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15 August 2011

Lant: Extraordinary Support For Bill Under Fire

We are finally getting a welcome reprieve to the hot dry weather! Even the weeds in my yard were showing signs of distress. I spoke to a State Forester this week and was told that the trees that are showing brown, dry leaves aren't necessarily dying. Trees have a built in response to extreme heat and dry conditions. They drop their leaves to keep them from allowing moisture to escape through evaporation, and more than likely will be just fine next year.

I've been getting a lot of calls about Senate Bill 54. This bill is labeled ”Protection of Children From Sexual Offenders” and is known as the Amy Hestir Protection Act. It is named after a student who was repeatedly sexually abused by her teacher. Because of loopholes in the law and inconsistencies in reporting policies, this teacher was later hired by several school districts before retiring. This bill puts an end to school districts fearing lawsuits for disclosing information about former employees. Background checks are required for teacher applicants and school districts are found liable if they fail to disclose misconduct information. The most confusing part of the law concerns student-teacher internet communication. The law simply states "exclusive communication" between students and teachers is banned. All communication between students and teachers must be accessible to parents and administrators. Ladies and gentlemen, this is another "No Brainer"! If your child is communicating to ANYONE and you have no way to monitor the content of that communication, you are taking a great risk. The only way this bill prohibits communication between teachers and students is if it is not accessible to parents and administrators.

The sponsors of this bill did the near impossible by getting a House vote of 154-0 and a Senate vote of 34-0. It had the support of the Missouri State Teachers Association, the Missouri N.E.A., the Missouri School Boards Association, and the Missouri Federation of Teachers. I don't know what is more extraordinary; getting all those groups to agree or a 34-0 Senate vote?

One of the seminars I went to at the ALEC Conference was dealing with the future of Medicaid. I attended the class not because I am for or against what Medicaid does, but to acquire some information to better equip me for future legislative actions. Medicaid is another one of those programs that started out sounding both needed and affordable. We now have in excess of 50 million people on some type of Medicaid assistance. I was a bit surprised to hear that 41% of all births in the U.S. are paid for by Medicaid. A full two third of the costs are associated with long term care and this figure is growing at an alarming rate. It was then pointed out that with Obama care, Medicaid will be the primary vehicle for coverage. As more people are enrolled in Medicaid programs (all the current uninsured and newly eligible recipients) as well as greater numbers of Behavioral Issue patients, the system will have to change drastically. Some suggestions for States to begin proactive measures were, simplifying eligibility based on conditions, reasonable premiums and co-pays, better leverage through the use of vouchers, and block grants from the Fed to give states more flexibility. The monumental size of this type of program also makes it a perfect target for waste, fraud, abuse, and error.

We are going to be in Jefferson City next week for a two day Interim Study program I set up on Workforce Development. I expect about 20 Reps to attend the round table discussions and we hope to gain some valuable information to help us get started on next Session. I can't think of anything more important right now than creating jobs in Missouri and especially in our area. I'll fill you in on the details next week. Don't forget to plan for Jesse James Days in Pineville beginning August 24 with the Pageant on the 26th and Parade the 27th. If you can't have fun there, there's something wrong with you!

I am and remain in your service,
Bill Lant

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