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21 July 2011

Nolte: Special Session on Jobs Welcomed

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - After months of work the Missouri House and Senate have reached an agreement on a comprehensive job creation package, which will be taken up in a Special Session later this year.

“I am excited to roll up my sleeves and address the most important issue to Missouri families, job creation,” said state Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Gladstone. “We must level the playing field for businesses in Missouri and especially in Kansas City by providing the necessary tools to allow us to effectively compete to keep and expand jobs for Missouri workers.”

Included in this jobs package are bills that Nolte sponsored or supported including Job Retention for Kansas City, Data Center Incentives, Tax Amnesty and MOSIRA. The package is very similar to the proposal passed by the Missouri House on the final day of session and is estimated to save the state of Missouri $1.5 billion over the next fifteen years.

“While government does not create jobs, we can improve the economic environment where entrepreneurs can expand the opportunity for all our citizens to prosper,” observed Nolte. “Missouri families are suffering in these hard economic times and expect us to work together and bring down unemployment and under employment.”

Stouffer: Why the Flood of 2011 Is Different

As I write, the floods affecting so much of our area is heavy on my mind. Unlike in 1993, we are not piling sandbags in the rain. Today’s floods are the direct side effect of government gone wild.

Today, boils and seep water have already ruined thousands of acres of crops. And tired levees, not built to withstand weeks of the Big Muddy’s current volume, are at a daily risk of giving way.

Unlike most “natural disasters,” this one could have been avoided. That reality makes this a tougher pill to swallow on neighbors who have homes and livelihoods threatened by the water. Soon, local residents may boat their way alongside the tops of electric poles to find their century farm, while bureaucrats continue to put fish and birds over the needs of everyday Missourians.

The 2011 flood started in late May, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced they would begin dumping thousands of gallons of water every day at Gavins Point Dam, along the Nebraska-South Dakota border.

On June 1, the Corps was releasing 80,000 cubic feet of water per second. By June 15, the amount nearly doubled to approximately 150,000 cubic feet per second. In addition, the 150,000 cubic feet per second release will continue through August.

There are 7.48 gallons in every cubic foot of water. For a visual, consider the water towers in the local communities of Atlanta, Slater, Waverly, Norborne and Lawson. All that water storage is near the amount the Corps will purposefully release into the river EACH second. Hopefully, by then, the threat will have passed, but the damage will already be done.

Corps officials blamed this year’s flood on the excessive rainfall between May and June, farther upstream. Why the water was not released earlier from these dams is beyond me. And, if cold weather and ice are to blame, appropriate measures should be taken now to invest in proper plans and technology to avoid this from ever happening again.

While many Missourians have been leery about reviewing the way the river is managed, it does not seem it could get much worse. The current management plan that the Corps has in place is also a culprit. Every year, we talk about the spring rise and every year, and there is a clash of ideas between the Corps and just about everybody else.

It is important to note, the federal government is spending $73 million on wildlife restoration, but only $6 million on operations and maintenance of the Missouri River. I do not mind taking care of God’s creation, but putting humans last is no way to operate.

This year’s flooding puts the spotlight on the Corps once again, and a lot more folks are listening than ever before. I am sure a solution will be reached, but it is sad that it will take another prolonged, man-made flood to get something done.

Mayer: Audio On Economic Development Legislation

Jefferson City — Senate Leader Robert N. Mayer, R-Dexter, recently added new audio and video links to his multimedia page, which is located on his Missouri Senate website. This page features audio and video links (both streaming and broadcast quality — when available) for visitors to listen to and watch Sen. Mayer address issues that are important to him and the citizens of the 25th Senatorial District.

The new audio and video links include Sen. Mayer discussing economic development legislation. Both Missouri Senate and House leadership have worked on a compromise proposal intended to create jobs in Missouri.

Senator Mayer will continue to add audio and video clips throughout the year. You can download his podcast and listen to it by going to Sen. Mayer’s multimedia page:

Lichtenegger: Important Legislative Update, State Parks & Historic Sites

IMPORTANT Legislative Update

A long-time concern for many of my constituents has been the plan for an additional quarry near Saxony Lutheran High School.* The good news is that Governor Nixon signed into law HB 89 which among its many provisions (page 10 -11; sections 444.771 & 444.773) prohibits the Department of Natural Resources and the Land Reclamation Commission within the department “from issuing a surface mining or a water or air quality permit to any person whose mine plan boundary is within 1,000 feet of any property where an accredited school has been located for at least five years prior to the permit application. This provision does not apply to a request for an expansion to an existing mine or to any underground mining operation. Currently, the commission may deny a surface mining permit if it finds in any hearing, based on competent and substantial scientific evidence, that the interested party's health, safety, or livelihood would be unduly impaired by the issuance of the permit. The bill specifies that it must be in a public hearing and removes the provision placing the burden of proof on the permit applicant.”

*Although this bill has been signed into law there may be a legal issue specific to the proposed Strack Quarry near Saxony LHS.

Knowing Your Missouri State Departments: #1 Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

#1.2 State Parks & Historic Sites

My objective for reporting on the Missouri State Parks & Historic Sites is for you to explore resources and services available so that you can enjoy what our state has to offer for your outdoor enjoyment. The state has more than 200,000 acres of parks in every geo-region. Missouri’s state parks system ranks as one of the top four in the nation. It has been recognized as a finalist in the 2011 National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management program. (For more information on this award see Miscellaneous Notes below.)

Considering the beautiful, vast state park acreage and DNR’s State & Parks programs, we should get out there and enjoy the scenery! Using The Missouri State Park System you can, for example, sign up for a Historic-site Tour; plan a family picnic; reserve a campsite for an overnight outing at a State Park; or find special state-sponsored events such as kayaking, nature hikes and archery through the Show-Me-WOW-Weekends webpage. If you do not have internet access you can call the MO State Parks & Historic Sites information toll-free line 1-800-334-6946 to get any of the same information by speaking with a State Parks staff person. You should keep this toll-free number with you as to travel to and during your state park visit in case you need additional information. And talk about making it easy for you, link here to choose a state park with the amenities you’re looking for! Don’t know all the state parks and their geo-regions? You can choose a region of interest without choosing the specific amenities and it will still give you a list!

And the events aren’t just for the spring and summer seasons. For example you could attend the Christmas on the Farm event at Watkins Mill State Park in Lawson, December 3. On the webpage, you can view all the information you need to plan the event including travel directions right from your home to the event-site!

If you want to stay in touch with park & site activities follow this link and subscribe to the State Parks e-newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).

And for you techies out there DNR just announced this week an easy way to access information about Missouri state parks and historic sites. A new free mobile application for smartphones is designed to provide visitors with convenient access to detailed state park information. The app is currently available for the Apple iPhone and is coming soon for Android smartphones. Innovative features within the app are sure to enhance any visit to a Missouri state park or historic site. The Pocket Ranger™ Mobile Tour Guide can be downloaded from the iTunes Store and Android’s Market, or directly at State Parks apps. Download your Official Guide for Missouri State Parks & Historic sites today.

To add to your state park adventure, how about participating in the first ever amateur photo contest sponsored by MO State Parks and Rural Missouri magazine!

Miscellaneous Notes

If you missed receiving the July 14, Capitol Report #1.1 DNR Overview and would like a copy please contact me via email.

Link here to read an article about Trail of Tears State Park written by Denise Dowling, DNR’s Facility Manager for the Trail of Tears State Park.

The National Gold Medal Awards program for state parks is held every other year by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, the National Recreation and Park Association and Musco Lighting LLC. The Gold Medal Awards honor communities throughout the United States that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. Agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of citizens, staff and elected officials.

Denison: New Grain Dealer Requirements, Farm-To-Table Advisory Board, Best Older Worker of 2011

“The ability to concentrate and to use your time well is everything if you want to succeed in business—or almost anywhere else for that matter.” –Lee Iacocca

New Grain Dealer Requirements Implemented to Protect Missouri Farmers

Governor Nixon signed a piece of legislation that will prevent future incidents similar to what we saw a few years ago when approximately 180 Missouri farmers were defrauded out of roughly $27 million. Cathy Gieseker of T.J. Gieseker Farms in Martinsburg is now in federal prison after an audit done by the state Agriculture Department found a host of fraudulent activity. In effect, Cathy Gieseker had lied to farmers by telling them she had lucrative contracts that allowed her to sell grain above market prices. Instead, she failed to make payments to farmers because she had no contract and instead sold grain at lower prices. The bill we passed this year (SB 356) will ensure history doesn’t repeat itself by modernizing our grain dealer laws and improving the protections our agriculture department provides to farmers. Under the new law, grain dealers will have to set aside a larger pool of money in order to remain solvent. Specifically, their assets will have to meet or exceed their liabilities. In addition, the bill will bring Missouri laws for grain elevators in line with national standards. The end goal is to ensure hardworking farm families aren’t cheated out of their money by irresponsible, fraudulent activity. I’m confident SB 356 gives us protections that will prevent what happened in Martinsburg from happening again.

Farm-to-Table Advisory Board

Governor Nixon also signed HB 344 into law. The bill establishes the Farm-to-Table Advisory Board to bring produce grown in Missouri to schools and other institutions more efficiently. The advisory board will look at current obstacles and make recommendations for statute and rule changes to make it easier for schools to purchase fresh, locally grown produce. The advisory board will help schools and other institutions find ways to provide fresh, healthier food choices that could encourage healthier eating behaviors and lifestyles.

Clean Water Fees

Another bill signed into law (HB 89) reinstates fees that provide the funding necessary for the state to carry out its federally delegated duties under the Clean Water Act. Commercial developers, home builders, manufacturers, utility companies, and livestock operations pay the fees for permission to discharge wastewater into streams and lakes. For the last budget year, the fees generated more than $4 million for clean water programs in Missouri. The fees expired in December, but HB 89 reinstates them until September 2013.

State Seeks Best Older Worker of 2011

Missouri’s annual Older Worker of the Year contest seeks to honor a Missouri resident who is 60 or older, employed at least 20 hours a week, and displays dependability and new skills on the job. The winner and regional finalists will be recognized at a two-day awards ceremony in November in Jefferson City.

Nomination forms for 2011’s Older Worker of the Year are available on the Department of Health and Senior Services’ Web site, Completed nomination forms must be postmarked or faxed by August 31, 2011.

The completed entry forms can be faxed to (573) 522-3024. They also can be mailed to: Missouri Outstanding Older Worker Contest, Division of Senior and Disability Services, Bureau of Senior Programs, P.O. Box 570, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0570. Nomination forms must include a narrative explaining why the nominee deserves to be selected Older Worker of the Year. For more information, please call 573-526-4542.

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.

Dempsey: The States: Laboratories of Healthcare Reform

Last week, this column discussed the importance of maintaining the delicate balance of shared responsibilities between the federal government and the states - much of it focusing on healthcare.

In response, I received reader feedback expressing concern that attempts to rein in federal spending and mandates meant keeping the status quo. I welcome these comments and believe that Missouri must be proactive in implementing real reform.

It has been said that the states are like laboratories, where solutions to social problems can be developed. I know this to be true and have benefited from the work of legislators outside of Missouri, especially as it relates to healthcare.

However, any successful plan, developed locally or in a sister state, must address several main issues. First, it must aim to expand coverage and be transparent (in order to keep quality high and costs low). But the heart of any successful program is to be found in the incentives it creates. A viable plan will encourage personal responsibility for one’s own health and provide incentives to all involved to reduce the costs associated with care.

During my time in the Legislature, I have sponsored several healthcare bills that proposed to do the following:

Senate Bill 306 (2009) – “Show-Me Health Coverage” Plan
  • Partners the state and the private sector to provide health coverage to low-income Missourians for a limited amount of time with the goal of providing both a safety net for those in need and incentives to move beyond government programs
  • Stresses preventive services (not emergency room visits) and healthier lifestyles.
  • Makes state-sponsored programs less costly for all taxpayers by ensuring they are the payor of last resort. Other non-public sources of payment would be used first.
Senate Bill 149 (2009) - Seeks to establish transparency in the pricing and quality of healthcare services.

Senate Bill 415 (2009) - Removes regulatory barriers to offering flexible, fully insured Health Savings Accounts. These accounts will help dramatically lower the number of uninsured in Missouri with a unique free-market solution.

SB 1283 (2008) - “The Missouri Health Transformation Act”
  • Designed to improve individual health, modernize care delivery and transform public healthcare financing to improve access and affordability.
  • Expands an existing $2,500 tax credit to assist seniors and the disabled to modify their homes as an alternative to institutional care.
  • Steers people who are using expensive emergency rooms for non-emergency care to primary care physicians through web-based technology.
  • Includes Telehealth (phone-based) practitioners in efforts to modernize care delivery and expand access in rural areas.
  • Helps the working poor gain access to affordable health insurance. Participants make contributions to a health savings account based on their income. Provides essential medical services, similar to commercial insurance plans and stresses preventive care.
The ideas discussed above are examples of ways Missourians can make healthcare more accessible and affordable. If you have suggestions for commonsense reforms, please do not hesitate to share them with me. I welcome your feedback.

20 July 2011

Kraus: Bills Become Law

Governor Fails to Sign Three Bills That Become Law

The deadline has passed for the governor to sign or veto bills passed by the General Assembly– it was last Thursday, July 14. Legislation not receiving action automatically becomes law on its effective date, typically Aug. 28 – this is sometimes referred to as a “pocket signature.” Gov. Nixon allowed three bills passed by the General Assembly to become law in this manner.

Two of these bills, HB 213 and SB 65, ban late-term abortions after 20 weeks of gestation unless the mother’s life is at risk or she faces a risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. This legislation was passed by large bi-partisan majorities in both chambers.

The third, HB 423, authorizes Missouri to adopt the provisions of the Health Care Compact to improve health care policy within the state by returning authority to regulate health care to the state legislatures. It would require the consent of the U.S. Congress to return that authority to the states.

The next legislative action occurs on September 14, when the General Assembly reconvenes during its annual veto session to consider overriding any gubernatorial vetoes. We may also be looking at holding a special session at around the same time. I’ll keep you informed in this newsletter.

Please Come to Town Halls

Don’t forget our town hall meetings next week. I would love to see large crowds at each of them and hear your feedback and ideas.

Lee’s Summit

When: Monday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Who: Sen. Kraus and Reps. Jeff Grisamore Mike Cierpiot, Gary Cross
Where: Lee’s Summit City Hall, City Council Chambers (220 SE Green St., Lee’s Summit)

Reps. Jeff Grisamore (House District 47), Mike Cierpiot (House District 56), and Gary Cross (House District 48) and I will be in attendance, so it is a great chance for you to talk with your elected state officials. We will be there to discuss this year’s legislative session and answer any questions that you might have about state government.

Blue Springs

When: Tuesday, July 26, 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Who: Sen. Kraus, Rep. Sheila Solon, Mr. Ron Fowler, and Mr. Grant Bowerman
Where: Moreland Ridge Middle School (900 SW Bishop Drive, Blue Springs)

Rep. Sheila Solon (House District 55) and I will be available to discuss this past legislative session and address any questions that you might have about state government. In addition, Blue Springs City Council members Ron Fowler and Grant Bowerman will be available to answer questions about local government.

Legislative Activities

My summer schedule includes a number of interim committee meetings. I met with the Senate Urban Agriculture committee last week. In the coming weeks, I will be in Springfield and Jefferson City to meet with the Senate Interim Emergency Response Subcommittee. I also took part in a recent meeting to discuss Early Site Permit legislation for the construction of nuclear power plants. I’ll have more information on that in a later report.

19 July 2011

Ridgeway: Caylee Anthony's Case and Missouri Law

While it is true that most times all politics are local, sometimes an issue in one state garners the attention of the entire country. Such has been the case of Caylee Anthony’s disappearance and death and the subsequent acquittal of her mother, Casey Anthony. Media coverage of the trial has sparked discussion and emotions from coast to coast.

My office has been deluged with correspondence related to this issue. In speaking with other legislators, I find the same thing has been happening in their offices. This is an event which has captured the attention of Americans from all walks of life.

The letters, calls, and emails I have received range from outrage over the acquittal to concern that such a situation could occur here in Missouri. We have been proactive in our state in taking steps to keep something similar from happening. It is illegal to abandon a corpse in Missouri and entities such as schools and hospitals are mandated to report the death of a child. In addition, there is also a law which sets up a child death review board in certain situations.

This is not to say we can’t, and possibly should, do more. The legislature is currently not in session and will not reconvene until January. As such, legislation cannot be introduced or passed until that time. However, I have initiated contact with those on the front lines of investigating and prosecuting the deaths of children to get their ideas of what steps we should possibly be taking.

Although we may never know exactly what happened to Caylee, we do know her mother did not report her missing, even after weeks of not seeing her. This alone destroys valuable evidence and hinders any investigation. Making it a felony to not report a missing child within a certain period of time could give another tool to law enforcement and prosecutors.

There can never be a replacement for a loving family to watch over and protect children. I certainly do not want our society become more of a nanny state than it is already. We do however, need mechanisms in place to punish, and hopefully deter, behavior which leads to children, or anyone for that matter, being harmed or, in the case of Caylee, murdered.

I appreciate everyone who has made the effort to contact my office. Seeing so many people take the time to become involved in an issue in which they believe confirms my faith in the people of this great state.

18 July 2011

Stouffer: Presidential Preference in Missouri

A move to change the date of Missouri’s presidential primary is the latest victim of the veto pen.

In vetoing Senate Bill 282, the governor has refused to switch the date of the state’s presidential primary from February to March. This change is not important to the daily lives of Missourians, but will have some impact on next year’s presidential election. Both parties’ national committees have agreed to new rules for 2012, and SB 282 would have put Missouri in compliance with these new guidelines. Now that the measure will not be allowed to become law, our state’s delegates to both national conventions will be docked. This means the major candidates may have decide to pass on campaigning in Missouri.

Vetoing this bill disrupts the process of nominating candidates. Unfortunately, the governor’s failure to lead on this issue could cost our influence in next year’s important election. Senate Bill 282 was heard in committee early on during session and was debated on the Senate floor on more than one occasion. It did not “slip through the cracks” or receive a vote in the middle of the night. There was nothing secret about the provisions of this bill. Until the legislation was vetoed, we were unaware of any concerns.

Not moving the primary will mean folks in Missouri will not have the same influence in selecting the next president as folks will have in every other state in the Union.

The governor, citing his reason for vetoing this bill, claims that calling for a special election — in the event of a vacancy of a statewide elected office — would cost money. In the bill, the governor was given the ability to set the date of a special election, which means it could be held at the same time as an election date that has already been established — which would save money.

Lawmakers have the ability to override this veto and others during its annual veto session in September. It is disappointing this legislation could not have been perfected with timely input from all interested parties during the regular session. I pray the Legislature can work to undo this, and save our presidential primary.

For a full list of bills that have signed or vetoed by the governor, please click here.

Lant: Successful County Fair, Property Rights Forum, Inundated With Requests For Caylee's Law

We started this week out with a round table discussion at Anderson with the Ozark Property Rights Group. This group is dedicated to ensuring that legislators are aware of the encroachment of government, from local to Federal, on the rights of private property ownership. Senator Goodman, Representative Reiboldt and I were in attendance and it didn't take long for our education to begin. I truly enjoy these meetings as the members of the group are very well informed on the subjects at hand. They don't want smooth rhetoric from us, but instead they expect honest answers, even if it's "I don't know". Trust me, if you don't know, you very quickly will ! Among other things, they asked each of us what our agendas for the next session were going to be. My major emphasis is going to be to acquire as much knowledge about economic and work force development as I possibly can. Every issue that comes before us can be tied back to job development. If we have a healthy economic climate, taxes increase and the State is able to fund all kinds of programs that have suffered cuts in recent years. Most of our economic woes can be blamed on Washington, but there are a lot of things we can do on a State and local level to help ourselves. It's time for us to quit finger pointing and start doing the right thing!

Our Newton County Fair has to be counted as a great success. Not having adequate time to rebuild the Commercial Barn that was destroyed by the snow storm, tents were erected and although there were a few gripes about the heat, the displays were great and the hardy souls that braved the heat for hours on end to man the booths were to be commended. I do have to mention that the Republican Party Booth was right next to The Conservation Department booth. You guessed it, they had a snake in a cage and I couldn't find Jane for three days! The animals were great as usual. They had new poultry pens and there were some chickens and turkeys that looked way too pretty to eat. My hat's off to all the exhibitors. You could tell how proud some of those kids were the instant you saw the big grins when they showed you their ribbons. My cousins from Southern Indiana were here for a few days and they couldn't quit talking about how great our fair was. They are so busy growing crops back there that there are very few cattle or goats or horses. They also were amazed at the "Fancy Rabbits". I guess some folks are more easily impressed than others.

Elected officials all over the country have been inundated with "auto messages" concerning the Casey Anthony trial. It seems that a web site is encouraging legislators to enact laws making it a felony not to notify law enforcement officials of a child's disappearance within 24 hours. There are already five senior members of the House planning to pre-file bills as well as the committee chairman. It's very likely that his will be the bill presented on the floor but we need to be very careful here. When we seek to establish a severe penalty for "not doing something", we are getting into dangerous territory. A good example of that would be Obama's plan to penalize us if we don't buy government insurance. It's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.

We've got two days in Jeff City coming up. I have been asked to set up an interim work group meeting with the Division of Social Services, Division of Mental Health and the Division of Health and Senior Services. We will have an informal meeting with each director for the purpose of information gathering. It is our hope that we, as freshmen, will be better equipped when we start appropriations hearings if we better understand the workings of each of these departments. I'll report on the meetings next week. Until then, I am and remain, in your service.