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06 February 2010

Schupp: On the House Floor, Remembering Melanie Shouse, Learning Sessions

The "State of the Judiciary" was delivered to the general assembly this week by MO Supreme Court Chief Justice William Price, Jr.  A major component of the speech was a serious evaluation of whether our taxpayer dollars are being used effectively in our criminal justice system.  He made the case that incarcerating non-violent offenders is a burden to the system.  Rather, he suggests expansion of drug courts for those whose crimes fit into this category, which have proven to reduce recidivism.  

The Chief Justice also stated his rationale for supporting Missouri's non-partisan court plan.

In a move applauded by those on both sides of the aisle, the Chief Justice announced that in this difficult economic environment, the judicial branch of Missouri's government will temporarily give up $2 million to the state to fill funding holes elsewhere until economic recovery progresses.

At the same time, he reminded the assembly that our state judges and public defenders are paid poorly based on the workload they are carrying. Attracting great legal minds to our state going forward must be considered as we budget for our future.

This situation is one of many that will be considered as we adjust our cuts and spending in this difficult budget year.  As you know, Missouri's Constitution requires the state budget be balanced.

That explains why additional budget cuts were made by the Governor this week. With January revenues down over 22% from last year, there are few, if any areas of the budget that will not be affected.  This most recent round of cuts come from areas including the Alzheimer's Association, Parents as Teachers, the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, and through additional elimination of about 120 governmental positions.

As we continue to hunker down and make decisions about how to best create jobs, boost our economy and take care of our citizens, I appreciate hearing from you.

Thank you for your confidence as I work to serve you and our state.



Needy Families and State Elected Officials Subject to Drug Testing

TANF Bill Passes First Round Vote in House

Perhaps you remember last year when I testified against drug testing parents of needy families, who would be tested simply because of their need to turn to the government for assistance while looking for employment.  Most recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) are women, single heads of household in their families.  The federal dollars they receive would be about $58 less per month for a period of a year if they were to test positive for drug use.  My testimony last year was based on a trip to the grocery store where I purchased $58 dollars worth of food to demonstrate what this money might provide to the children of those in need.  Last year, this legislation passed in the House and was defeated in the Senate.

This year, the recent passage of this legislation [HB1377] in the House includes the provision that officials (legislators and judges) elected to state office in Missouri will also be subject to drug testing.  In other words, "What's good for the goose…"

In Memoriam:  Melanie Shouse

Memorial Service, Sunday, February 14, 2:30 PM Central Reform Congregation

Melanie Shouse will be missed by her friend and fellow advocate, LaDonna Appelbaum.  Melanie will be missed by family and friends.  Melanie will be missed by those who know of the work she has done, and those who may eventually benefit from it. Melanie will be missed, but not forgotten.  Those who knew her, or those who are just learning about her are invited to a memorial service honoring Melanie's too-short life and inspired work.

We know we have lost a selfless and strong advocate for Health Care Reform as we remember Melanie Shouse.  Melanie's personal battle with stage four breast cancer ended this past Saturday.

Her personal experiences unleashed in her a passion to bring about reform so that others would not have to suffer the way she did. Horrific enough to have cancer.  Then, to suffer the additional burdens and hurdles through insurance and health care policies not designed to help those in the most dire circumstances simply adds deep insult to injury.

Melanie understood the meaning of advocacy and was determined to make the world a better place.  She will be remembered and admired as an inspiring woman with unmatched strength, perseverance, and determination.  Please join in the celebration of Melanie Shouse's life on Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.

Freshmen Dems' Learning Sessions

Thank you...Public Transit Officials

We had representation from around the state as our panel this week included Adella Jones from St. Louis Metro, Mark Huffer from the Kansas City Area Transit Authority, Deanna Borland representing the Missouri Public Transportation Association and Bob Jackson on behalf of Springfield Utilities.

It was informative to hear what the plans, both short and long term, are for public transit throughout the state.  It is clear that public transit is essential to a state trying to attract new businesses, drive the economy and help get employees to work.

This Wednesday, we will hear from Department of Agriculture Director Jon Hagler on CAFOs and farmland property tax classifications and Sallie Hemenway from the Department of Economic Development on tax credits being subject to appropriations.

Disaster Relief Information

In the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or tornado, these are important tips to keep you safe.  All of this information can be found on FEMA's (Federal Emergency Management Agency) website,


If you are inside:
  • DROP to the ground and take cover under a sturdy table or chair.  If there is nothing stable by you, crouch in an inside corner.  Cover your face and neck with your arms.
  • Stay away from glass and windows, outside doors and walls.
  • If you are in bed, stay there until the earthquake ends.  If there is a heavy light fixture above you, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is near you and you know it is strongly supported.
  • Stay inside until shaking stops.
  • DO NOT use elevators

If you are outdoors:
  • Stay where you are
  • Move away from poles, wires, and buildings.  The greatest danger occurs when directly outside buildings, at exits, and along exterior walls.

If in a moving vehicle:

  • Stop as quickly as possible and stay in the vehicle.  Avoid stopping near or under buildings, tree, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped.


If you are inside:
  • >Go to a predesignated safe room, basement, cellar, or lowest level.  If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room.  Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.  Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.

If you are in a vehicle:
  • Get out immediately and go to a nearby building or a storm shelter.  Mobile homes offer little protection from tornadoes, even when tied down.
  • DO NOT try to outrun a tornado in a car or truck

If you are outside:
  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge.
  • Watch out for flying debris.  Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Honoring Our Veterans

Veteran George Newell, Senator David Pearce, Rep. Schupp, and Rep. Paul Quinn, District 9, at a reception honoring Missouri Veterans on Tuesday.

Conservationists and Environmentalists Visit

It was busy in the Capitol this week as so many of Missouri's conservationists joined forces!  Thank you to those who came to the office.  Efforts were focused on advocating for protection of Missouri's precious natural resources. Messages from advocates included efforts to increase energy efficiency, ensure  water quality, protect state parks and promote LEED-certified buildings.

05 February 2010

Ervin: Building Castles in the Sky

"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."
–Thomas Jefferson,letter to John Taylor, May 28, 1816

Last week Governor Jay Nixon delivered the annual State of the State address to the Missouri General Assembly, the Missouri Supreme Court, Missouri Cabinet heads, and to the people of our great state.

This annual address has become the vehicle for a governor to outline his vision for Missouri and present the executive branch's budget recommendations for the next fiscal year.  It is also the event that adds definition to the agenda boundaries of each body in the legislature and the governor's office for the current session of the General Assembly.

This year's State of the State address did none of that.  In fact, Governor Nixon dodged revealing the actual state of the state and it is now painfully obvious why after he has revealed his proposed budget to the General Assembly.

As I mentioned in a previous column, the Governor, House, and Senate budget leaders have agreed upon the revised consensus revenue estimate for the remainder of this fiscal year which ends on June 30, 2010 predicting that revenues will be 6.4% less than expected at $6.97 billion in general revenue.  The fiscal year 2010 budget was passed based upon an overly optimistic revenue estimate of $7.76 billion.

They also agreed upon the consensus revenue estimate for the next budget year which begins on July 1, 2010 suggesting a growth in state general revenue collections of 3.5% resulting in $7.223 billion of general revenue.

It was revealed this week that January revenues are 22.36% less than they were in January of last year with year to date revenue collections now falling to a negative 12.55% down from 10.5% last month year to date.  As a result, Governor Nixon announced another round of withholds from the current budget of $74 million.

Unlike Congress, we must have a balanced budget.  The state of Missouri can't print money to satisfy unrestrained and politically motivated spending habits - even in an election year.  To have a balanced budget, the General Assembly and the governor's office must build a state budget at or, preferably, below that target.

Governor Nixon's budget proposal would spend $8.317 billion of general revenue, a number that exceeds the agreed upon CRE by $1.09 billion, or 15% - this is not a balanced budget proposal.  The governor would pay for these excessive increases with federal "stimulus" money, which I contend is federal "dependence" money, which Missouri is expected to receive which is about $900 million dollars plus a phantom $300 million that might come from the federal government even though the legislation has not been passed by Congress yet.

After years of fiscal discipline, a budget is now being proposed that relies on significant one-time monies that may or may not materialize.  Our budget difficulties earlier this decade stemmed from uncontrolled spending that relied on one-time monies.  This can't be done, but politicians are often afraid of making the difficult decisions that require discipline, because they fear unpopularity, especially in an election year like this one.

The disciplined decisions of the past few years have put Missouri in better financial position to weather this economic downturn than most states.  Missouri remains one of only seven states that still have a triple-A bond ratings from the three major bond rating agencies.

The proposed budget suggests that $900 million of one-time monies be used to pay for ongoing operating costs of government and its programs.  This money will not be available next year.  It may be considered good politics by some, but it is lousy fiscal policy.  We can't allow the federal "stimulus" to lead us down the path to ever more federal dependency and greater threats to the pocketbooks of Missourians.

Data released this week claim that unemployment may drop to 9.8% this year, down from the current 10% unemployment rate.  The data also suggests that with 5% growth in GDP throughout the year, unemployment would only drop to 9%.

How out of touch with our existing economic situation can we be to accept a budget that requires a 15% more general revenue knowing that we are currently experiencing 9.6% unemployment in Missouri?  It just won't happen - even the 3.5% CRE is too high and is setting us up for even bigger budget problems next year and years after.

This is a time for restraint, a time to prioritize, and a time to drive efficiencies into the state bureaucracy.  It is a time to shed the hindrances that hold back innovation and invention, a time to empower Missourians to build dreams, not sustain them where they are.

People are outraged with the unparalleled and unabated spending spree in Washington, DC that denies the economic realities that we live in.  Missouri cannot, and must not, follow in those footsteps.

This is a time when doing what is right is far more important than doing what is popular and hiding our actual state of the state.  We can't spend time building castles in the sky and hoping for a miracle.  Lest we forget, hope is not a plan.

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.

Rupp: Senate Gives First-Round Approval to Autism Insurance Bill

Staying consistent with their commitment to make Autism insurance reform a top Senate priority in 2010, Senate Leadership put the Autism Insurance Bill as the FIRST bill on the Senate Calendar for the 2010 session.  Debate began on Tuesday, but was limited due to scheduling of Senate committees, so most of the debate was carried over to yesterday.  I'm happy to report that the bill received first round approval by the Senate yesterday afternoon - and we were able to fight off amendments that would have weakened the bill.  We are one step closer to providing help and relief to Missouri families and children with Autism

You can view the floor debate by logging onto my website at - click the Multimedia tab.  On my website you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter.

And you can also sign up for Autism bill updates at


The Senate also gave preliminary approval to SB 586, sponsored by Sen. Matt Bartle (R-Lee's Summit). The bill 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.; prohibit the sale, use and consumption of alcohol on the premises; and regulate the activities that may take place inside sexually oriented businesses.

Also receiving first-round approval this week was SB 604, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter). The measure would prohibit large users of water resources from excessively disrupting the normal irrigation activities of certain large farms in the Southeast Missouri Regional Water District. If a disruption occurs, the attorney general may seek an injunction.

Both SB 586 and SB 604 need a final Senate vote to move on to the House.


The Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee passed Senate Joint Resolution 25, which I co-sponsored. The measure would, upon approval by voters, prohibit any laws from interfering with Missourians' health care choices.  Hopefully, it will be sent to the Senate floor soon for debate.

Ethics reform continues to move swiftly through the legislative process as Senate Bill 577, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), was passed out of the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee this week and is now eligible for floor debate. The bill 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 passed out of committee this week was SB 594, sponsored by Sen. Rita Heard Days (D-St. Louis). The Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee approved the bill, which would allow adopted individuals age 18 and over to obtain copies of their original birth certificates under certain circumstances.

The committee also voted to send a bill to the Senate floor that would allow drug testing of recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Senate Bill 607, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), would require the Department of Social Services to develop a program to test work-eligible TANF applicants or recipients when a case worker believes, based on reasonable suspicion, that a person is using illegal drugs. Similar measures were rolled into SB 607, including SB 602, sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau); SB 615, sponsored by Sen. Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon); and SB 725, sponsored by Sen. Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville). Senator Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) is also sponsoring a similar bill, SB 821, which is awaiting a committee hearing.

According to SB 607, if the drug test is positive, the individual would be ineligible for TANF benefits for three years and would also be referred to an approved substance abuse treatment program. Also, if a parent is deemed ineligible for TANF benefits because of illegal drug use, his or her child's eligibility for the benefits would not be affected. Instead, a protective payee would be designated to ensure the child receives the benefits. Senate Bill 607 may now be taken up for debate by the full Senate.

Senate Bill 596, sponsored by Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence), was passed by 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.

In addition to sending measures to the full Senate, committees also continued to hear testimony on legislation this week. For instance, some of the bills receiving a hearing in the Senate Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee were SB 589, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), which would bar felons from holding public office; SB 629, sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), which would establish the Missouri Healthy Workplace Recognition Program; and SB 673, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), which would create the Office of Job Development and Training and would modify the reporting requirements for obtaining unemployment benefits.


On Wednesday, Feb. 3, Senators gathered for a joint session with the House of Representatives to hear the chief justice give the annual State of the Judiciary address. Click here for the full text of the speech.

The Missouri Senate reconvenes at 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 8. 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: Insurance Coverage for Autism

Last year, the Senate worked to pass legislation that would have helped families throughout the state by correcting state law and requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatment and diagnosis, but the bill was stalled in the House.  This year, we are determined to get the legislation to the governor's desk.  We are getting an early start this year and debated the issue this week.

As the rate of autism diagnosis rises, there are an alarmingly high number of families struggling to pay out of pocket for costly autism treatments. The treatments that have been developed have proven to either cure individuals of the problem or at least greatly increase their quality of life. The families seeking this coverage have health insurance, but are denied coverage for the treatments that could significantly increase the quality of life for their child.  It is a situation that any parent would dread.

Senate Bill 618 would correct state law to require health carriers that issue or renew health benefit plans after Aug. 28, 2010, to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

Often individuals are rejected for treatment of conditions totally unrelated to autism based solely on the fact that they have autism. The bill prohibits health carriers from refusing to cover an individual or dependent solely because the individual is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Concerns have been raised about the cost of the legislation to small business, some saying that insurance premiums will increase with the increased coverage.  However, many states have successfully implemented this law without much of a premium increase.  In order to ensure that small businesses are not negatively impacted by a premium increase, the bill includes a measure to help defer costs.  If businesses of fewer than 50 employees see insurance premiums go up more than 2.5 percent in any calendar year because of autism therapy coverage, they can seek an exemption from the Department of Insurance so they do not have to provide that coverage.

The challenges that come with raising a child with autism can be emotional and time-consuming, but we can ensure that financial constraints do not block a child in this state from getting treatment.  I am pleased that Senate Bill 618 passed its first hurdle in the Senate and could be passed within the next couple weeks.

Also this week, we continued to hear about some of the troubling news of budget withholdings and shortfalls that will affect people's lives and safety. On top of over a $42 million dollar shortfall of this year's budget for public education, the governor announced a $24 million withhold of the state's investment in rural broadband and another $29 million that was supposed to go for interoperability of public safety communications systems. While I understand times are tough for the state. Much of these painful, unexpected cuts could have been avoided if a balanced budget were presented by the governor to the general assembly over the past two years.

That is why the leadership in the Missouri General Assembly are going to take a long look at how we spend your tax dollars and to make sure our investments are the most efficient use of the state's resources.

04 February 2010

Tim Jones: Balanced Budget Amendment, TANF Drug Testing, Health Care Freedom Act Update

At left: Rep. Tim Jones working on legislation on the House Floor with Speaker Ron Richard & Rep. Kevin Wilson.

Leaden grey skies pressed hard upon mid-Missouri and across the greater Midwest this week mirroring the somber mood in the Capitol as we continued to receive sobering news about the state of our economy and the fiscal challenges we face inherent in the 2010-2011 State Budget.  House Republicans remain committed to appropriate and necessary funding in crucial areas such as education with the full knowledge that waste and failed programs must be ferreted out and eliminated and that even well intentioned programs must be scrutinized and narrowed to achieve the constitutionally mandated Budget.  We all remain committed to doing what we can to return government to its proper roles while spending your tax dollars wisely…

"Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude." –Alexis de Tocqueville

Balanced Budget Amendment

Over the past two years, Congress has added TRILLIONS of dollars to our federal debt.  Because the federal government is not constitutionally required to pass annual balanced budgets, like 49 out of the 50 states federal spending is spiraling out of control like never before.  The federal debt now exceeds 12 trillion dollars and Congress simply continues to raise the debt ceiling.  While Rome burns, Congress continues to simply pour gasoline on the fire.  That is why Budget Chairmen Allen Icet has filed House Resolution 34 [HCR34] which urges the United States Congress to submit a balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification.  We must stop this trend of out-of-control deficit spending that passes the cost of our projects and programs on to our children and grandchildren.  With this resolution, the Missouri House calls on Congress to put a stop to the fiscal irresponsibility and urges them to pass a balanced budget amendment.

Drug Testing for Welfare Benefits

This week, House Republicans perfected House Bill 1377, which will prevent illegal drug users from receiving certain state benefits. The bill would require the Department of Social Services (DSS) to develop a screening process for recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program.  To be tested, DSS must have "reasonable cause" that a person is using illegal substances.

In tough economic times, your tax dollars should not be spent on those abusing the system and using your money for illegal drugs.  Many employers, including the military and the federal government, require drug testing to be employed. There is no excuse for welfare recipients not to live up to the same standard.

During debate on the House floor, an amendment was added to the bill that requires all members of the General Assembly to take a drug test before being sworn into office, and once every two years after that.  The House overwhelmingly supported the amendment, feeling that elected officials should be held responsible if they are found to be taking illegal drugs.

If this bill becomes law, it will make a difference.  Not only will this bill reduce the size of government; it will also remove abusers from the government dole AND ensure they obtain the help they need.


Over the past year, America has watched as Congress has debated numerous health care reform proposals. The system needs reform.  Uninsured Americans need access to health care and those who have insurance need relief from rapidly rising health care costs.  But the more the American people have learned about the current health care reform proposals in Congress, the less they like them.

Real health care reform should address the root of our current challenges: COST.  To do this, we must work to promote competition and improve transparency, all while maintaining the quality of care that we have come to expect from our current system.  Instead of looking at proposals that would help Americans afford private health insurance, the proposals in Congress rely on expanding taxpayer funded health coverage, increasing taxes on private insurance policies, and penalizing individuals who choose not to purchase health insurance.

In the Missouri House, we have heard our constituents loud and clear: they oppose the current Federal health care proposals.  Therefore, we have worked on legislation this session to protect Missourians from the negative effects of Federal Health Control both in unfunded mandates and excessive taxation.

House Concurrent Resolution 18 passed the House earlier in session with overwhelming bipartisan support.  This important resolution lays out the many concerns that we have with the federal health care proposals including tax increases, mandates, and further regulation of the health care industry.  This resolution also urges Missouri's Congressional leaders to oppose these bills.  This resolution will send a message to Congress that Missourians want real health care reform, not the current badly crafted proposals in Congress.

We also continue to move House Joint Resolution 57 through the House.  HJR 57 is a proposed amendment to Missouri's constitution that would protect Missourians from any attempt to mandate the purchase of health insurance.  The federal proposals include mandates that would require individuals to purchase health insurance or face penalties.  Upon the approval of Missouri voters, this legislation would protect Missourians from both the mandates and the penalties.  With the passage of this extremely important proposal, we will ensure that Missourians continue to have a voice when it comes to their own health care decisions.

The current federal proposals will only exacerbate the challenges of our health care system.  Congress must take a step back and begin to look at real reforms that will rein in costs through market-based solutions.  The American people have spoken…in Virginia, in New Jersey and most loudly and clearly in Massachusetts, and it is about time that Congress starts listening.

I am the chief sponsor of HJR 57. As I have discussed, if it is passed and approved by the voters, it will secure the current rights and freedoms that Missouri citizens have to choose to participate in whatever health care system or care that they want.  Seventy five of my colleagues have co-sponsored this legislation and I am very grateful to them for their support.  You may view the legislation at this link:


Thank you all very much for your continued support of this very important resolution and I will continue to keep you posted on its progress.


I am very excited to report that Six Flags St. Louis, which is located in the heart of the 89th District, is hiring more than 3,000 employees to fill positions for the 2010 season which begins on April 2nd.  Six Flags will be hosting job fairs to fill these positions on February 6, 20, 27; March 6, 13, 20 and April 3, 10 and 17.  For more information, please visit:


February is Black History Month in the United States.  February was chosen because it coincides with the birthdays of the great leader Frederick Douglas and President Abraham Lincoln.  In 1920, Walthall Moore was elected to the House becoming the 1st African American to serve in the Missouri Legislature.  In 1960, DeVerne Lee Calloway became the 1st African American woman elected to the House.

Need a Copy of the White Pages?

If you need a FREE copy of the White Pages, you can obtain one!  Contact AT&T toll free at 1.800.792.2665 or visit

Tim's Legislative Platform for 2010

So far this year I have sponsored and filed thirteen individual pieces of legislation.  I have co-sponsored numerous other bills.  To review all of the bills that I have sponsored or co-sponsored, please follow this link:

Over the past two weeks, four of my bills were heard in committee and the hearings for three of these four very important bills lasted over three hours each!  The topics of the bills were the Health Care Freedom Act, the Prompt Pay Act [HB1498](which is a TRUE health care reform bill that closes a loophole in payments from insurers to providers that will save the providers and patients actual costs) and the Access Reform Act [HB1750](another consumer friendly bill that will reduce subsidies in the telecommunications industry).  One of my bills, [HB1442] which will protect taxpayer approved taxation structures for rural municipalities, has already passed out of the House and is moving in the Senate.  I will continue to work hard to advance good government legislation that benefits all Missourians and will continue to keep you updated on the progress and status of the bills.

Personal News & Notes

At right: Daughter Katie with two of her friends enjoying a favorite pastime…reading!

I have returned to the very busy routine of extremely full weeks of practicing at my law firm, legislating and debating at the Capitol and of course spending as much quality time as possible with my wonderful family.  I must continue to thank my wife Suzanne and daughters Katie and Abby for all of their continued sacrifices.  Their support and encouragement sustain me in the long days and nights as Session begins to pick up steam.  This will be an exciting and busy year and I encourage all of you to participate in this excellent adventure and journey that we call democracy!

Feel Free to Contact Us!

If my extremely dedicated (and very busy!) Legislator Assistant, Jody Williams, or I can be of any assistance throughout the year, please do not hesitate to contact us at 573.751.0562 or by email at jody{dot}williams{at}house{dot}mo{dot}gov or at tim{dot}jones{at}house{dot}mo{dot}gov.  And if your travels find you anywhere near the Capitol, please do stop by and visit us in Room 114.  Until our next report, I remain, in your service.

Nance: Boy Scouts celebrate 100 years, Better Bridges and Roads, State Budget

On the 100th Anniversary of the Boys Scouts of America

"I think the character that you learn in Scouting—working together, being honest with each other, being close knit … and depending on one another, on our camping trips and doing things—all these things build character in a young man that he takes with him into adulthood and makes him a much better citizen. And that's why Scouting to me has always been an organization I've always wanted to help. I think it's one of the best youth organizations that we … have in this country." –James A. Lovell Jr., Mission Commander, Apollo 13

Better Bridges and Roads:

MoDOT has named the bridge replacements and repairs for the District for 2010.
  • The westbound bridge over Highway 69 in Excelsior Springs is scheduled for completion by November 30th.
  • The bridge over Fishing River in Ray County on Highway 10 is scheduled for November 30th completion.
  • The smaller bridge on Clay County Highway N will be closed from July 29th through November 21st for replacement.
  • The bridge over Tryst Falls on Highway 92 will be closed April 1st until May 25th.
  • In 2010, 18 miles of Highway 13 will be resurfaced from the Caldwell County Line to Highway 10 in Richmond.
  • Highway C from Highway D to Elmira will receive a "chip and seal".
  • Route O will receive an overlay between May and September.
  • Route A will have three bridges "Design Build" this year.
  • A bridge at K Highway and Highway 13 is also scheduled and a bridge on Route E near the Caldwell County Line.

State Budget:

Budget Chairman Allen Icet responded to questions on the budget recently.

"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 last year during the budget crisis."  The Senate, House, and Governor must work responsibly with Missouri's tax dollars as this year's budget is crafted.

At the Capitol

HB 1521, which is a "Silver Alert" for seniors, was forwarded to Senior Citizen Advocacy Committee.

HB 1544 was passed out of the House on Tuesday. The bill extends the state's eligibility to receive federal extended unemployment benefit money to provide unemployed individuals compensation beyond the current unemployment benefit period that ended December 5, 2009. The state will not incur any costs of the extension of benefits.

Marti Cowherd visited the Capitol representing the Ray County Family Practice on Tuesday. Justin Mohn of Excelsior Springs is working as an Intern for Senator Jolie Justus. He is in his junior year at the University of Missouri.

In the District:

Pictured right is: Parker Golliglee. He received his Eagle Scout award at the First United Methodist Church in Excelsior Springs last Sunday. The church and local Kiwanis Club sponsor Scout Pack 309.

Pictured left are: Master Nathaniel Woods, an Eagle Scout, myself, Eagle Scout Brandon Pemburlin, Eagle Scout Kevin Pemburlin and Master Jacob Long.  All the scouts are from Troop 324 of Richmond, Missouri.

Congratulations to the Lawson and Orrick School Districts on being recognized by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Central Regional Professional Development Center as 2009 Distinction in Performance Award Recipients.

Joe Smith: Healthcare

Over the past year, America has watched as Congress has debated numerous health care reform proposals.  There is little doubt that our system is in need of reform.  There are too many uninsured Americans and even those who have insurance have felt the pinch from rapidly rising health care costs.  But the more the American people have learned about the current health care reform proposals in Congress, the less they like them.

Real health care reform should address the root of our current challenges: cost.  To do this, we must work to promote competition and improve transparency, all while maintaining the quality of care that we have come to expect from our current system.  Instead of looking at proposals that would help Americans afford private health insurance, the proposals in Congress rely on expanding tax-payer funded health coverage, increasing taxes on private insurance policies, and penalizing individuals who choose not to purchase health insurance.

In the Missouri House, we have heard our constituents loud and clear: they oppose the current health care reform proposals.  In response to the overwhelming opposition to these plans, we have worked on legislation this session to voice our concerns with the proposed legislation and protect Missourians from its negative effects.

One proposal, House Concurrent Resolution 18, passed the House earlier in session with overwhelming bipartisan support.  This important resolution lays out the many concerns that we have with the federal health care proposals including tax increases, mandates, and further regulation of the health care industry.  Because of our concerns, this resolution also urges Missouri's Congressional leaders to oppose these bills.  We believe this resolution will send a message to Congress that Missourians want real health care reform, not the current proposals in Congress.

We have also worked on House Joint Resolution 57, a proposed amendment to Missouri's constitution that would protect Missourians from any attempt to mandate the purchase of health insurance.  Currently, the federal proposals include mandates that would require individuals purchase health insurance or face penalties.  Upon the approval of Missouri voters, this legislation would protect Missourians from both the mandates and the penalties.  It is extremely important that, as state legislators, we work to protect the interests of Missourians.  With the passage of this extremely important proposal, we will ensure that Missourians have a voice when it comes to their health care decisions.

Our health care system needs reforms.  But the proposals in Congress will not only fail to address these pressing needs, but will further exacerbate the challenges of our system.  Congress must take a step back and begin to look at real reforms that will rein in costs through market-based solutions.  The American people have spoken and it's about time that Congress starts listening.

Nodler: Autism Insurance Reform: Hope for Missouri Families

A new study recently found that 1 in every 91 children has an autism spectrum disorder, making autism the most prevalent childhood developmental disorder. It is startling then, to find out that autism is the only one of the top 10 childhood neurobiological disorders that is not covered by insurance. This leaves families who have children with autism paying out of pocket for treatments while still paying their insurance premiums. This week, the Senate gave first round approval to Senate Bill 618, a bill that would require health insurance carriers to cover the diagnoses and treatment of autism spectrum disorder.

Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. The Legislature has worked hard in the past to address the needs of the growing number of families in this state dealing with autism. Funding in the state budget to provide resources to families throughout the state and efforts to expand services in local areas are ways that we can lessen the burden on these families.

However, there are families still struggling to make ends meet because they have to pay out of pocket for treatments for their autistic child—even though they are paying insurance premiums. Senate Bill 618 would require coverage of autism diagnosis and treatment, providing meaningful relief to these families.

Another important aspect of this legislation is the inclusion of up to $55,000 in coverage for applied behavior analysis (ABA) for individuals under the age of 21. This form of treatment uses behavior-based learning to help autistic children learn important fundamentals such as talking, making eye contact, and interacting with others. Psychiatric and medical officials say that this is the most effective treatment for autism, and covering it in this legislation can make a big difference for families throughout the state.

The greatest impact autism treatment can make is during early childhood, and we need to make sure that treatment is available to children in our state. Insuring autism is an issue of fairness, and it is time for insurance companies to provide coverage to those in need.

Holsman Files Bill to avoid TV blackout of Missouri sporting events

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Professional sports franchises would be ineligible to receive public funding if any of their home games are blacked out from local television broadcast under legislation filed this week by state Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City. Holsman’s bill is an effort to encourage professional sports leagues to reverse broadcast blackout policies which the Representative calls ‘antiquated.’

House Bill 1986 targets a National Football League policy that prohibits games from being broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the host city if the game hasn’t sold out 72 hours prior to the scheduled kickoff. As a result of the policy, one Kansas City Chiefs game and three St. Louis Rams games were blacked out on local television during the 2009 NFL season. Both teams play in stadiums that are subsidized by state and local taxpayers.

“Many Missouri football fans simply can’t afford to attend NFL games yet are forced to subsidize the league through their state and local taxes,” Holsman said. “It isn’t asking much of a league that benefits greatly from taxpayer subsidies to guarantee that scheduled television broadcasts of home games won’t be blacked out due to failure of the team to achieve a sellout. For the millions of dollars Kansas City, St. Louis and Missouri taxpayers have poured into the Chiefs and Rams, they deserve something in return.”

Prior to the Dec.20 blackout of the Kansas City Chiefs game against the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium, the team boasted an impressive streak of home sellouts that spanned 19 years and 156 games. The last previous Chiefs home game that failed to sellout and resulted in a television blackout was on Dec. 16, 1990.

The St. Louis Rams’ home games at the Edward Jones Dome have been blacked out a handful a of times in recent years, including thrice during the 2009 season when the team set a franchise mark for futility with an atrocious 1-15 record.

“Many Kansas City bars and restaurants plan events surrounding Chiefs football games,” said Holsman, “How can we ask those small business owners to pay the 3/8 cent sales tax for the renovations of Arrowhead Stadium, when the NFL policy is blocking their revenue?”

Joe Smith: Autism Insurance Bill Moves through the House Swiftly

Autism is a terrible disease that afflicts an estimated 34,000 Missouri children, robbing many of them of reaching their full potential.  We have spent months gathering facts and researching what answers are needed for Missouri's Autism epidemic.  Autism is not currently covered under health insurance plans in Missouri, and many children go without treatment because their parents simply can't afford it.  Treatment for this disease is crucial to young children and those in their young adulthood.

Over the summer, the Speaker of the House assigned the Interim Committee for Autism Spectrum Disorders and tasked them with coming up with legislation that formed a consensus between autism advocates, insurance providers and key health officials. The Speaker vowed that the autism insurance bill would be the first bill he moved out of his office and into committee this session, and he came through on that pledge.

The Speaker sent the bill to the Special Standing Committee on Health Insurance, chaired by Representative Kevin Wilson, R—Neosho, and the bill passed out of committee this week.  This bill [HB1311] would require insurance companies to provide coverage for those diagnosed with autism, up to a specific dollar amount.  Therefore, parents would no longer pay all expenses for treatment out of pocket.  Some of you may be affected with autism or know someone who is – and you are aware that these treatments can be extremely expensive.

In the House, we wanted to do everything we could to ease the burden on Missouri families affected with autism, and we believe this bill will be vital to these families.  Next, the bill will head to the rules committee and then to the office of the Majority Floor Leader to be heard on the floor sometime next week or the week after.

Joe Smith: Mandatory Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

It is important that we help our state's most needy citizens.  Most of these citizens are responsible, hard-working members of society, just trying to keep their heads above water.  On the contrast, there are a small number of those who take advantage of the system.  I believe in order to receive assistance from the state you must test drug-free.

This week, the House voted to pass HB1377, which requires drug testing for those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as well as drug testing for those who are currently receiving TANF through the Department of Social Services.  Applicants and recipients who test positive for the use of an illegal substance will be referred to a treatment program for substance abuse.

If the individual completes the treatment program in a reasonable amount of time and tests negative for drug use, they can regain eligibility for welfare benefits.  However, if the individual fails to complete the program or after completing the program still continues to test positive in subsequent drug tests, the Department of Social Services can, after a departmental administrative hearing, declare the individual ineligible for TANF benefits for one year.

Many recipients have families and small children to care for, and a healthy home environment is vital for a meaningful childhood.  We hope that this bill will be signed in to law and inspire those who receive welfare and use drugs to end that abuse and turn their lives around.

Joe Smith: House Votes to Extend Unemployment Benefits for the Jobless

The unemployment rate rises every day as we continue to trudge through what has become a Great Recession.  No one is immune from the effects of this serious downturn.  In fact, I'm sure you have several friends and even family members who have lost their jobs recently.

In effort to aid citizens who are out of a job, HCS HB 1544, sponsored by Representative Fisher, R – Richards, was passed through the House this week.  This substitute extends the state's eligibility to receive federal extended unemployment benefit money to provide jobless Missourians compensation beyond the current unemployment benefit period that ended December 5, 2009.

The state is eligible to receive this money until the week ending four weeks prior to the last week of unemployment for which 100% federal sharing is available under the provisions of the federal economic stimulus act. This will give our citizens more time to look for work, while still being able to provide for themselves and for their families.

In the House, we are doing everything we can to kick-start job creation and Economic Development in our state.  In the meantime, however, we must take the necessary steps to help those who are trying to get back on their feet.

Nodler: Video of award from Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations

On February 2, 2010, Senator Nodler was awarded the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations Legislator of the Year Award. This video highlights the programs and services approved by the Legislature to honor and recognize Missouri’s veterans. (Windows Media Video from Sen. Nodler's office)

02 February 2010

Kraus: A Tax Cut for Struggling Families

Knowing that many families are struggling to pay the bills, I filed legislation, HB 1227, to help them out by raising the state dependency exemption.   Last week, this bill was heard in the Committee for Tax Reform.

Currently, Missouri allows a dependency exemption from state income taxes of $1,200 for each qualified child.  My bill would increase the exemption to $2,000 for each dependent claimed by a resident.

Even though the cost of living has greatly increased, this exemption has not been raised for over ten years.  At that time, it was also raised by $800.  Increasing the amount would put Missouri in line with adjoining states such as Kansas, where the exemption is $2050, and Illinois, where the exemption is $2000.  It would still be significantly below the federal exemption of $3650.

Many families work hard to bring home a paycheck, but still have difficulty paying for all of the things that their children need.  This bill would allow families to keep more of their hard-earned money to spend on groceries, school supplies, and children's clothing.

It is worth noting that no special interests were represented in any testimony before the Tax Reform Committee.  It was simply your representative at the microphone, presenting legislation to help families in these difficult times.  I am so fortunate to be able to represent District 48 in the House of Representatives and have the opportunity to fight for the taxpayer.

Jobs Creation and Retention

The House Committee on Job Creation and Economic Development, on which I serve, has been one of the most active committees by far this session.  We have made jobs a first and foremost priority for Missouri, and it shows in our level of effort.  We started meeting even before session began and have continued to meet at least once, and often twice, a week.  Below are the bills that have been heard so far in this committee.  You can click on the bill number to learn more about the content of the legislation.

  • HB 1511, which establishes the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act and the Missouri Science and Innovation Authority.
  • HB 1512, which establishes provisions to encourage the investment in and the development of technology-based early stage Missouri businesses.
  • HB 1635, which is designed to create jobs by fostering partnerships between municipalities and institutions of higher education and is also known as the Missouri Jobs for the Future Act.
  • HB 1684, which establishes the Missouri Business First Act that allows for the authorization of increased tax credits, withholding retentions, or other benefits for certain Missouri business expansion.
We will be hearing five more bills tonight.  With Missouri's unemployment rate at around 9.6 percent, we cannot afford to wait around for solutions to appear.  We must actively seek to create them, and we are doing just that.

House Says No to Raising Taxes

In December, Governor Nixon's State Tax Commission proposed increasing taxes, by as much as 29 percent, on four categories of high quality agricultural land generally used to grow crops.  Although taxes were decreased on some categories of ag land, as a package, the proposal would have resulted in an 11 percent increase statewide if allowed to go into effect.

The problem is that 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.  This tax jolt comes after one of the worst farm income years since 1945.

Fortunately, by statute, the General Assembly has the power to disapprove, within the first sixty days of this regular session, the agricultural values as proposed by the State Tax Commission.  In keeping with our pledge to not raise taxes, the House used that power last week to pass a resolution, HCR 7, to disapprove the State Tax Commission's proposed tax increase.  Later in the week, the Senate also passed a similar resolution.

Missouri farmers feed our state, our nation and our world. Raising their taxes does not help to keep farmers in business or our food prices affordable.  That's why I voted for HCR 7.

01 February 2010

Holsman Files Urban Farming Bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -State Rep. Jason R. Holsman, D-Kansas City, has filed a new urban agriculture bill in the Missouri House of Representatives.

The bill, HB 1848, would create the Urban Farming Task Force.  The goal of the task force would be to study and make recommendations regarding the impact of urban farm cooperatives, vertical farming and sustainable living communities in Missouri.

"Ideas like vertical sky farming and sustainable living communities just make sense for places like Kansas City and Saint Louis," said Holsman "We can convert vacant buildings into large, sustainable hydroponic produce centers.  The urban farms would create much needed jobs in the inner city and generate revenue in unused buildings."

The concept of indoor farming has evolved along with the technology that makes it possible. Growing food indoors in nutrient rich waters requires little pesticides and provides a potential solution to storm water run-off management.

Holsman noted that foods grown on the East and West Coasts must travel over 1,400 miles to reach Kansas City leaving a substantial carbon footprint.

"Rather than eating food shipped halfway across the nation filled with preservatives and pesticides, we could have a year-round supply fresh produce while creating jobs for the urban core." said Holsman.

Icet: Responsible Planning for the Future

Throughout session, I will keep you informed on important aspects of the budget process and what we are 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.

Missourians all across the state are tightening their family budgets, and we must do the same. We must work as responsible stewards of Missouri tax dollars and look ahead, planning accordingly. I urge 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 could not be any further from the governor's thoughts on the budget.

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

Nodler Named Legislator of the Year by Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations

Jefferson City — Senator Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, was recently named Legislator of the Year by the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations for his dedication to representing Missouri’s Veterans. Senator Nodler was presented with a certificate of appreciation by the organization at an award ceremony today (2/1).

“I am honored to have been chosen as a recipient of this award from the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations,” said Sen. Nodler. “The men and women who have courageously served our country deserve our honor and respect. I am dedicated to making sure that Missouri remains focused on providing veterans with the services and benefits they have earned.”

Senator Nodler has been dedicated to passing legislation and policies to honor, aid, and show appreciation to Missouri’s veterans throughout his time in the Missouri Senate. Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation extending state income tax exemptions on retirement income to all veterans. In 2008, the Legislature passed the Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act to provide discounted tuition at state universities to veterans returning from combat.

During his time as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Nodler ensured that Missouri Veterans Homes received the funding they needed to fully staff facilities and keep up with food and medical inflation. Senator Nodler is also a strong supporter of Missouri Veterans Stories, a project that began in 2005 to videotape and archive interviews with veterans from throughout the state.

Senator Nodler is currently the only veteran serving in the Missouri Senate. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army and Missouri National Guard.

At right: Senator Nodler receives his award from MOVA member George Newell.

Goodman: Standing Up for Taxpayers' Rights

A debate is gearing up in the Legislature over taxpayers' rights. I have to say: It is about time. Illegal drug use among welfare recipients has been an issue that has received some attention in recent years, but I believe this is the year decisive action will be taken on the issue.

This year, I sponsored SB 615, a bill to allow drug testing of recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) if there is reasonable suspicion that a person is using drugs. If an individual does test positive for drugs, he or she would be ineligible for benefits under the program for one year. The person would also be referred to a substance abuse treatment program. Other members of the household would still continue to receive benefits through a third-party payee. Thus, innocent family members would not be penalized, but drug users would not be able to get their hands on the money.

Of course we want to curb illegal drug use in our state, but this bill is about much more than that. Taxpayers have a reasonable expectation that their hard-earned dollars are not going to support illegal behavior—including drug habits. Right now many of us feel as though the federal government is hijacking our tax dollars to recklessly spend them on bank bailouts, special interest projects and job creation bills that do not actually create sustainable jobs. Here in Missouri, we must take the steps we can to protect taxpayers' rights. I believe one guarantee we can—and should—make to Missourians is that their money will not subsidize drug use by those on government programs.

Simple drug tests are required of applicants for many jobs across the state. Certainly the least we can do is require those who are receiving government assistance be held accountable just as they would if receiving a paycheck for employment. Drug testing would also separate the people who are abusing the system from those who really need help getting back on their feet.

Senate Bill 615 was heard this week in the Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee. It must be voted out of committee to be debated on the Senate floor. I'll keep you updated on the status of my bill and other similar legislation in the weeks to come.

On another note, a bill I sponsored would strengthen regulations for sexually oriented businesses in Missouri. It was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. This issue is another priority of mine and I hope 2010 is the year that we are able to get legislation through the General Assembly cracking down on the harmful operation of smut shops across the state.

Senate Bill 617 would prohibit the establishment of a sexually oriented business within 1,000 feet of a pre-existing school, house of worship, state-licensed day care, public library, public park, residence, or other sexually oriented business. The bill would also regulate what can take place inside such establishments. Sexually oriented businesses would also be required to close their doors between midnight and 6 a.m., and the use, sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises would be prohibited.

The increasing prevalence of these smut shops in our beautiful state makes it increasingly difficult, as parents, to protect our children from the harmful effects they can have on our communities. They are also a magnet, drawing sexual predators into our communities.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns about Missouri government. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-2234, jack{dot}goodman{at}senate{dot}mo{dot}gov or by writing to Senator Jack Goodman, Missouri State Capitol, Room 331-A, Jefferson City, MO 65101.