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23 September 2011

Tim Jones: Special Session Majority Minute: Senate Bills In House Committees

Storm clouds, fall storm and heavily laden gray skies ominously shrouded the Capitol this week as we returned for our third week of Special Session. Missourians anxiously look to their public servant leaders to keep Missouri competitive with other States and to encourage businesses and employers to come to Missouri and to grow in Missouri so that we can be “open for business” and provide a positive environment for jobs. As you may recall from the previous Majority Minute regarding the 2011 Extraordinary Special Session, on Monday, August 22nd, Governor Nixon issued a call for a Special Session to address certain specific issues which had great support from both Chambers during the Regular Session but on which the Chambers ultimately ran out of time in which to reach a compromise final position. You can find the full text of the Governor’s call at the following link: Today the Missouri House engaged in floor debate on SBs 1 and 7 which were voted out of the Rules Committee late yesterday.

SB 1—Sponsored by Senator Jane Cunningham modifies provisions relating to communications between school district employees and students.

The House gave overwhelming approval today by a vote of 139 to 2 to legislation that has commonly been referred to as the “Facebook Fix.” The fix is necessary because of an unintended consequence that resulted from a bill passed during the regular session to protect students from inappropriate conduct by unscrupulous teachers. Our goal was to make certain that communications through social media such as Facebook and Twitter are viewable by parents at all times. Instead, the language in the bill caused concerns that it would limit the ability of our many good teachers to use these tools to communicate school-related matters with their students.

Senate Bill 1 requires each school district to put in place a written policy concerning employee-student communication. The policy will have to be in place by March 1, 2012 and must pertain to the use of electronic media and other mechanisms to prevent improper communications between school district staff members and students. In addition, the bill repeals a provision that would have prohibited teachers from creating and using a work-related Internet site unless it is also available to school administrators and the child’s parent or guardian. SB 1 allows teachers to establish and maintain a work- and non-work related Internet site to have exclusive access with a current or former student. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

SB 7—Sponsored by Senator Robert Mayer would establish the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act.

The House also approved SB 7 by a vote of 94 to 48, which would create the Missouri Science and Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA). In essence, MOSIRA is a seed program designed to kick start Missouri’s next generation of hi-tech jobs. The goal is to make our state a national leader in life sciences and technology and to help retain and grow science and technology companies in Missouri. The bill also would allow us to develop our high-tech workforce – something that will create good-paying jobs for Missouri residents and give a significant boost to our economy. One of the great things about MOSIRA is the funding method it would utilize. It would not create any new taxes nor would it seek budget money currently being directed to Missouri general revenues. Rather, after a set base year, it would capture part of the increase in gross receipts from state income taxes generated by employees working within designated science and innovation fields. Money generated would then go into a fund that would continue to do outreach to attract more high-tech jobs. This is a revenue neutral bill with solid taxpayer protections. We encourage the Senate to now sign this bill that they already passed so that it can go to the Governor for his signature.

MOSIRA is a pro-growth, pro jobs bill with NO fiscal note (completely subject to appropriations based solely on net gains!) that will keep Missouri extremely competitive in the fast growing 21st century field of Bio-Tech & Bio-Science. In addition, for those Missourians who are pro-life, the bill contains extremely stringent pro-life protections relating to prohibitions on public funding of stem cell research. Good news for all Missourians!

A Glimpse into the Next Few Weeks

As we continue to work through this Special Session, I will keep you apprised of all developments relating to the Governor’s recent policy failures and on his Department of Economic Development’s troubling issues with the Mamtek debacle in Moberly. Missouri have cast the passage of any additional economic development bills in question but we remain committed to working with the Senate should they wish to strive for additional legislation to help put Missourians back to work. Should you have any questions regarding any of the matters on which we are working, please do not hesitate to contact our office at any time.

Until our next update, I am, and remain, in your service,

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