Our surviving heroes of World War I and II, the Korean War, and even the Vietnam War are getting fewer with each passing year. At the same time, we must also remember our heroes in Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. Many of our state's best men and women continue to defend our freedom in lands all across the world. We must never lose sight of the sacrifices our soldiers make when they put their lives on the line for our freedom. There is no way we can ever repay them for this gift, and the least we can do is treat that sacrifice with the dignity and gratitude that it deserves – and not just on Memorial Day.
This past legislative session, I was proud to vote for House Bill 1524, a large veteran's bill that I believe sets a few things right when it comes to how we treat the defenders of our country. House Bill 1524 requires that service-disabled veteran run businesses in Missouri get a point preference when it comes to state agency bids.
The bill also requires the state to form a Missouri Youth Challenge Academy for at-risk high school age youth. The residential military-based academy will provide work experience and training in life skills, citizenship, life-coping and academic skills, and other personal development skills. It is my firm belief that the discipline and life skills taught in this academy will turn many lives around for the better.
But perhaps most importantly, HB 1524 allows our soldiers currently overseas the option to fill out an absentee ballot and exercise their right to vote. In today's age of electronic information, there is no longer an excuse for not allowing our brave men and women the opportunity to participate in the democracy they work so hard to defend. It's the right thing to do and the right time to do it, and it is good to know that this brave group of Missourians can have a say in their own future with the right to vote.
Thank you to all of the brave soldiers who have served and who continued to serve, and God bless this great country of ours.
Senator Rupp Announces Partnership to Widen West St. Charles County Roads
On June 1, 2010, I announced that a project is already underway to meet citizen demands for safer and wider roads in West St. Charles County.
In a partnership between the State of Missouri, St. Charles County, and the local quarry operations, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) recently began engineering work on Highways D, DD, and 94 in West St. Charles County.
I've been working with MoDOT to allocate funds for this project since 2006, and those efforts have paid off thanks to the hard work of many people. There was a tremendous effort from a citizen's group, the county, and many more. Together, we made it happen.
The funding that has been secured will mean 15 miles of paved, three-foot shoulders on each side of the road, making dangerous stretches of Highways D, DD, and 94 safer for travelers. Construction is set to begin in the spring of 2011 with completion by the end of that year.
DWI Bill Signed into Law
Now that the General Assembly is nearly three weeks into the interim, the focus has shifted to one of the final steps in the legislative process: the governor's signature.
Last week (5/25), the General Assembly convened for a technical session to officially send most of the passed 2010 bills to the governor's desk for his signature. The governor has until July 14 to either sign or veto each bill; if he doesn't lend his signature to any piece of legislation by the deadline, it automatically becomes law.
Every bill the governor vetoes is sent back to the sponsoring chamber with his objections. The governor's vetoes, if any, will be considered by the Legislature when it reconvenes for veto session in mid-September. If lawmakers decide to try to override a veto, it will be put to a vote. To overturn a governor's veto, a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers is required.
Most of the passed bills that are signed by the governor become law on Aug. 28, though some contain "emergency clauses" that had to be approved separately from the legislation. Any bill or provision attached to an emergency clause may take effect immediately upon receiving the governor's signature (or at another specified date).
This week, the governor signed into law House Bill 1695, a bill that is intended to strengthen Missouri's DWI laws and crack down on repeat offenders. The legislation makes several changes to the state's laws regarding intoxication-related traffic offenses, including:
- Allowing any circuit court to establish a special DWI court to handle such cases when the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .15, has pled guilty to or been found guilty of one or more intoxication-related traffic offenses, or has two or more previous alcohol-related enforcement contacts.
- Prohibiting any person who operated a motor vehicle with a BAC of .15 or more from being granted a suspended sentence.
- Specifying that for a first offense, unless a person participates and successfully completes the requirements of a DWI court, a person who operated a motor vehicle with a BAC between .15 and .20 will be imprisoned for at least 48 hours, and a person who operated a motor vehicle with a BAC of .20 or more will be imprisoned for at least five days.
- Increasing the minimum amount of jail time from five days to 10 days for a prior offender and from 10 days to 30 days for a persistent offender to be eligible for parole or probation—unless, as a condition, the person performs a certain amount of community service or participates in a court-ordered treatment program.
- Specifying that any DWI case will not be carried out in municipal court if the defendant has been convicted, found guilty, or pled guilty to two or more previous intoxication-related traffic offenses or had two or more previous alcohol-related enforcement contacts.
- Making the reporting of DWI cases more uniform and centralized by requiring the State Highway Patrol, beginning Jan. 1, 2011, to maintain regular accountability reports of alcohol-related arrests, charges, and dispositions based on the data submitted by law enforcement and prosecutors.
Other Top Legislative Priorities Await Governor's Signature
The other key priorities that legislators identified at the beginning of the session still await the governor's signature, including bills that institute ethics reform, provide insurance coverage for autism, strengthen regulations for adult businesses, expand informed consent requirements for abortion, and make changes to two of the state's major college scholarship programs. Some of the main provisions of these bills include:
Ethics ReformSenate Bill 844 , sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), allows the Missouri Ethics Commission to investigate ethics violations without an outside complaint being filed; requires contributions of more than $500 to incumbent officials and their challengers during legislative session be electronically reported within 48 hours; and limits the transferring of contributions among most committees.
Autism Insurance CoverageHouse Bill 1311, which is my language from SB 618, requires health carriers that issue or renew health benefit plans on or after Jan. 1, 2011, to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders; prohibits health carriers from refusing to cover an individual or dependent solely because the individual is diagnosed with autism; and provides coverage for applied behavior analysis, a common treatment method for autism, up to $40,000 annually through age 18.
Adult Business RegulationsSenate Bill 586, sponsored by Sen. Matt Bartle (R-Lee's Summit), prohibits a person from establishing a sexually oriented business within 1,000 feet of certain entities; prohibits nude performances and restricts semi-nude activity within sexually oriented businesses; prohibits adult establishments from operating between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., and bans the use, sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises.
Expanded Informed Consent for AbortionSenate Bill 793, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), requires, at least 24 hours prior to an abortion being performed, that a woman be presented with various printed materials detailing the risks of an abortion and the physiological characteristics of an unborn baby; given an opportunity to view an active ultrasound and hear the heartbeat; and provided information regarding the possibility of the abortion causing pain to the unborn baby past 22 weeks.
The bill also requires the physician to discuss the medical assistance and counseling resources available, advise the woman of the father's liability for child support, and provide information about the Alternatives to Abortion Program.
College ScholarshipsSenate Bill 733, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), changes and equalizes Access Missouri scholarship amounts for public and private universities; protects Bright Flight scholarship eligibility for students who serve in the military, and expands Bright Flight scholarship eligibility to those who have received a GED, or completed a homeschooling program of study, secondary coursework through Missouri's Virtual Public School, or any other academic program that satisfies the compulsory attendance law.
All of the above bills will become law Aug. 28, 2010, upon receiving the governor's signature with the exception of SB 733, which contains an emergency clause that applies to certain provisions.
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.