As we approached the May 6 deadline, the House passed the budget compromise brokered with the Senate.
In news with national ramifications, House Democrats were not able to unite and sustain the Governor's veto of a congressional district map that is drawn with six Republican and two Democratic seats.
Students, mostly fourth graders, have filled the Capitol halls with their inquisitive minds and wide eyes: taking in all the magnificent artwork, architecture and history.
Please join Mark and me in congratulating our son, Brandon, on his upcoming graduation from Emory's Goizueta Business School. Graduation is Monday, May 9, and Mark and I are now enjoying time with Brandon in Atlanta to celebrate his achievement!
The legislative session comes to an end on Friday, May 13. Thank you for this opportunity to serve.
Redefining Missouri: An Historic Vote
Evey ten years after the census numbers are counted, political district boundaries are redrawn to reflect equal numbers of residents within equivalent political offices. Due to a loss of population in Missouri, our redrawn map [HB193] will include eight congressional districts rather than the nine we have had during the past decade.
Last week, Democrats in the House called on Governor Jay Nixon to veto the congressional redistricting map passed by the legislature, hopeful that a re-drawn new map would better reflect the political landscape of the state.
The Governor did veto the map that drew six safely republican seats and two safely democratic seats in a state largely considered to be closer to 50/50.
On May 4, the Missouri House cast an historic vote. All Republicans voted against the veto, therefore, only four Democrats were needed to make up the 109 votes required to override the veto.
Four Democrats voted to override, leaving the Democrats with only two congressional seats for the next decade. It was a discouraging day for Democrats, who were not united behind a change that will have long term ramifications for the state and the nation.
Had the veto been sustained by the legislature, the courts would make the decision about how to draw the congressional districts.
My disappointment stems from the fact that the creation of these six/two non-competitive districts is not good for our community, for the citizens of the state, and for Missouri's future.
I remain committed to supporting legislative districts that foster a competitive political environment and reflect the interests, involvement and values of the Missourians who live there.
State Budget Update
Accolades from budget committee members on both sides of the aisle went to Budget Chair Ryan Silvey (KC) and Vice Chair Sara Lampe (Springfield) for an inclusive and open process. They are to both be commended for putting problem solving above politics.
The budget reasonably allocated the money available to us at this time, and yet it falls short of the funding levels necessary to maintain services that are valued by so many Missourians. Without a balanced approach that includes consideration of revenue opportunities, balancing the budget becomes an exercise with false choices.
While some contend that K-12 education was not affected, we have continued cuts in transportation and have not fully funded the school foundation formula (the method used to distribute state education dollars). In 2012, we will have fewer resources for all of our schools than was intended when this formula was redesigned six years ago.
Missouri is ranked 49th of the 50 states in funding for higher education. In 2012, we will have less money for the operating budgets in colleges and universities across the state.
Health and mental health services, whether for children, families, or the elderly, are invaluable to many in our community. In 2012, we will see less money for public health programs.
Some good news: In-home care funds have been authorized. MO Rx has been funded through this budget. NORC has received its requested funding, affecting 2000 people in our community.
Tough decisions have been necessary in these tough times. As we look ahead, it is equally important to make decisions that will prove to be fiscally responsible after this recession. Missouri's General Assembly must take steps to rebuild the state's financial foundation,
Job creation continues to be a top priority. Standing strong for educational opportunities will help develop tomorrow's workforce and the entrepreneurs who will create job opportunities in the next decades of this Millennium.
A Priority Prescription: Missouri Rx
A priority for House Democrats in the final days of budget negotiations was extending the Missouri Rx prescription drug program for senior citizens and the disabled.
More than 200,000 Missourians benefit from the extension of Missouri Rx.
We allocated $19.6 million to fund the program for a full year, compared to the Senate's $5.78 million that would only last until its 2011 expiration.
Fortunately, the House position on Missouri Rx was protected by the Budget Conference Committee, and legislation extending this program will be sent to the desk of Governor Nixon by the end of the 2011 legislation session.
Showing Students Their Show-Me State Capitol
Spoede Elementary - May 5
One hundred students from Spoede Elementary visited the Capitol on May 5. With 4th Grade teachers Jan Caimi, Tracy Ward, Isaac Bjerk and Amy Rich, and accompanied by 50 parents, these students got the chance to observe the House of Representatives in action, marvel at the Thomas Hart Benton mural they have been studying in art class, and take a look inside the library at the Missouri Supreme Court. It is always a pleasure to introduce a new group of students to the Capitol of our great state.
Bellerive Elementary - April 26
Last week we welcomed 75 students and 22 parents and teachers from Bellerive Elementary School. Here is the photo of these bright young students, led by teacher Julie Otey.
Voter ID Advances
The House of Representatives has approved a pair of measures that would require Missouri voters to produce government-issued photo identification before voting. House Democrats have unanimously opposed this effort, as it stands to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Missouri voters.
"Voter ID" legislation would target senior citizens, legal immigrants, and youth, making it difficult for these diverse groups to be involved in the political process. The legislation in question, SJR 2, would ask Missouri voters to grant the General Assembly the authority to require voter ID. Senate Bill 3, which takes effect if SJR 2 is ratified, will be sent to Governor Nixon to be signed into law or vetoed.
Nixon Vetoes Senate Bill 188
Governor Nixon on April 29 vetoed legislation that would have dramatically weakened Missouri's anti-discrimination laws. Senate Bill 188, which was aimed at the Missouri Human Rights Act, would have made it more difficult for victims to bring and prove workplace discrimination lawsuits and would limit damage awards in cases that are proved.
In his veto message, Nixon said SB 188 "represents a significant retreat from the basic principles of fairness embodied in the Missouri Human Rights Act and erects unacceptable impediments to those victimized by discrimination."
Weakening state laws against workplace discrimination was a top legislative priority for Missouri's leading business groups; supporters of the bill claimed it would make Missouri more "business friendly." As of May 5, the General Assembly had made no effort to override Nixon's veto.