Priorities for the Second Regular Session of the 96th General Assembly
The Second Regular Session of the 96th General Assembly will begin at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Since the 2011 regular session ended in May, I have been busy meeting with my constituents and pinpointing my priorities for next year's session.
Thursday, Dec. 1 marked the date that lawmakers could prefile their bills for the 2012 regular session. Allow me to share three of my bills with you.
Local Control for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police DepartmentOne of my top priorities is to finally see local control legislation pass in the General Assembly. Since I was elected to the Senate in 2009, I have advocated for the City of St. Louis to control its own police force. Despite the fact that several groups have compromised regarding local control matters, and many are on board to see a city-run police department, political bickering has prevented local control measures from crossing the legislative finish line.
It is disappointing that we have not been able to end the inefficient governing system that has controlled the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) for years. There are many benefits to be gained from my local control bill (SB 461), including the potential to save the city nearly $4.1 million, and save the state more than a million dollars in annual legal fees by eliminating the Legal Expense Fund. In addition, police officers and their families would maintain their accrued benefits.
Payday Loan ReformMissouri's payday loan industry has been loosely moderated compared to our neighboring states, and we need regulations put into place that will prevent dishonest practices in the industry, while allowing good lenders to continue to keep their doors open for business. My measure (SB 462) would prohibit lenders from renewing unsecured payday loans of $500 or less more than once, an act known as rollovers. Though short-term payday loans appear to help people dealing with financial stress, borrowers can become engulfed in a mountain of debt with no means of escape. My bill would allow rollovers to occur only once, as opposed to six times as currently permitted, which will help prevent Missourians from acquiring extensive debt.
Fines for Seat Belt ViolationsAccording to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Missouri drivers wear their seat belts 79 percent of the time. The national average for seat belt use is 84 percent. My legislation (SB 463) would raise fines for motorists not wearing seat belts from $10 to $50. Studies have proven that higher fines result in higher seat belt usage, which would prevent tragic losses of life due to traffic accidents. We need to better enforce seat belt usage to save lives and encourage Missourians to make safety a top priority.
Please click here to view a news release I issued addressing my prefiled legislation. To follow my various sponsored and co-sponsored bills for the 2012 regular session, please visit my Missouri Senate website at www.senate.mo.gov/keaveny.
New State Legislative Districts Announced
In a news release issued on Nov. 30, it was announced that the Missouri Appellate Apportionment Commission filed new state Senate and House of Representatives redistricting plans and maps with the Missouri Secretary of State. Lawmakers will continue to serve their current legislative districts in both the Senate and the House. Although the new map took effect immediately, the redrawn boundaries will coincide with any new member joining the Legislature after the next election.
The legislative map was drafted by members of the appellate commission (appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court) after two bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor gave their notice to disband, as panel members were unable to reach an agreement.
To review the new legislative maps, please click here.
Safe Connections Receives Tax Credits
An estimated one in four women will suffer from domestic violence in her lifetime. Safe Connections gives women and young adults the chance of a better, safer life.
I'm happy to announce that Safe Connections — a program that provides complimentary counseling services, support groups, and education to women and teenagers who have experienced abuse — has been approved for $126,750 in tax credits. The tax credits are provided by the Missouri Department of Economic Development's Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP). Acquired funds will be used for the organization's counseling and support services.
About one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Research also shows that the percentage of female murder victims killed by intimate or former partners has remained at about 30 percent since 1976. The need for organizations like this are ever-present. Safe Connections offers information about:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Making a safety plan
- Helping a friend or loved one
- Individual counseling
- Teen services
For more information about domestic violence and how you can help, please visit the Safe Connections website at www.safeconnections.org, or call the general office number at (314) 646-7500.
Department of Insurance Helps Missourians Find Lost Policies
The Missouri Department of Insurance recently announced a valuable service — Missourians will have a way to communicate with licensed insurance companies to find information on deceased loved ones.
The Department of Insurance created the Life Policy Locator service, which can help consumers find lost life insurance policies or annuity contracts purchased in Missouri. The department will collect information from consumers, then send it electronically each month to licensed life insurance companies in the state.
For information about the Life Policy Locator service, please visit the department website at www.insurance.mo.gov or call 800-726-7390.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
I had the pleasure of meeting representatives of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The organization hosted the NAMIWalks for the Mind of America event, raising awareness and support for millions of Americans who suffer from various mental illnesses. It was an honor to meet these kind people and learn more about NAMI's services.
It's estimated that up to 57.7 million Americans (one in four adults) experience a mental health disorder in a given year. Since 1979, NAMI's mission has been to improve the lives of people dealing with mental illness and their families. NAMI also offers educational programs to inform people about mental illness and help eliminate stereotypes that are associated with mental illness.
Some of the support services offered by NAMI include:
- State and Local NAMIs — 1,200 affiliate organizations provide local services, support, and other opportunities for consumers and their families.
- Education, Training, and Peer Support Center — offering a variety of education and training programs and services for consumers, family members, providers, and the general public. These include Family-to-Family, Peer-to-Peer, NAMI Family Support Group, In Our Own Voice, and more.
- NAMI on Campus — a network of student-led mental health awareness, education, and advocacy groups designed to meet the needs of individual college communities.
- Veterans Resource Center — resources for veterans and active duty military members, as well as their families, friends, and advocates.
- Missing Persons Support — Resources and support for locating missing people with mental illness.
Preventing Falls in Older Adults
Along with 42 other states, Missouri declared a statewide "Falls Prevention Awareness Day" on the first day of autumn, Sept. 23.
Slips and falls are the leading cause of death in people age 65 and older, and is an issue that always needs to be taken seriously. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, more than 18,000 deaths of older Americans can be attributed to a fall. Unfortunately, Missouri's rate of death by falling is 31 percent higher than the national average.
A valuable resource to look over is the "Show-Me Falls Free Missouri" website, which offers pertinent information about senior health. The online booklet lists several ways to prevent your loved ones from falling, including:
- Regular strength and balance exercises
- Reviewing your loved ones' medications and doses
- Reducing home hazards
- Vision correction
Child Care Aware Missouri
Child Care Aware of Missouri was recently awarded a grant from the Missouri Children's Trust Fund, and the funding will allow its regional agencies to offer child care providers technical assistance and training related to preventing child abuse and neglect.
Child Care Aware of Missouri connects families to quality child care, early learning programs, and after-school programs, and also collaborates with business and civic leaders to make child care safe for Missouri children.
The organization also offers valuable information for:
Congratulations to Child Care Aware of Missouri on this success — keep up the good work! And please visit www.mo.childcareaware.org to learn more about child care and child safety.
Staying Warm This Winter
We had a turbulent winter last year with extreme snowfalls and frigid temperatures, so it's wise to prepare for the same conditions this year.
Missouri's Cold Weather Rule took effect on Nov. 1, and states that until March 31, certain investor-owned utilities regulated by the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) in our state must follow these guidelines:
- A person's heat-related service cannot be disconnected if the temperature is forecasted to drop below 32 degrees.
- Customers are allowed to budget their payments over 12 months.
- Customers aren't required to submit a deposit if a payment agreement is kept.
- Before a person's service is shut off, a representative must notify the customer by mail and in person.
- People registered as low-income or disabled customers who make minimum payments cannot have their service disconnected.
(Click here for more information about the Cold Weather Rule.)
Have a Happy and Safe Holiday Season
It's hard to believe that 2011 will soon come to a close. With a new year on its way, it is a good time to reflect back on this year's blessings, and enjoy time with our loved ones this holiday season.
While your children are on holiday break, it's an opportune time to participate in activities that you can enjoy as a family. A great family day is spending some time at our State Capitol, where you can take a tour of the building and visit the Missouri State Museum. Currently, the museum is hosting Civil War Tours, which will continue to be held on Saturdays at 2 p.m. until Dec. 17. There, you will have the chance to view artwork, artifacts, and other various displays that pertain to the conflict. If you're more interested in exploring our Capitol, you can participate in a free, 45 minute tour. Please click on the following links to learn more about the Missouri State Museum and tours of the Capitol. (These links can be found on the Missouri State Parks website, www.mostateparks.com.)
Also, please be sure to stay safe this holiday season. Amid holiday festivities, safety precautions can often be overlooked. Click here to view various holiday safety tips, provided by the Electrical Safety Foundation International. On this "Holiday Safety" website, you can read information regarding:
(All these links can be found on the Electrical Safety Foundation International website, www.esfi.org.)
I hope you and your family have a very merry and safe holiday season!