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10 February 2012

Engler: A Waste of Taxpayer Dollars

Last year, I fully supported the bill moving Missouri’s primary to early February. By switching to an earlier date, we could have given Missourians a greater say in selecting the presidential candidate. The national political parties, however, try to keep a specific order of states’ primaries and caucuses, and our date change threw a wrench in their plans. We were informed if we didn’t move our primary, we risked losing delegates.

Before the Legislature could act, the state Republican Party chose to switch to a caucus system in March to select the presidential candidate, rendering our new, early primary pointless. I filed a bill to cancel the primary since it would not choose Missouri's presidential candidate, and we risked spending $7 million on an election that no longer mattered. For reasons that are dubious, in my opinion, the bill died in the Senate.

On Tuesday, Missouri citizens cast their votes in a primary election that was little more than a state funded political poll. At a time when we’re cutting funds from higher education, laying off 3,000 state workers and implementing drastic cost-saving measures throughout departments, we spent $7 million on a primary election that accomplished absolutely nothing. Voters must have felt similarly, because only around 8 percent of the population took part in the election. Broken down, that’s about $25 spent per vote.

I am disgusted by this entire situation. When it became apparent the primary wasn’t going to have any say in selecting the presidential candidate, we should have passed legislation to cancel it. Keeping the primary was one of the dumbest things I’ve seen the Legislature do.

This week the Missouri Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 592, which would modify state law relating to the Missouri Human Rights Act and employment discrimination. The bill will now go to the House for approval. We’ve continued to work on this legislation, and a new willingness to compromise has given its passage more promise. If we can continue to find middle ground, I’m hopeful we can get this bill to the governor’s desk.

We’re often accused of monkeying around in the Capitol, but that charge took on new meaning this week. The Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee considered Senate Bill 666 on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, would require a permit issued by the Missouri Department of Agriculture to own a large, non-human primate, and establishes other guidelines dictating who can own one of these animals.

I was honestly surprised by the number of exotic animal owners not only in my district, but across the state. However, ownership of these animals should have reasonable regulations. If one were to get loose, it could pose a significant danger to the public. The committee engaged in some interesting discussion about the bill and its merits, and thankfully, no one went ape.

The Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 736 this week, which will help St. Francois County make the move to a first class county. I was happy to have the Presiding Commissioner of St. Francois County, Dr. David Cramp, come to Jefferson City and testify on behalf of the bill. This would be a big stride forward for St. Francois County and I’m honored to be a part of it.

The Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee held a hearing Monday on Senate Bill 689. The legislation, which I’m sponsoring, would add undue influence—using authority over an elderly or disabled person to take unfair advantage of that person—to the types of acts that constitute a crime of financial exploitation. I hope the bill makes it through the committee and is ultimately passed by the General Assembly. We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable people in our state, and this bill would go far in prosecuting those who abuse the elderly and disabled.

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