility criteria and application procedures for the program which is to be given to parents and guardians when a student enrolls in school.  The department must also cross-check databases to identify low-income families participating in other public assistance programs but who are not currently participating in the program. This would be presumptive eligibility.

HB 1625 allows Revenue to have a check-off box on the Missouri tax return. If a filer claims a dependent child, they are asked if the child has health insurance. If not, the Department of Revenue will forward information to enroll the child in the S-CHIP program. This is not an expansion of the program, but it identifies and facilitates children that already qualify for the program. An annual report would be sent to the Governor with the number of children enrolled through the effort. A healthy start in life improves a child's chance of developing into a healthy adult.

In the District

Saturday I attended a ceremony honoring Brandon and Kevin Pemburlin as they each achieved their goal of Eagle Scout at the United Methodist Church in Richmond. They are members of Troop 324.


Visiting for Sheltered Workshops was Jerry Tindall, an Excelsior Springs resident with Vocational Services Inc. of Liberty.

Carter: Updates from Committees, State Happenings, and General Revenue Report

At right: Representative Chris Carter and Representative Mary Still with the Granddaughter of Dred Scott

As your Representative in Jefferson City, it is of utmost importance that you, the constituent, know what I am doing and how I am working to serve you.  Recently in the Healthcare Transformation Committee on which I sit, a bill [HB1377] was introduced that would develop a system to screen and drug test work-eligible applicants and recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, taking away aid from individuals who tested positive and either refused drug treatment or failed to stay clean once they had completed a drug treatment program.  While I understand the chronic drug problems we face as a state and a nation, and the frustration taxpayers may have concerning tax dollars possibly being spent on illicit drugs, I believe this bill is a public policy disaster, and for the following reasons I opposed it in committee.
  1. This bill is not revenue-neutral; it will cost the state money.  Enough money will not be recouped from not making payments to recipients who use drugs to pay for the program.  In the current state budget crisis, the creation of a new system to find ways to take assistance from people already in dire circumstances is unacceptable.
  2. This bill unjustly targets poor people, who, according to testimony given during the committee hearing, are not statistically more likely to use drugs.
  3. This bill will add names to an ever-growing waiting list for individuals seeking drug treatment from the State of Missouri.  Our current system cannot accommodate all who seek treatment, yet this bill adds to that system.
Lastly, this bill has major constitutional problems, and whether or not it is upheld by the courts, the state will have to mount a costly legal defense. Proponents of this bill actually said in committee that while this bill may cost money, the social benefit of fighting drugs is worth the cost.  I could not agree more, but I believe the best way for us to move forward and fight drugs, while defending families from the awful affects of drug abuse is for us to better fund the system we already have in place, not by infringing on the rights of poor families.  Using the money this bill would cost on more drug treatment and for more social services will help achieve the stated goals of this bill much better then the bill itself.  To address the concerns that some have about the use of state funds for illicit drugs, I will propose an amendment to the bill when it comes before the House insisting that everyone who receives state money, whether they are students receiving scholarships, farmers receiving subsidies, or state officials, including the Governor, who receive a salary, be screened and tested too, since this is the only way we can ensure that no state funds are supporting illicit drug use.


All activity as of January 25, 2010

# House Bills Filed -625
# of HBs Referred to Committee -37
# HBs Reported Do Pass - 4
# HBs Reported Do Pass Consent - 0
# HBs Perfected - 0
# HBs Third Read - 0
# HBs Reported Do Pass in the Senate - 0
# HBs Third Read in the Senate - 0


On the Week of January 4, the following bills were referred to the House Special Committee on Health Insurance:
  • HB 1311 - Requires health carriers issuing or renewing a health benefit plan to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
  • HB 1341 - Requires certain health benefit plans to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism
During the Week of January 19:
  • The House Special Standing Committee on General Laws voted do pass a committee substitute for HCR 18, which urges the Missouri Congressional delegation to vote against the federal health care reform legislation.
  • The House Health Care Transformation Committee voted do pass a committee substitute for HB 1377, which requires the Department of Social Services to test applicants for or recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits or the illegal use of controlled substances.
  • The House Job Creation and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on HB 1511, which establishes the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act and the Missouri Science and Innovation Authority.
  • The House Budget Committee heard testimony from State Budget Director Linda Lubbering regarding the Consensus Revenue Estimates for Fiscal Year 2010 and 2011.

Rep. Joe Smith Honored by St. Louis Police Officers' Association

JEFFERSON CITY – For his commitment to supporting law enforcement in the St. Louis area, Rep. Joe Smith, R-St. Charles County, was presented with an award from the St. Louis Police Officers' Association. The association presented the award to Rep. Smith for his unwavering support of St. Louis police officers.

"Our police officers work long hours and put their lives on the line each and every day to ensure our communities remain safe. They are the ones who deserve recognition and respect," said Rep. Smith. "It has been a privilege to work with St. Louis' finest during my time as an elected official. It's a true honor to receive an award from a group that has my utmost admiration."

Rep. Smith is one of a handful of legislators to be honored with the award.

Nodler: Protecting Missourians' Healthcare Freedom

Congress continues to work on a healthcare reform package, and many in Missouri are concerned that the bill is a way for the federal government to impose government-mandated and government-run healthcare. I have been hearing from a growing number of Missourians who are concerned that their rights could be violated. Several weeks ago, about 400 people from throughout the state gathered here in Jefferson City to rally against the federal legislation. This week, a bill to protect the rights of Missourians was heard in a Senate committee and was met with enthusiastic support from citizens and lawmakers.

Senate Joint Resolution 25 would shield Missourians from federal healthcare mandates by allowing them to choose their own medical and insurance options, including the right of patients to pay directly for medical services. I signed on to co-sponsor the resolution to show my support for the rights of our state’s citizens when it comes to healthcare. Specifically, the measure is a constitutional amendment to be sent to the voters ensuring that no law would compel a patient, employer, or healthcare provider in our state to participate in any government or privately run healthcare system. It also protects patients and employers in our state by guaranteeing the right for them to pay directly for legal healthcare services.

The House and Senate in Washington D.C. continue to work to reconcile differences in their versions of the healthcare plan, and there could still be significant changes. While Congress struggles to find compromise, we want to make it clear in Missouri that the rights of citizens are valued. Missourians deserve the opportunity to vote on this constitutional amendment and decide if they want the government interfering with their healthcare rights.

Senate Joint Resolution 25 would let our state take a stand against federal intrusion in healthcare and allow Missourians to retain the right to choose medical and insurance options. It is an important step in protecting the rights of the citizens of our state, and I will keep you informed as the measure moves forward.

Joe Smith: Reforming Ethics and Helping Our Farmers

Reforming Ethics in the General Assembly

Both sides of the isle in both chambers can agree on at least one thing: the perception of hard-working, ethical politicians in the State Capitol building must be restored to the public. During his opening day address, Speaker of the House Ron Richard called for the formation of a Special Standing Committee on Government Accountability and Ethics Reform that would craft a bill that creates laws ensuring ethical behavior in the Capitol.  This year alone, three Democrats in the House and Senate have been indicted.

The Speaker's committee met for the first time this week.  Chaired by Representative Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, the committee heard four bills.  Two of the bills are sponsored by Republicans and two are sponsored by Democrats. Chairman Wilson's goal is to create one bill that combines effective ideas from members of his committee as well as specific legislation from ethics bills that have already been filed. I am here because you elected me as your State Representative.  My intention is to serve you and your best interests, without letting anything else get in my way.

You know the value of hard work and strong values, and I can promise you I will work to uphold those values.

Our sacred duty as your elected officials is the maintenance of the integrity of the Missouri House of Representatives.  With every vote we take, we must never forget the trust Missouri has put in us.  We, as members, expect nothing less than the highest integrity in this chamber and the people of the state deserve nothing less.

As the Ethics Committee continues to meet and progress, I will keep you informed of the legislation we decide is best for the people of Missouri and the members of the General Assembly.

House Passes Resolution to Oppose Governor Nixon's Tax Increase on Farming Land

During his State of the State address, and the weeks leading up to it, Governor Nixon promised Missourians he wouldn't raise taxes.  Unfortunately, that is a promise the governor didn't come through on.

In late December, the governor's tax commission raised taxes on Missouri farmers by almost 29 percent.  This devastating blow comes after one of the worst farm income years since 1945.  Missouri farmers are currently carrying some of the highest debt load in the nation and simply cannot afford to pay a property tax increase at this time.

In the House of Representatives we also promised we wouldn't raise taxes – but unlike the governor, we mean it.  That's why, this week we brought a House Concurrent Resolution to the floor, opposing the governor's tax hike on farm land in Missouri.  By a vote of 140-15, HCR 3, 7 and 17 passed, speaking out against the tax increase on agricultural land.  Farmers are the heartbeat of Missouri, and as Representatives it is our job to protect those who grow and raise crops and livestock that feed our state, our nation and our world.

When we say we're not raising taxes, we're serious about our pledge.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the governor but where he breaks his promises, we do our best to fix them.

Joe Smith: Budget Briefing

Through the budget process, I will keep you informed of what our Budget Chairman, Allen Icet, is doing to ensure a bright future for Missourians.  Many believed we had seen the worst of the economic downturn and that this year would be better, but they were wrong.  Unfortunately, this year we face a grim economy and one far worse than what we saw last year during the budget process.  To me, this means we have to tighten our belts, just like families are doing all across the state, and work as responsible stewards of Missouri tax dollars.

Governor Nixon proposed a budget that exceeds the Consensus Revenue Estimate by over a billion dollars.  He is counting on an economic turnaround, which is very troubling. We have to look ahead and plan accordingly – not budget dollars in hope that things begin to improve.  We are urging Governor Nixon to do the same.

You see, several months ago Governor Nixon gave this quote to reporters: "I'm not trying to think, right now, two and a half years from now what a budget might look like starting July 1 of 2011 or 2012." (Reported by Missourinet on February 17, 2009) Our budgeting philosophy couldn't be any further from the governor's thought process.  This week, Budget Chairman Icet told reporters that while working on the budget, he has to keep future budget years in mind – not just this budget year. We don't want to leave a mess for our successors.  It wouldn't be prudent.

In the past, the House has been dedicated to operating under a wise fiscal philosophy while utilizing your tax dollars.  You can rest assured we will continue this practice in the future.

Ervin: Health Care and Obligations of Citizenship

"The States can best govern our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones.  I wish, therefore … never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market."
–Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge William Johnson, June 12, 1823

As the national debate on health care continues in Washington, DC, several states across the Nation are taking steps to protect themselves and their citizens in their state constitutions.  Missouri is one of those states.  This week a public hearing was held on House Joint Resolutions 48, 50, and 57 which are essential in securing the rights of patients to make their own health care choices.

Even before the events in Washington, DC, the question of patient rights has been bubbling to the surface as an issue important to those interested in keeping the relationship between patient and doctor in tact.

The essence of the proposed constitutional amendment is this, "To preserve the freedom of citizens of this state to provide for their health care, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly or through penalties or fines, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system."

The proposed amendment ensures that:
  • Each Missouri citizen has the right to pay for health care services with their own money,
  • Health care providers may accept direct payment for services rendered by Missouri citizens,
  • The purchase and sale of health insurance shall not be prohibited by law or rule, and;
  • No person will be required to pay fines or penalties if they choose to purchase their own health care and accept payment for providing health care services.

In other words, an individual cannot be forced to participate in a health care system without their consent and that individuals have the freedom to participate.

Think about it, there are two general obligations for citizenship in America:  paying taxes and the draft.  Proposals in Congress today would add a third obligation of forcing each American to purchase health insurance.  Never before has the federal government used the force of the federal government to compel every citizen to purchase a product or service.

We can have the debate about whether it is responsible for someone to go without health insurance, but that is a completely different conversation than saying that every citizen must, by the force of law, purchase health insurance or enroll in a government program thereby binding them to the will of faceless bureaucrats.

Some argue that such an amendment to a state constitution is unconstitutional.  They argue that the supremacy clause of the US Constitution trumps state actions.  It is time that we consider another constitutional principle, that of federalism.  As a constitutional principle, it is important not only to the appropriate division of powers between the federal government and the states, but also the ever important pursuit of individual liberty and limited government.

Traditionally, states have been considered laboratories of democracy and innovation.  The states were able, even expected, to develop policies reflecting the widely varying local conditions of our great land, and that is especially important in health care.  Today, the federal government is asserting, if not amassing, its authority over the American life in regards to health care, imposing a "one size fits all" policy.  Now is the time to reassert the proper constitutional role of federalism so that future power grabs become more difficult and less likely.

We should allow the people of Missouri to vote on this proposed amendment, allow us to voice our belief in liberty, allow us to direct the future of our state, allow us to direct the future of health care, allow us to retain the freedom that we already enjoy.  If a constitutional challenge arises, then let's have that discussion, but let us not be intimidated into silence and inaction with threat of litigation.

Federalism is all about keeping government within the reach of the people, about keeping government in its place.  Health care is personal, it is about us, each of us, and we deserve our rightful place in making health care decisions.  The Health Care Freedom Act which I have sponsored keeps government in its place.  As Alexander Hamilton proclaimed before the New York ratifying convention, "Here, sir, the people govern."

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns.  LaTonya Percival, my Legislative Assistant, and I are always available to answer questions and address your concerns.  I can be reached in Jefferson City at (573)751-2238 or you can 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.

26 January 2010

Stouffer: Want to send a message? Let your State Flags Fly

Our mistrust of government was delivered with our colonial birth, when a distant government imposed taxes on the hard-working people it ignored. It started in Massachusetts, the cradle of our independence.

Looking for folks evading taxes on goods, government elites from afar sent inspectors into homes, without warrant or warning. When patriots disobeyed, they were punished with further taxation and blocked from receiving important items from trade at their ports. The frustration led to discontent, then hopelessness, followed by war.

Genius men of varying backgrounds, all well-read and some well-said — farmers, lawyers and doctors — met in private to decide a course of action. Most were supported by wives of even greater intelligence and self-sacrifice.

They wrote a document, a "Declaration of Independence," that described a natural law — given by a Creator, not government. A Constitution followed, with ten amendments suggested by independent states.

The final of these amendments, the 10th, described the sovereignty of each state. A government was to be established at the local, county, state and then federal level. The idea was that folks closest to home govern best.

The 10th Amendment reads, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Put simply: Congress was given the authority to regulate only specific matters listed in the Constitution.

Today, politicians in Washington, D.C., have the federal government regulating everything under the sun, surpassing the items that Article 1, Section 8 in our nation's Constitution, clearly describes.

I have only been in politics for a relatively short time and there is still much to learn about the legislative process. I continue to be amazed by the constant federal government bypass or tactics to swap local control closer to home for bigger government for all.

Many of our current leaders have used our Constitution as a document that can be stretched into the boundaries of covering the issues of the day. That is not the original intent. Those topics were reserved for the states and local governments. The founders created the federal governments for the states, not vice-versa.

This year, a number of Legislatures are taking proactive steps in restoring their state's constitutionally-protected sovereignty. Many states are realizing the importance of working to oppose all efforts by the federal government to act beyond its U.S. Constitutional authority.

I am encouraged by the number of folks reading and studying about our Constitution today. Once we truly read and understand the document, we realize how far from reality both parties have led us in the past decade.

For this reason, I am working with my colleagues to pass a resolution in support of the 10th Amendment and in support of our state's sovereignty.

Our constitution limits the authority of the federal government to specific powers. The states have the ability to enact laws that meet its individual needs, not a one-sized-fits-all decision for the entire union.

If we really want to send a message to Washington, D.C., we should start raising our Missouri flags!

Kraus: The Vote Heard Around the World

The people of Massachusetts have spoken through a vote for United States Senator, replacing a life-long advocate of universal health care with someone opposed to the current federal health care legislation.  People across the nation have spoken through town halls and meetings all summer and fall.  The people of District 48 have spoken through any number of e-mails sent to my office or personal conversations.  My constituents have implored me to act against the health care legislation currently being considered in the U.S. Congress.

No one appreciates having federal mandates and taxes shoved down their throats, and Americans have found the style of passage of this legislation unconscionable.  As a nation of representatives elected by the people, our jobs are to represent what the people want and need rather than what the party leader demands.  As part of a system built upon open government, we don't like for our laws to be passed in a maze of secret meetings, million dollar payoffs to states that balk, and unread bills of thousands of pages.

In contrast to what is being preached in Washington, D.C., polls have indicated that the vast majority of Americans are satisfied with their health care.  Why rewrite the entire system?  Instead, we should look for ways to bring down costs.  For example, through the use of technology, we can save money by storing medical records in secure files that only a doctor can access.  We can open insurance purchases to greater competition, as long as companies abide by Missouri laws when operating in our state.  We can do more to promote health and welfare by educating about prevention of disease by eating right and exercising.

Much opposition to the health bill has also been catalyzed by strong objection to ballooning federal deficits and bigger government.  This bill has been estimated to add over $1 trillion to a federal budget already trillions of dollars in debt.  Historically, government programs have almost always cost considerably more than estimated at their passing, so we can assume that the health care bill will be much more expensive than current estimates.

At the state level, Missouri will find itself further burdened by the unfunded mandates in the health care bill.  It has been estimated that Missouri's cost from a mandated expansion to state Medicaid would be in the many millions of dollars.  The additional burden can only serve to wreck our state budget and re-arrange our priorities to what Washington wants rather than what the state needs.

The unfunded mandates, mandatory insurance and increased costs will affect all Missourians.  In the Missouri House of Representatives, we have done what we can by passing a resolution, HCR 18, against the federal health care legislation.  I voted for it.  The resolution will be sent to our Washington delegation as a statement of our position and a plea for common sense.  I hope they will listen.  I urge you to continue to be involved in the debate by contacting our federal representatives and making your views known.  If they are not paying attention now, they never will.  My message to Washington is that this is neither the right bill nor the right time.

Dental Hygienist Award to Harriet Morris

Last week, it was with tremendous pleasure that I presented a resolution to Harriet Morris for her long and distinguished record as a dental hygienist.  Her 50 years of work earned her recognition from the Missouri Dental Board and the members of the House of Representatives.  In addition, she has served her community well by being involved in many organizations and helping to organize and serve as president of the Greater Kansas City Dental Hygienists Association.  I want to congratulate her and wish her continued success.

Military Retirement Exemption

I am thankful to Governor Nixon for mentioning my legislation, HB 82, in his State of the State address.  Passed last session, it provides for a phasing out of the state income tax on military pensions.  It is something we have done for our military personnel who sacrifice so much to keep this country free.  If you would like information on this legislation, please provide me with your physical address, and I would be glad to mail you a brochure that explains more about it.

District 48 Survey Is in the Mail

Listening to the people – isn't that what representative government is all about?  A survey is one of the tools that I use to learn the opinions of residents of District 48.  This year's survey covers subjects related to the budget, ethics reform, the second amendment right to bear arms, and health care.  I always enjoy reviewing the responses and reading the comments section, so please help me out by returning your survey and letting me know what you think.  The questionnaire should be in your mailbox soon.

Meetings and Events

In the last week, I was honored to attend the Lee's Summit Legislative Kick-Off Luncheon, where I listened to the legislative priorities for the city of Lee's Summit, Lee's Summit R-7 District K-12, and the Chamber of Commerce.  Also on the topic of legislative priorities, I attended the Lee's Summit Chamber of Commerce Governmental Relations Committee Meeting.

On Saturday, I attended the Lee's Summit Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, during which I witnessed the passing of the baton from former chair Kurt Lutz to the newly elected chair, Mark Parrish.  Congratulations to Mark on his new leadership position!

25 January 2010

Mo Expat: Another Personal Day (or two) this week

Since I've yet to turn this into a cash cow, let alone even consider whether or not to sell adverts on here, I'm going across the state for a job interview. (Fortunately, this does include a pass through Jefferson City, and I should be passing through the capital city about now.) Depending on where I can get free wi-fi, chances are missives from the next 36 hours or so will be delayed.

Again, thank you for visiting Missives from Missouri.

Edit @ 26 January 2010, 1845: Uploading five backlogged missives now.

24 January 2010

Schupp: State of the State Overview, First Order of Business, Women's Heart Health

Wednesday in the House Chamber, Governor Nixon opened his speech with a reminder of the devastating losses, heartbreak and need in Haiti.  The state's website has information offering each of us opportunities to help. Whether through church,  synagogue or mosque; your business or non-profit, I am certain many of you have or will do what you can to provide assistance to those in need. The generosity of friends and neighbors is both moving and healing.

In difficult times, a strong leader rises to the occasion.  I felt proud to be a state legislator as I listened to the plans and priorities Governor Nixon outlined in his State-of-the-State address.  The top priority: creating jobs.  As you read today's newsletter, you will find brief descriptions of information provided by the Governor.  For more detail, please use the link below to access the state website.

As always, I thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Click to access the State Website

Members of the House and Senate standing to applaud Governor Jay Nixon during his State of the State address on Wednesday. (

Overview of Nixon's State of the State

Job Creation

Missouri First – This plan encourages existing Missouri businesses to expand and create jobs by moving them to the top of the list for consideration for incentives. These businesses are characterized as Missouri's most loyal businesses, because they have been here for five or more years and have paid taxes that have helped build our infrastructure including schools and roads.  

MOSIRA – The Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act is a new initiative to recruit high-tech businesses to Missouri. Last week, I was invited to speak about this initiative in our district's Danforth Plant Science Center. Our state is well-positioned to compete and succeed in the already vibrant plant, animal and life science sector. Along with the internationally renowned Danforth Plant Science Center, we have resources throughout the state that can draw the scientific and entrepreneurial communities. This initiative is designed to help build our economy and allow Missouri to excel in the global marketplace while creating jobs at all levels here at home.

Training for Tomorrow – Community colleges will be able to expand key job training programs in high-demand fields. Many of our unemployed neighbors are returning to school to re-train for today's jobs.  The health care field is in need of a larger work force. The goal of this initiative is to give us additional skilled workers to meet the demands of the current workplace.


Tuition freeze – Gov. Nixon's budget would freeze tuition at all two and four-year public colleges and universities for a second year in a row.

Career Ladder program for Missouri's teachers – Included in the budget is continued funding for Missouri's teachers through the Career Ladder program. This program rewards teachers for their work in and out of the classroom.

Missouri Promise – Expansion of the A+ program that offers tuition for two years at a community college would mean that all students that excel at Missouri's public high schools are eligible to compete for this opportunity.  Currently, some schools do not participate, so students attending those schools are not able to take advantage of the program.


Fiscal Discipline – The Governor announced that he will not raise taxes in this economic environment.  At the same time, he will focus on the priorities of job creation, education, health care and public safety.

Balancing the budget – Missouri will be able to balance its budget without some of the drastic cuts being experienced in other states.  That stated, we will likely see cuts across the board in programs that protect and support our most vulnerable, including seniors. 

Belt tightening – The Governor has proposed reducing the state government workforce now by a total of 1,800 positions.  The state  must tighten its belt just as Missouri families are doing.  These additional job losses have not only been difficult on the families affected, but they also cut back on staff that helps you receive the support you need from your government. 

No Tax Increase – It is clear that most Missourians believe now is not the time to ask families for more of their hard earned money.

Cutting Boards and Commissions – Gov. Nixon has eliminated 13 state boards and 227 positions. The Governor will ask the legislature to eliminate 18 additional boards and 246 positions that were created by statute. To streamline state government, Gov. Nixon is eliminating boards that are inefficient, ineffective or redundant. One of the boards had not met since 1991.

In this economic environment, we must make the most difficult of choices and put into place policy that will positively affect Missouri, both short and long term.

Your input matters.

On the House Floor

First Order of Business: Non Binding Resolution on
Federal Health Care Reform Legislation

It was disappointing that the first order of business relating to policy discussion on the House Floor was that of a non-binding resolution that would send a message that Missouri is not interested in any health care reform that comes from the federal government.  Currently, we do not know exactly what that reform might look like, so to cast it as bad for Missourians doesn't allow for new ideas and change to even begin to take place.  Accessible and affordable quality health care for all is a critical moral and even an economic issue.

During the interim, Speaker Richard had stated that policies surrounding the insurance coverage of Autism Spectrum Disorder would be the first order of business.  Instead, he called for debate of a non-binding resolution on a proposal that is not yet in final form.  Moving forward, I am hopeful the Speaker will allow the floor to debate the coverage of Autism, which affects so many of our young people.

Freshmen Dems' Learning Sessions: Pattonville and Jeff City Schools CFOs Ron Orr and Jason Hoffman

Rarely do we find an extra hour in our day, but this week's learning session had to be postponed, so Healthcare and Missouri's options will move. 

Meantime, this Wednesday, we will hear from Pattonville School District's CFO, Mr. Ron Orr who will be joined by Jefferson City's CFO, Mr. Jason Hoffman as we study Funding of Missouri's Schools:  The Foundation Formula.

A Parting Shot:  Constituent in the Capitol

Constituent Marc Levinson was in Jefferson City for the Missouri Realtors Association conference and paid a visit to Rep. Schupp's office. Marc was recently selected as a member of the Missouri Board of Realtors.