Limiting Lawsuits Against Farmers (HB 209)
One piece of legislation that now awaits the governor’s signature would limit the damage awards in nuisance lawsuits against farmers. The legislation, which was approved by both the House and Senate, also would restrict the ability of an individual to sue multiple times for things such as the odor produced by a large hog farm.
In addition, the bill would require anyone who wants to file suit against a farm operation to own at least part of the affected land. In an instance where a farm is found to cause a temporary nuisance against another property owner, the owner could sue for damages based on the decline in the property’s fair market value. The bill also clarifies that if multiple lawsuits are filed against a farming operation for the same nuisance, it would be declared a permanent nuisance.
The motivating factor behind the passage of this bill is to protect farmers and farming operations from being forced out of business by an inordinate number of lawsuits. It is important to make it clear that the legislation does not take away anyone’s right to sue. Instead, it limits the ability of an individual to file the same lawsuit time and time again. We hope this change will give the folks in our agriculture industry a better opportunity to stay in business.
Omnibus Disabilities Bill (HB 555)
Another bill passed in recent weeks was hailed by its sponsor as “a historic and unprecedented advancement for the disabilities community in Missouri.” The legislation makes a number of important changes that would improve the quality of care for the many Missourians currently living with disabilities.
Some of the bill’s main features include comprehensive rehabilitation services for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and coverage for medically necessary hearing aids under Missouri’s Medicaid program. Both changes would be subject to appropriations. The bill also would establish a state income tax check-off to contribute to the Developmental Disabilities Waiting List Equity Trust Fund. With approximately 5,000 Missourians currently on the waiting list, it is imperative that we develop new funding models to help provide disabled Missourians with the services they need.
Other provisions in the bill create would create new protections to safeguard the parental rights of individuals with disabilities; designate the month of October as Disability History and Awareness month in Missouri’s K through 12 public schools; put into statute Mental Health First Aid in Missouri; add a mental health practitioner to the 18 member MO HealthNet Oversight Committee; and add individuals with mental disabilities, especially autism, to the list of people whose service dogs must be allowed access to public places. The bill also would require all new parking signs related to disabled parking to contain the words “Accessible Parking” and not contain “Handicapped” or “Handicap Parking.” In addition, it would remove all references to “mentally retarded” or “mental retardation” or “handicapped” in state law, changing them to “developmentally disabled,” “developmental disability” or “disabled.”
By passing this bill we hope to make it clear that we view our must vulnerable Missourians as our most valuable citizens. We want to make certain that individuals with disabilities are among those who receive the first portions of government assistance.
Federal Education Funding (HB 15)
A bill we passed out of the House in February finally received approval in the Senate this week. The legislation would allocate $189 million in federal funding for our system of education. Under the plan that now awaits the governor’s signature, schools will receive approximately $37 million of that money this school year. The funding will be used to bridge the gap created by shortfalls in gaming and cigarette taxes. The remainder of the funding will be distributed to schools next year under the state's education funding formula.
Protecting High School Athletes (HB 300)
Another bill approved by the House in recent weeks is designed to protect high school athletes who suffer head injuries. The bill would require high school athletes to be removed from games if they appear to have a concussion or brain injury. Specifically, it would require that players remain out of competition at least 24 hours and get clearance from a licensed medical professional before they return to play. The bottom line is that we don’t want our young people risking their future by being sent back into games when they’re injured. We think this legislation will provide some much-needed protections to ensure kids aren’t put in dangerous situations.
Paycheck Protection (HB 466)
A bill we passed this week would empower union members to have a political position different from that of their union. The bill would require unions to obtain written consent from members in order to deduct money from their paychecks for political purposes. It’s a simple change but one that would give union members the ability to choose whether their dues are used to support certain political agendas. The bill needs another vote in the House before it moves to the Senate where similar legislation has already been approved.
On Tuesday, April 19, 2011, 4th Grade students from New Covenant Academy, Springfield, visited the Capitol. While at the Capitol, the students also visited with the Greene County legislators.
Pictured: Representative Eric Burlison, Representative Thomas Long, 4th Grade Students, Teachers: Ms. Sarah Broden, Ms. Eden Cruz, Representative Shane Schoeller, Representative Charlie Denison
On Wednesday, April 20, 2011, Stuart Scott, DDS, and Nathan Bauer, DDS, were at the Capitol visiting with legislators concerning pending legislation. Dr. Scott and Dr. Bauer are members of the Missouri Dental Association.
Pictured left to right: Dr. Stuart Scott, Representative Denison, Dr. Nathan Bauer
On Thursday, April 21, 2011, Jo Thompson, Springfield, stopped by my office to discuss Tobacco Free Missouri, a statewide tobacco control coalition consisting of concerned citizens, organizations, and local coalitions. I appreciated her visit and the information she provided.
I look forward to hearing from you, and if you will be in Jefferson City, please stop by my office. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office. Best wishes.