Measure to Attract High-Tech Businesses Receives House Approval (HB 1311)
One piece of legislation approved this week in the House is meant to attract high-tech companies to place their data storage centers here in Missouri. This is a booming industry that generates in the neighborhood of $27 billion nationwide. It’s one we want to encourage to come to Missouri because it brings with it jobs that provide good salaries and exceptional benefits. The bill we passed this week would allow companies that operate data centers to be exempt from sales taxes for equipment purchases and utilities. The bill would require a company to make an investment of at least $5 million over a three-year period in order to qualify for the exemption. It’s a plan we hope will provide an additional incentive for businesses to take a closer look at Missouri as a destination. The end result would be more jobs and more revenue to help stimulate our economy.
House Approves Voter ID Measure (HB 1104)
During a week when many Missourians went to the polls to cast their votes, the House passed a bill meant to protect the sanctity of the elections process. The bill would require any Missourian that goes to the polling place to prove they are who they say they are by showing a form of photo identification. It’s a system we hope will prevent voter identity fraud from occurring here in Missouri. And we know fraud occurs here in our state as we have seen where one county in Missouri has 125 percent of its population registered to vote. When you have more voters registered than actual residents, it’s obvious some form of fraud is being perpetrated. By requiring anyone who comes to the polling place to show a photo ID, we can ensure each and every vote that is cast is done so by the actual registered voter. And while some have said this may make it more difficult for some Missourians who don’t currently have photo identification, it’s important to point out that the bill includes several provisions to allow citizens to obtain an ID from the state for free and for older Missourians, who may not have a birth certificate or other documentation necessary to obtain an ID, to vote by provisional ballot. It’s a system in place in the state of Indiana where voter turnout has actually increased since it was enacted. We’re confident the state of Missouri will see the same kind of success if it’s put in place here.
Honoring Our Veterans (HB 1099 and HB 1100)
I was proud to vote for two bills this week designed to pay tribute to the heroic individuals who have sacrificed so much in an effort to help preserve our freedoms. The first bill would designate March 26 of each year as "Veterans of Operation Iraq / Enduring Freedom Day". We have seen so many of our citizens leave the comforts of home and family to serve our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. As they return home, it is vital that we express our gratitude and appreciation for all they have done. Creating a day in their honor is one way we can show how grateful we are for all they have done. It’s with that same goal in mind that we approved another bill that designates March 30 of each year as "Vietnam Veterans Day" in recognition of the courage and patriotism of those who served during the Vietnam Conflict. It’s important that we acknowledge the sacrifices of the veterans of this war as so many of them were not treated with admiration or respect when they returned home from Vietnam almost four decades ago. By creating a day in their honor we can’t erase the past, but we can say thank you to these patriotic souls for all they have done for our nation. It’s something we should do for all of our veterans, not just on special days of remembrance, but each and every day of the year.
Potential Good News for Higher Education Funding
In a previous report I mentioned the governor’s proposed 12.5 percent cut in funding to our system of higher education. I also mentioned the proposal is not one that House members find acceptable. While we’re committed to finding ways to limit the funding cut to our public colleges and universities, the reality of the budget situation makes it quite a challenge. However, good news came this week as the Missouri Attorney General announced his support for a settlement with one of the nation’s five largest mortgage lenders. The settlement could bring in as much as $40 million for the state in the 2013 budget year. The governor has already proposed putting that money toward higher education. It’s something we in the House will look at very carefully in the coming weeks. First and foremost, we need to make certain that these revenues will in fact be available for the next fiscal year. It’s impossible to balance a budget on money that may or may not be there. But it is good news that additional funds may be available to help reduce any funding cut our colleges and universities may have to endure this year. Also good news is the fact the settlement will potentially result in more than a hundred million dollars being returned directly to mortgage holders in Missouri. It’s something I will follow closely so that I can share additional details with you as they become available.
House Website Improved to Provide New Window into the Legislative Process
Anyone interested in following along with the actions of the Missouri House will now have an unprecedented level of access. The official website of the House now provides information on amendments offered to bills and allows site visitors to see which amendments have been added or defeated during discussion on the House floor. In the past, there was no way to know what kinds of changes lawmakers were proposing to bills or how the bill was changed during the debate process. Now, visitors can see the details of each and every amendment offered on the House floor. It’s a change that provides a new level of transparency for the legislative process and one I hope leads to even more government accountability.
To learn more about the new amendment tracking system, please visit: house.mo.gov/content.aspx?info=/info/AmendHowTo.htm
There were several visitors to the Capitol this week. On Tuesday, February 7th, Pauline Nugent, Missouri State University, visited my office and discussed funding for higher education.
Also, February 7th, was Missouri Library Legislative Day, and members of The Missouri Library Association from Springfield; Regina Greer Cooper, Jim Schmidt, Kathleen O’Dell, Renee Brumett, Kelley Johnson, Stephanie Smallwood; and Valerie Richardson, Poplar Bluff, visited my office.
Springfield-Greene County Libraries Visitors, Rep. Denison
On Wednesday, February 8th, representatives from Missouri State University and the Missouri Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Kristen MacDonald, Judd Winter, Chris Carpenter, Chris Hummel, and Ann Lewis, were at the Capitol to visit legislators and talk about pending legislation regarding chronic pain management.
Nurse Anesthetists, Rep. Denison, Rep. Burlison
On February 8th, dental hygienists from Ozarks Technical Community College, Jessica Rimel, and Maddison Strasheim; and UMKC dental hygienist Ali Kessler, were at the Capitol to visit legislators and to discuss dental access.
Dental Hygienists, Rep. Denison
On February 8th, Susan Henderson, MS, Autism Center Director, Burrell Autism Center, and Allyson Ashley, LCSW, ACSW, Vice President Operations, Burrell Behavioral Health, Springfield, were at the Capitol and stopped by my office.
Burrell Behavioral Health Representatives, Rep. Denison, Rep. Burlison
On February 8th, there were several visitors from Springfield at the Capitol with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to discuss interests of those in the district affected by MS, and they provided information to my office about the programs and services offered throughout Missouri. The visitors were, Mary Heiney, Jason Mysch, Debbie Mellentine, Don Garrett, and Buck Van Hooser.
On February 8th, the 2012 Missouri Arts Awards were presented during a ceremony in the Rotunda of the State Capitol. Leah Jenkins, Springfield Regional Arts Council, Melissa S. Scott, Glenda Winkle-Morrow, Caitlin Golike, Cassie Walton, Jeana Varney, Merry Yeager, Stephanie Weddell, all from Springfield, and Alex Dulle, Jefferson City, stopped by my office while at the Capitol for the awards presentation.
On Thursday, February 9th, Buck and Pat Keagy, and Lisa Bakerink with the Bill Rosten Native Butterfly House, Springfield, were in Jefferson City for a public hearing for House Bill 1266. Buck and Lisa testified at the public hearing in support of HB 1266 that would designate the Regal Fritillary as the official state butterfly.
Rep. Denison, Buck Keagy
Rep. Denison, Lisa Bakerink
I look forward to hearing from you, and if you will be in Jefferson City, please stop by my office. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office. Best wishes.