This year's start to the session seems to have moved into high gear quickly. Perhaps because of last year's failed special and general sessions, we are already seeing bills voted out of a few committees, when most committees have not yet even met for the first time! Look for some real controversy early on. That stated, I will continue my work to help ensure my caucus is up to the challenge of vetting and supporting legislation that puts Missourians back to work, takes care of our vulnerable children and seniors, and provides a quality education for all of our kids. Thank you for allowing me to serve you in Jefferson City.
Governor Jay Nixon will deliver the State of the State Address before the General Assembly on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Look for information on Missouri Works, the job creation initiative; and budget shortfall details estimated between $400 and $800 million depending upon the source you use.
My First 6 Bills in 2012
The first six bills I am sponsoring continue making their ways to legislators’ offices for co-signing. Look for these bills to be filed in the next week or so. The links take you to last year's bill since unfiled bills are not yet online. (There is no link for the Term Limit legislation.)
Nathan’s Law [HB603] makes essential changes to how unlicensed in-home child-care facilities can operate. It counts all non-school age children, including relatives, toward the total number of four children allowed in this type of setting. It requires that notification be given to parents using the in home care about the home’s licensure status. It imposes greater financial penalties for non-compliant providers, and it allows the Department of Health and Senior Services to close non-compliant home facilities. With over 40 deaths in home care facilities since 2007, it is time the legislature steps in to protect our children. This legislation is garnering bi-partisan support and will be filed with co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.
Tax Deferral for Senior Citizens [HB380] on fixed incomes follows a legislative model utilized in Oregon. This legislation would allow our state’s senior population to defer a portion of their taxes until after they either choose to sell their property or pass it onto heirs. At that time, the deferred taxes would be repaid from the estate. This legislation will have a net zero effect on the state, and would allow Missouri’s seniors to age in their homes.
The Missouri Indoor Clean Air Act [HB438] will be submitted again to promote healthy conditions in public places throughout the state. With what we know about second-hand and even third-hand smoke, it is time for the legislature to support good health policy and cut healthcare costs by enacting this legislation.
In order to emphasize what is implicit but seemingly ignored in existing law; I will re-file a bill stipulating that a student of the University of Missouri may serve as a voting member on the Board of Curators.
During this past session, almost half of the Representatives in the House entered as freshmen. Many of the newly elected Representatives won their seats because their predecessors were term-limited out. When we lose so many legislators at once, we tend to lose important institutional knowledge. Meantime, newcomers are required to step in and make critical policy decisions without the opportunities to learn from many experienced legislators around them. Term Limits, in their current form, do not bode well for the people of Missouri. Rather than having so many people “term out” at the same time, AND without changing the total number of years of service allowable under today's law, this legislation allows an elected member to continue running to serve for a maximum number of 16 years in either the House or Senate or some combination thereof.
I will be continuing, with bipartisan support, efforts to label foods as Kosher and Kosher for Passover including listing the certifying agent. [HB933]
Legislation Moving Forward...HB 1135
House Bill 1135 has soared through House committees very early on this session. In its most egregious section, it terminates all rules created by departments and agencies which provide direction for implementing our state laws. Ironically, this bill originated in the "Downsizing Government" Committee. On the contrary, in an effort to minimize duplication, inconsistencies or outdated rules, we will be tossing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, and starting again. Sounds as if we will be providing government with lots of additional work. The costs are yet to be estimated, and the opportunity for special interests to interfere with good policy and practice is of concern. Read the legislation here.
House Joint Resolution 43
Also being pushed forward with disturbing speed is HJR 43, a constitutional amendment which caps state spending each year so that it mirrors spending levels of 2008. The only increases will be for inflation as calculated by the CPI, and to adjust for increases in population. Should this pass, levels of spending for essential services that many are finding inadequate will continue into the future. Read the legislation here.
A New Year "Feel Good" Story... Puppies for Parole
This past Fall, many of you attended the Town Hall meeting featuring Director of Corrections, George Lombardi. He talked about how the hearts and minds of inmates have been changed when they are given the privilege of training dogs to put up for adoption. He recently forwarded this story that I know you will take pleasure in reading:
Our Prison dog handlers are taking their dogs who have advanced in the their socialization skills into the prison infirmaries, hospices and mental health units as a means to give some solace to those who are very needy.
Here is a quote from an inmate at Crossroads Correctional Center who has done so:
“I took Penny to the hospital to see all the sick guys that wanted to see her. There was one very sick person there, I cannot mention his name here. I asked if he wanted to meet Penny and he said, “Yes.” So I led her up to meet him. He put his hand on the side of the bed. He petted and felt her fur. He said she was soft and asked if she could jump on the bed. She was a little anxious at first, but she did with a little coaxing. She went up and laid down by his side. He started petting her and said that til we got the dogs in here, he had not seen or petted a dog for some thirty years. He got a smile on his face and you knew he went back in time in his mind to better days.
After a while we left. Later I asked how he was and found out that he had died that weekend in this sleep with a smile on his face. I think that Penny knew that he was not well and she didn’t care. To her, he was someone else to share her love, hugs and enjoyment of petting her to make them feel better.”