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09 September 2011

Denison: Special Session Underway, Facebook Fix Among Items

“Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.” –Louis Pasteur


The special legislative session called by the governor got underway this week. As I have mentioned in previous reports, the main topics of discussion include a major job creation bill [SB8] and legislation to create a tax amnesty period [HB5] as well as bills to return control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to the City of St. Louis [HB1], move the date of Missouri’s presidential primary [HB3] and fix what is commonly referred to as the Facebook law [SB1]. The economic development package and the Facebook fix legislation will start in the Senate and the rest of the bills will originate in the House. Knowing that each day of special session costs additional Missouri taxpayer dollars, we hope to have a quick session that will be as efficient as possible.


A piece of legislation passed during the regular session was designed to put the Amy Hestir Davis Student Protection Act [SB54] into place to protect students from immoral teachers. Part of that law included restrictions on teachers’ interactions with students on websites like Facebook. It’s a law that was simply meant to prevent inappropriate private communications between teachers and students. We want to ensure these kinds of interactions occur in a way that allows parents to see them.

Just a few weeks ago, the law was kept from going into effect by a Missouri judge who said this particular provision was too broadly worded. The judge said the law would have a chilling effect on speech and prevent appropriate and necessary communications using the online medium. Because of the injunction, the governor has added a fix for this law to his call for a special session. The House and Senate will now work to repeal the law and replace it with one that simply requires school districts to adopt policies on electronic communications between employees and students. With this change we hope to stay true to the original intent of the bill while also ensuring appropriate communications aren’t forbidden.

Legislature Takes Closer Look At Governor’s Withholding Practices

Two other bills filed this week for the special session go outside the scope of the call issued by the governor. The bills that were filed by the House Budget Chairman [HB6, HB7] deal with funding for disaster recovery efforts in areas like Joplin and southeastern Missouri. The bills come in response to the withholdings made by the governor that legislators and the state auditor have said are unconstitutional. The governor has already withheld $172 million from the state budget and pledged that $150 million will be used for disaster recovery. The bills filed by the House Budget Chairman would authorize up to $150 million in appropriations from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and set up a joint committee to oversee how the dollars are spent.

We’re hopeful the governor will expand his call to include these pieces of legislation. At this point it is clear the governor has overreached his authority and cut the legislature out of the appropriations process. Because it’s the job of the legislature to allocate taxpayer dollars, we have called on the governor to allow us to do what the people elected us to do. The state Constitution is clear that the governor can only withhold funding when revenue comes in lower than expected. That is not the case here and the governor has clearly violated the Constitution by making the withholdings in a year where revenues are coming in above projections rather than below.

We as a legislature want to help the people in areas of the state that were ravaged by storms and flooding and we want to make sure the process is one that follows our Constitution. The governor should add the bills filed in the House to his call for a special session so we can do the job we were elected to do and appropriate funding for the disaster recovery efforts.


One piece of disaster recovery legislation that was added by the governor would provide property tax relief to business owners who lost their businesses as a result of a natural disaster. The bill would allow counties to opt into a program to allow business owners to have their commercial properties reassessed. In essence, it would allow businesses to remove their properties from the tax roles until the rebuilding process is complete. The idea has received support throughout the Capitol. The only question remains how to make up the revenue shortage that will result from the loss of property tax revenue. In the Joplin area, the governor has already pledged $1.5 million to Joplin schools to make up for the lost revenue.

In the District

House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, recently created an Interim Committee on Passenger Rail, and I was appointed to serve as a member of this new committee.

In past reports I have kept you updated on road construction projects in Springfield. I was very pleased to join MoDOT, the City of Springfield, and Greene County, in the ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, September 7th to mark the completion of the Route 65 six-laning project.

I was very honored to present a House Resolution to Mr. Richard Dalstein on Saturday, September 3rd to commemorate a milestone birthday.

I also presented a House Resolution on September 6th to Mr. L.A. Dale on the occasion of his 95th Birthday during a senior adult meeting at South Haven Baptist Church.

Interim Office Hours

Interim office hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Normal schedule will resume December 1, 2011. If you need to call me at home, my number is 417-887-3353.

I look forward to hearing from you. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office. Best wishes.

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