HISTORIC BLIZZARD HITS MID-MISSOURI STRANDING LEGISLATORS
At left: Tuesday afternoon looking south at the Supreme Court Building during the storm.
As Missouri hunkered down in preparation and took precautions for an unprecendented storm this past week, we in the Capitol did our best to carry on. Many of us heeded the weather warnings and arrived in Jefferson City last Sunday evening to avoid potential icy highways. But we did not fully realize what lay ahead.
Monday afternoon we convened and determined that enough were present for a quorum to be able to conduct business on the floor and hold committee hearings through Tuesday. However by the next morning we were in the throes of an historic blizzard that left mid-Missouri with over 20 inches of snow. It was clear that many of us were not going to be able to even get to our Jefferson City apartments that evening.
The Missouri Capitol became the site of a mass sleepover Feb. 1st when the blizzard stranded about 100 of us, including staff and interns, in the building for the night. We shared food and supplies with each other while the State Emergency Management Agency provided blankets and pillows.
On Wednesday and Thursday the legislature convened for technical sessions only so lawmakers were able to drive home early pending highway openings.
The bipartisan comraderie of our overnight experience will be talked about for years!
Check out some of our media coverage - http://politicmo.com/2011/02/01/state-lawmakers-stranded-due-to-snow/.
2011 BLIZZARD FAST FACTS
- Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on January 31.
- Interstates 70 and 44 were closed statewide for several hours due to heavy snowfall and whiteout conditions.
- It is estimated that over 100 million people were affected by the storm system in the U.S.
- The path of the storm stretched from Canada to Mexico, leaving the Midwest under a heavy blanket of snow and ice.
HOUSE PASSES DRUG TESTING OF TANF RECEPIENTS
On Monday, Jan 31 we third read, passed House Bill 73 - drug testing of TANF recipients-by an overwhelming vote of 116 to 27. HB 73 would require the Department of Social Services to develop a drug testing program for applicants and recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program benefits.
This is the 2nd year we've seen this legislation - I voted no (as did other Democrats) because I believe this is an unlawful intrusion on those in poverty. We saw this bill last year but have no idea what will happen to it on the Senate side. An amendment was offered to also drug test all elected officials but was ruled out of order.
VOTER PHOTO ID BILLS ARE BACK
Regardless of the 2006 MO Supreme Court ruling that requiring photo identification to vote is unconstitional, this is the 5th year that subsequent legislation has been filed. I have committed, now for my 2nd year, to fighting this issue which would disenfranchise over 250,000 current eligible voters from utilizing their right to vote. Potential voters that would be affected include the elderly, disabled, college students and those in poverty.
As the House Progressive Caucus chair, I recently invited Denise Lieberman of the MO Voter Protection Project and Burt Newman, an attorney who challenged the 2006 law in the MO Supreme Court, to speak and provide information to our entire Democratic Caucus. They also testified against SB3 and corresponding resolutions SJR2 and SJR9 in the Photo ID hearing in the Senate.
This is a partyline issue which continues to surface and is being fast tracked in several state legislatures around the country. Arguments in support focus on voter inpersonation fraud which has never been documented or proven in Missouri.
As this legislation moves, I will keep you updated on our efforts.
MY ADDITIONAL COMMITTEES
Last week I was appointed to serve on Appropriations - General Administration because of a vacancy and my previous experience on the committee. We are in the throes of public hearings on the budget and meet often - sometimes twice a day.
In addition I serve on Children & Families which recently heard HB28 - restricting pharmacies in abortion drugs and HJR2 - proposing a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to pray. I will vote no on both when we hold an executive session.
My Elections Committee met on Tuesday, Feb 1 and we passed out HB107, HB 171, HB186 and HB217 by votes of 9-0.
WITH BRENTWOOD SUPERINTENDENT AT PUBLIC SCHOOL WORKSHOP IN JEFFERSON CITY
I joined Dr. Charles Penberthy, Superintendent of the Brentwood School District, at a dinner and workshop on the Missouri public school foundation formula held recently in Jefferson City. The dinner and workshop were sponsored by the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA).
The Missouri public school foundation formula is the mechanism by which school districts receive state funds to operate their schools. It is the largest single appropriation from general revenue in the state budget. The 2011-12 school year is slated to be the sixth year of a seven-year phase-in of the current formula.
BUDGET WORKSHOP AT CENTRAL REFORM CONGREGATION
One of my favorite projects outside the Capitol is teaching those in the community about the legislature and encouraging citizens to become involved in the process.
I joined with Amy Blouin, executive director of the Missouri Budget Project and Jen Bersdale, CRC's Director of Advocacy, on Saturday Jan 22 to teach over 40 congregants exactly how the state budget process works. It was gratifying to work with so many who gave up their Saturday afternoon to learn how they themselves can affect the budget.
I also was able to sharpen up my own understanding of the involved legislative process - which is coming in handy on my own House Appropriations committee.
I highly recommend the excellent information about Gov. Nixon's budget proposal and our declining revenue situation at MIssouri Budget Project - www.mobudget.org.