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17 January 2012

Lant: House Makes Progress On Three Bills, Yellow Dot On Back Glass Of Vehicle

Last week was busy although there were not a lot of bills passed out of committee. It takes a couple of weeks for the bills to get assigned to committee and another week to hear testimony so by next week we will be increasing in numbers. There were three bills that were voted out of committee for us to debate on the floor this week. The first one was HB 1140. This bill will provide transparency in government by improving public access to financial information about counties and school districts. The premise of the proposal is, when every dollar counts, citizens deserve to know where their tax dollars are going. 1140 allows tracking of tax dollar expenditures by requiring counties and schools to submit information on their debts and holdings to the Office of Administration where they will be posted on the Missouri Accountability Portal for easy access. Counties and schools will also be able to use this new resource to keep track and analyze their current situations. They can compare themselves to other counties and districts throughout the state and share valuable information.

HJR 43, The Taxpayer Protection Act passed out of Budget Committee this week. During this economic downturn, we have been dealing with budget shortfalls. In keeping with our promises, we have refused to raise taxes and instead tightened our belts and kept the budget balanced. This hasn't been fun for all those who had to deal with less money to run their departments. The Governor has even withheld appropriations for Higher Ed, K12 education and Social Services. HJR 43 attempts to remedy the situation in the future by tying future increases in budgets to population growth plus the rate of inflation. If successful, this bill will allow us to take advantage of good economic times by setting aside funds for the future when the economy turns down again. This is exactly the same theory many of our parents preached to us!

HB 1135 also targets transparency in government. An administrative rule which is passed today may make perfectly good sense, but give it a few years and sometimes they become very irrelevant. Under current law, rules that make absolutely no sense and are completely out of touch with modern times can remain on the books forever. HB 1135 requires that these rules be periodically reviewed to ensure they are efficient and effective. By including a sunset provision, all rules will have to venture through a public comment process every 10 years which gives all citizens a say in how our executive departments run.

Currently the House Committee on Children and Families is examining our own current Mandatory Reporter Laws to ensure they are adequate to address issues that have arisen across the country. Although I am not a member of the committee, I met with a group of concerned educators on Friday and discussed some of the ways that children in our area are falling through the cracks. As in the above discussion of HB 1135, some rules here appear to make no sense. Sometimes, we can become so obsessed with not crossing over department lines, that the very children we are committed to protect become victims! I have no idea at this point what I can do, but I assure you I will be trying. This is one subject that I promise you will be hearing more about.

Also on Friday, I was honored to have my picture taken receiving a "Yellow Dot" on the back glass of my car. Camille Graves is spearheading a drive to affix a yellow vinyl dot to the back glass of your vehicle to notify emergency responders that there is a packet of information in the glove box containing medical information. Although this program is geared mostly for seniors (I can't imagine why she wanted a picture of me), it will work wonderfully for anyone who has a medical condition that first responders should be aware of. It is extremely simple to fill out the information packet (Jane did it in less than 5 minutes), and Camille tells me that the announcement about when and where they will be available is coming soon. Once again McDonald County is leading the rest of the State!

I'm sure next week will be full of surprises, The Governor's State of the State Address will be Tuesday evening and committees will be meeting nonstop all week. Until next week, I am, and remain, in your service.

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