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04 February 2012

Tishaura Jones: Discriminiation Bill Clears Senate, House Approved Education Funding Change

SENATE PASSES DISCRIMINATION BILL AFTER 15 HOURS


African-American members of the Senate ended a 15-hour filibuster of legislation weakening Missouri’s anti-discrimination laws after the bill’s Republican sponsor agreed to eliminate a provision of the bill that sought to require judges to rule in favor of employers in most workplace discrimination lawsuits. The Senate granted preliminary approval to the amended bill, SB592, on a voice vote shortly after the filibuster ended at around 1:20 a.m. on Feb. 2.

Although opponents agreed to stop blocking the bill in exchange for concessions, that doesn’t translate into support of the measure. The leader of the filibuster, state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, said opponents will continue to fight efforts to undermine anti-discrimination laws. The House of Representatives debated a similar bill on Feb. 1, but Republican leaders pulled the measure, HB 1219, after about hour amid fierce opposition by the Legislative Black Caucus and other House Democrats.

Making it easier for employers to escape accountability for wrongful discrimination is a top priority for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the state’s other major business groups. Since Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in both legislative chambers, a discrimination bill is ultimately expected to be sent to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk. However, Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed similar legislation last year and has indicated he will do so again this year.

HOUSE COMMITTEE ENDORSES EDUCATION FUNDING CHANGE


The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee on Feb. 1 approved legislation that would modify the formula for distributing state funding to local public school districts to account for the fact that the K-12 education is being funded at levels well below what the formula calls for. HB 1043 is intended to prevent massive shifts in funding among the state’s 522 public schools districts that could occur in upcoming fiscal year if action isn’t taken.

Missouri’s existing education funding formula law was enacted in 2005. Because the state at that time lacked the $800 million necessary to fully fund the new formula all at once, funding increases were to be phased in over seven years, with the formula being fully phased in for 2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1. In recent years, however, the state hasn’t had sufficient revenue to phase in the new funding on schedule.

Unlike previous formulas, the existing law doesn’t contemplate under funding. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, however, dealt with the situation by imposing equal percentage cuts on each district.

But a provision of the law could require the state to redistribute the available funding next year, imposing massive cuts on some districts while giving big increases to others. HB 1043 would minimize the funding shifts, although some districts would still gain or lose funding under the bill.

SENATE BLOCKS NIXON’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PICK


Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Jason Hall resigned Feb. 1 after the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee refused to advance his nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. Since Nixon appointed Hall to the post on Dec. 30 when the General Assembly wasn’t yet in session, Hall was able to take office immediately. In order to keep the job, however, the Senate had to approve the appointment by Feb. 2.

Although Hall’s selection had been endorsed by the state’s major business groups, some senators questioned whether he had the necessary experience for the job. An attorney, Hall had served as executive director of the Missouri Technology Corporation, a state-sponsored agency that promotes the growth and science and technology companies, until taking the economic development post.

Nixon has named Chris Pieper, a deputy counsel in the governor’s office, as interim department director until a permanent replacement is selected. Hall was the third economic development director since Nixon took office in January 2009.

NIXON APPOINTS NEW SENATE REDISTRICTING COMMISSION


Gov. Jay Nixon appointed a new commission on Jan. 31 that will make the latest attempt at drawing new state Senate districts to reflect population changes based on the 2010 U.S. Census. The 10-member commission, which consists five Democrats and five Republicans nominated by their respective parties, will meet for the first time on Feb. 18.

The Senate redistricting process is entering its second round, creating uncertainty for the 2012 election cycle. A previous partisan commission failed to agree on a new Senate redistricting plan last year, and under the Missouri Constitution the task passed to a separate commission of six state appellate judges. Although the appellate commission filed a redistricting plan in November, the Missouri Supreme Court last month ruled that plan violated the general constitutional prohibition against splitting counties among Senate districts.

As a result, the whole process begins from scratch with a new partisan commission, which will have until Aug. 18 to submit a final plan. If it fails to do so, another appellate commission will again take over and have until Nov. 16 to complete the job. If the process runs it full course, however, there is no way it could be completed in time for the either the Aug. 7 party primaries or the Nov. 6 general elections.

Newman: House Continues Push On Bills Promoting Discrimination, Voter Suppression

UPDATED: BREAST CANCER IS NOT POLITICAL. PERIOD.


The Progressive Caucus was fast on our feet and sent a letter Thursday afternoon to the Komen Foundation, as did over 50 members of Congress. We asked them to reverse their decision on allowing breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthoods across the country. See our media coverage here and here on www.ProgressWomen.com.

As you may know, with the strong outcry nationwide online and via the media, Koman decided late morning Friday to reverse their decision. However we are monitoring the developments and want to assure that Missouri clinics will indeed receive grant funding for these vital life-saving screenings, regardless. Stay tuned...

This past week in the Capitol felt like the movie, “Groundhog Day” where days keep repeating themselves. Wednesday we debated the same issues on the House floor as last year – the “Pro-Discrimination” and “Voter Suppression” bills.

“PRO-DISCRIMINATION” – HB1219


The House Majority allowed about 45 minutes of floor debate on HB1219 before the bill was abruptly laid over (allowing it to go back on the calendar for another day). I am proud to be serving with members of the Black Caucus who were among those recognized on the floor and allowed to speak against the bill before debate was cut off.

Earlier on Monday the Black Caucus held a press conference in the famous Thomas Hart Benton House Lounge denouncing the blatant attempt to roll back civil rights protections in HB1219 - read more here.

The Minority Caucus has taken an official position opposing both bills which means that we are in solidarity and will all vote NO. Why?

HB1219 severely weakens protections provided to MO whistleblowers, weakens the MO Human Rights Act and would reverse decades of civil rights progress for minorities and women.

Democratic members of the Senate ended a 15-hour filibuster Wednesday on SB592 (the identical Senate Discrimination bill) weakening Missouri’s anti-discrimination laws after the GOP sponsor agreed to eliminate a provision of the bill that sought to require judges to rule in favor of employers in most workplace discrimination lawsuits. The Senate granted preliminary approval to the amended bill, SB592, on a voice vote shortly after the filibuster ended at around 1:20 a.m. on Feb. 2.

All of the states’ major civil rights groups oppose HB1219 and SB592, which are almost identical to the bill vetoed in 2011 by Gov. Nixon.

“VOTER SUPPRESSION” – HB1104


Immediately following HB1219, House Leadership allowed for 30 minutes of debate before also cutting it off and laying the bill over. Even though the Minority was prepared to argue at length, the debate quickly evolved into a Secretary of State campaign stunt. GOP legislators inquired of Rep. Kander, a DEM candidate for Secretary of State without allowing him to adequately respond. The bill sponsor, Rep. Shane Schoeller is a GOP candidate for Secretary of State.

Since both bills are professed to be on the priority list of the House Speaker we expect to see them again soon. Since Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in both legislative chambers, both a discrimination and voter suppression bill are ultimately expected to be sent to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk who has indicated he will veto both again this year.

Denise Leiberman, senior attorney with the national Advancement Project and Missouri’s premier voting rights expert was excellent on Thursday's KSDK’s “’I’m Just Sayin” feature. She said it exactly how it is. Watch it here.

SENATE BLOCKS NIXON’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PICK


Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Jason Hall resigned Wednesday evening after the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee refused to advance his nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. Since Nixon appointed Hall to the post on Dec. 30 when the General Assembly wasn’t yet in session, Hall was able to take office immediately. In order to keep the job, however, the Senate had to approve the appointment by Feb. 2.

Although Hall’s selection had been endorsed by the state’s major business groups, some senators questioned whether he had the necessary experience for the job. An attorney, Hall had served as executive director of the Missouri Technology Corporation, a state-sponsored agency that promotes the growth and science and technology companies, until taking the economic development post.

Nixon has named Chris Pieper, a deputy counsel in the governor’s office, as interim department director until a permanent replacement is selected. Hall was the third economic development director since Nixon took office in January 2009.

HEART HEALTH DAY AT THE CAPITOL



Legislators and staff pose in our red on the 3rd floor stairs outside the House Chamber in the Capitol on Wednesday.

Heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined. Legislators and staff supported Go Red Day on Feb. 1. a few days ahead of the National Go Red Day. The movement harnesses the energy, passion and power women have to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease. By wearing red and promoting the Red Dress symbol (we’re all wearing the tiny pins), we are united in the life-saving awareness-to-action movement. Together, we will continue to urge women to protect their hearts, as heart disease is the #1 killer of women.

03 February 2012

Torpey: Committees At A Glance, Voter ID Again Dominates House Discussion

My Committees at a Glance


As many of you know, I was appointed to two new committees this session, Economic Development and Financial Institutions, while I continue to serve on Appropriations of Public Safety and Corrections, the Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering, and as Vice Chair of Small Business. I am happy to report that my committees have been meeting in abundance this session in order to look at tough proposals in the Missouri House, dealing not only with the budget but with other economic issues as well. In my appropriations committee, we have been looking over the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety’s yearly budgets, as proposed by Governor Nixon a few weeks ago. I can assure you that we are going to be making some tough cuts in order to save tax payer money and to divert money back to programs that really need it, such as schools and veterans. I am confident that under the leadership of the chair, Rep. Chris Kelley, we will be making the best decisions we can to move Missouri forward. In Economic Development, we heard HB 1476 known as the Freight Forwarders Act, HB 1244 relating to technology business facility projects, HB 1245 which would add two new sections to the Missouri Quality Jobs Act, and HB 1130 relating to distressed land. House members are clearly working hard to do what we can to change the economic climate in Missouri for the better; I will be researching these bills along with others that come through my committees and to the House floor for a vote in order to ensure that these are the best proposals and pieces of legislation we have to get Missouri back on track. If you have any questions about these bills or others, please feel free to email or call my office. I may not know the correct answer right away, but I will find it for you as soon as I can.

Missouri House Once Again Considers Voter ID


This week, the House again considered a bill addressing voter identification. House Bill 1104, sponsored by Shane Schoeller, mandates that any person who wishes to vote must show a valid photo identification before they are able to cast a vote, in the hopes of preventing voter fraud. If the voter does not have valid identification, they are allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which will then be counted if they return to their local election authority within three days to present the appropriate identification. Those who cannot afford to pay the cost associated with obtaining valid identification are able to sign an affidavit to receive a ballot. Further, any and all costs incurred by a local election authority in implementing the photo identification requirement will be incurred by the state of Missouri. Supports claim that HB 1104 is a common-sense piece of legislation that protects our most sacred and fundamental right as citizens of a representative republic. Opponents claim that this bill will do more to lessen voter turnout, and make it more difficult for certain people, such as the elderly, to vote. I understand this bill to be a very controversial piece of legislation. Therefore, I will be including it on my legislative survey (which will be sent out in the coming weeks to a number of citizens chosen at random) to get a good read on how the people of the 52nd District feel about this proposal.

Sponsored Legislation

  • HB 1465 (sponsor)—Changes the laws regarding the compulsory school attendance of certain students.
  • HB 1464 (sponsor)—Prohibits state-wide elected officials or members of the General Assembly elected to their first term on or after November 2, 2012, from acting, serving, or registering as a lobbyist within one year of leaving office.
  • HB1214 (sponsor)—Establishes the Missouri Entrepreneur Resources Virtual Network to provide resources for the development of businesses; referred to the Committee on Small Business.
  • HB 1470 (co-sponsor)—Expands the list of mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect to include coaches, youth leaders, and any volunteer who has direct contact with children.
  • HB 1459 (co-sponsor)—Disqualifies a person from membership on a school board if such person has a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect on the child abuse and neglect registry.
  • HB 1399 (co-sponsor)—Requires the injection of therapeutic substances around the spine or spinal cord for the treatment of pain syndromes by certain methods be performed only by a licensed physician.
  • HB 1334 (co-sponsor)—Establishes the Fair Fare Passenger Safety Act of 2012 which prohibits any person operating a motor vehicle for compensation and transporting passengers from using a handheld wireless communication device.
  • HB 1317 (co-sponsor)—Expands the crime of child abuse to include shaken baby syndrome.
  • HB 1515 (co-sponsor)—Changes the elements of the crime of elder abuse in the second degree and the crime of financial exploitation of an elderly person or disabled person.
  • You can find further information on these bills via the House webpage: http://www.house.mo.gov/billcentral.aspx?pid=26

Comcast Cares


A few months ago, Comcast introduced “Internet Essentials” which is program aimed at helping families afford fast, quality internet so that they are able to meet the demands of work and school more easily. If you qualify, you are able to receive home internet service for $9.95 a month (with no price increases), as well as a low-cost home computer with free internet training. You may qualify if your household has at least one child receiving free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program. To find out more information and to see if you can qualify, please visit the website http://internetessentials.com/. And please spread this message to your friends and family so we can help all of the 52nd District get connected!

Keaveny: Non-Human Primate Act, Tax Resources,

Legislation Addresses Administrative Child Support Regulations


To ensure legal proceedings regarding child support cases are time-efficient and effective, I introduced SB 739 in the Missouri Senate on Feb. 2. The legislation would grant authority to administrative hearing officers from the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) to set aside or correct administrative child support decisions or orders and proposed administrative modifications of a judicial order.

Currently, DSS administrative hearing officers do not have the statutory authority to correct errors in child support orders. As these officials are unable to correct such mistakes, cases have to be reheard in court. This is not a good use of time management, and as a result, other cases awaiting consideration are backed up on the calendar. My legislation would allow officials to step in and correct mistakes that occur in legal proceedings, ensuring that justice is properly served and the legal process remains smooth.

The Non-Human Primate Act


Recently, we have seen tragic outcomes occur when people improperly care for non-human primates, such as gorillas, great apes, and chimpanzees. These wild animals can become aggressive without warning, posing a risk to themselves and the community.

Senate Bill 666 would create the Non-Human Primate Act. I was proud to work with the Saint Louis Zoo in drafting this legislation.

The act still allows ownership of all non-human primates; it simply adds a requirement that large, non-human primates must be registered with the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Under current law, all non-human primates must be registered with the local sheriff.

The bill would require a person to acquire a permit issued by the Department of Agriculture allowing him or her to possess certain non-human primates, such as chimpanzees or gorillas. These permits are valid for up to three years and are renewable. Missouri citizens who seek a permit must be at least 21 years of age and cannot have pled guilty (or have been found guilty) in the past for charges of animal abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

This measure would protect citizens and non-human primates alike.

In an ABC News article, according to the Human Society, 11 states have restrictions in place regarding the ownership of these animals, and 24 states completely ban ownership of non-human primates. I do not want to prohibit law-abiding and responsible citizens from owning these animals, but Missouri needs adamant laws set into place to protect communities.

Missourians have experienced instances where non-human primates escaped and caused trouble. In 2007, the Columbia Missourian reported that a monkey got loose in Columbia, Mo., and bit a 7-year-old boy at Stephens Lake Park. It was also reported by CBS News that a 300-pound chimpanzee escaped its confines and entered a Kansas City, Mo., neighborhood in 2010.

Helpful Tax Resources


The timeframe for filing taxes is upon us — the filing season deadline this year is April 17. You can learn more about filing your taxes by visiting www.irs.gov/individuals.

On this website, you can access numerous online services.
For more about tax help and information, visit www.irs.gov.

Missouri Department of Revenue 1099-G Inquiry Service


The Missouri Department of Revenue is currently providing 1099-G information online via a secure server.

The department's website states, "Form 1099-G reports the amount of refunds, credits and other offsets of state income tax during the previous year. The Department of Revenue’s 1099-G only applies to individuals who itemize their deductions on their income tax return. If you claimed the standard deduction and did not itemize last year, you will not have a 1099-G."

Please visit https://sa.dor.mo.gov/tax/1099g/ to learn more about this inquiry service. You may also call (573) 526-8299 to obtain your 1099-G information.

Helping You with Insurance Complaints


Missourians depend on insurance to protect themselves, their loved ones, homes, and property from unexpected events. Sometimes, however, problems arise. If you are experiencing an issue with a recent insurance claim, whether it’s a home, auto, health or another type of claim, it may be beneficial to issue a complaint with the Missouri Department of Insurance.

In 2011, consumers who filed complaints with the department recovered a record $19 million combined in additional claim payments, topping the department’s previous record of $14.4 million set in 2009, according to a Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions, and Professional Registration (DIFP) representative.

If you’ve been offered a lower amount than expected or had a claim wrongly denied, file a complaint.

The department also helps consumers:
  • Answer insurance-related questions;
  • Understand their insurance policies;
  • Find missing life insurance policies or annuity contracts;
  • See which insurance companies have had the most complaints in the past three years; and
  • Verify if an agent or agency is licensed to sell insurance in Missouri.
You can contact the Department of Insurance online or call the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390.

St. Louis Arc Family Workshop Series 2012


The St. Louis Arc is a non-profit agency sponsored by United Way that provides support and services to more than 3,000 adults and children with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and their families.

Some of its support programs include:
The St. Louis Arc provides free workshops at the St. Louis Arc Family Center at 1177 N. Warson Rd. in St. Louis. Here are a few of the workshops that are scheduled for February. (Please click here to view a full calendar of events.)

"Positive and Effective Strategies to Address Problem Behaviors"
Thursday, Feb. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Designed to help people understand why someone with a disability, particularly a teen or adult, may have certain behavioral problems, and how to help him or her handle the surrounding world.

"Fostering Self-Determination and Independence in Teens/Young Adults"
Thursday, Feb. 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Focused on supporting families as they help teens and young adults develop goal-oriented, independent behaviors.

"Relationships and Sexuality"
Thursday, Feb. 23, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Qualified instructors will discuss the importance of sex education and relationship building. Families will also receive information about positive social skills, appropriate public and private behavior, and how to prevent their loved ones from encountering sexual abuse.

Advanced registration is required for these seminars. You may register at www.slarc.org or call (314) 817-2275.

Saint Louis Crisis Nursery

The Saint Louis Crisis Nursery provides short-term shelter and care more than 7,200 children a year.

Dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect, the Saint Louis Crisis Nursery is available to help St. Louis families through difficult times.

The organization provides emergency intervention, respite care, and support to families in crisis by offering the following:
  • Short-term care for young children in a safe and nurturing environment.
  • Assistance to families coping with crisis.
  • Resources for empowerment, ongoing support, and parent education.
  • Community outreach and awareness.
  • Advocacy for children and families.
In addition, struggling families may bring their children to any of the organization's nursery locations if they are coping with parental stress; an illness or death in the family; lack of resources, such as food or shelter; domestic violence; and other emergency situations in which a child may be in danger.

While children are at the nursery (usually for a period of two to three days), they receive 24-hour care, a medical exam, a developmental assessment, nutritious meals, opportunities to participate in therapeutic and fun activities, and may participate in other services.

For more information about the Saint Louis Crisis Nursery or how to volunteer for this organization, please visit the organization's website (www.crisisnurserykids.org) or call (314) 292-5770.

St. Louis Healthy Corner Store Project


With a mission to provide nutritious food options to St. Louis neighborhoods, the St. Louis Healthy Corner Store Project strives to add healthy food options at small corner stores and markets in the city, primarily in neighborhoods without sufficient supermarkets or other sources of affordable nutritious food.

In some neighborhoods, residents don't have access to a vehicle, and the nearest grocery store could be miles away — too great a distance for walking. Therefore, some rely on fast food or gas stations for meals, which aren't always the healthiest options. I'm very glad the St. Louis Healthy Corner Store Project is striving to help promote nutritious food at an affordable price.

The St. Louis Healthy Corner Store Project was launched in early 2011 to improve access to healthy foods in St. Louis neighborhoods. The project is directed through a collaboration of the City of St. Louis Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety, University of Missouri Extension and the St. Louis Development Corporation.

Please visit extension.missouri.edu/stlouis/healthycornerstore to learn more about the criteria of a "healthy corner store," how you can participate in the project, and other pertinent information.

Gubernatorial Appointment


At right: I was happy to sponsor Mary E. Grimes' nomination to the Missouri Task Force on Prematurity and Infant Mortality.

On Jan. 11, I was happy to sponsor the gubernatorial appointment of Mary E. Grimes, for her nomination as a member of the Missouri Task Force on Prematurity and Infant Mortality. Ms. Grimes' term began Nov. 10, 2011, and will end on Jan. 1, 2015.

The Missouri Task Force on Prematurity and Infant Mortality has a mission to seek evidence-based and cost-effective approaches to reduce Missouri's preterm birth and infant mortality rates. The task force was created by a bill that was signed into law in 2011.

Grimes is the state director of the Missouri chapter of the March of Dimes, and is responsible for the management of all chapter staff and coordination with volunteers within Missouri and southwestern Illinois. She previously served as the director of corporate marketing for BJC HealthCare in St. Louis.

Blood Services in the St. Louis Area


One of the most generous, live-saving gifts you can provide is a blood donation. There is a great need for blood, and it's a need we may not think about often.

The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC) is the exclusive provider of blood products and services to 80 hospitals in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin. This non-profit organization has a branch set up in the St. Louis area (Maryland Heights) and hosts countless blood drives each year.

The organization also provides several outreach programs:
Another excellent resource for blood services is the American Red Cross (www.redcrossblood.org). Pertaining to blood donation:
  • Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.
  • More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day.
  • By donating blood, you have the potential to save up to three lives.
By visiting the American Red Cross website, you can learn more about available blood drives, hosting a blood drive, and how you can volunteer with the organization. The American Red Cross St. Louis Chapter also offers pertinent information regarding volunteer opportunities and safety classes.

To contact the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, please visit www.bloodcenter.org or call (800) 747-5401. For the American Red Cross (St. Louis Area Chapter), call (314) 516-2800.

Interim Director of Economic Development Resigns


I'm disappointed to say that my constituent who was set to become the director of the Department of Economic Development has resigned, as the Senate did not approve his nomination to the position. The man in question, Jason Hall, was an excellent candidate for the position. Mr. Hall is bright and full of ideas that would have brought more jobs to the state of Missouri.

Some of my colleagues felt that Mr. Hall did not have the proper amount of experience for the position. I disagree. As I told CBS St. Louis, just because a person is young, does not mean he or she is incapable of monumental achievements. Mark Zuckerburg, for example, helped establish Facebook in his 20s with no private sector experience.

I find it unfortunate that the governor cannot get support from the Senate to confirm members of his own cabinet.

Korman: Rural Broadband, Peer Reviews For Transportation Engineers

This week was a busy week for me in committee hearings. I presented House Bill 1280, relating to a design professional’s peer review process. This legislation is prepared similar to the medical peer review to allow more professionals to look at the process in detail and advancing the safety of bridges, buildings, etc. without creating more liability lawsuits.

In the House Utilities Committee we heard a bill that would allow for standardizing agreements for Broadband to be attached to electric cooperatives poles. It also has a protection for damages to property owners. Rural Missouri desperately needs Broadband Internet. I would like to support this bill if the property owner’s rights can be strengthened.

In Transportation Appropriations we further discussed I-70 and Toll Roads. I feel the I-70 issue is a huge concern to the citizens of Warren and Montgomery Counties. Your voice in the process matters.

Please take the time to vote in the primary on Tuesday, February 7. This may help the caucus participants know who Missourians want or don’t want to support for President.

I had many visitors since last week’s report including elected officials, catholic school children, school counselors and some corn growers.

I am happy to be here serving the constituents of Montgomery and Warren counties. Please feel free to stop by or contact your 99th District office at:
201 West Capitol Avenue
Room 114C
Jefferson City, MO 65101
573-751-2689
Bart{dot}Korman{at}house{dot}mo{dot}gov

Dugger: Conforming State Law To Federal Civil Rights Legislation, Pet Breeders Appreciation Month

“Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.” —Ronald Reagan

It is hard to believe that the first month of the Second Regular Session of the 96th General Assembly has already come and gone. Since reconvening, much work has been done but much remains left to be completed as we try and create a better Missouri in which to live, work, and raise a family. This week, the Missouri House began work on the Missouri Jobs pillar of the Blueprint for Missouri.

In order to revive Missouri’s stagnant economy we must create a business friendly environment. One way to do so is to pass tort reform which will lighten the burden of costly lawsuits that hamper business owners. Overtime, court rulings have made it easier and easier to bring frivolous lawsuits against employers. House Bill 1219, sponsored by Representative Kevin Elmer, will protect Missouri jobs and Missouri employers by returning Missouri law to a position that is consistent with the federal Civil Rights Law.

HB 1219 amends the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) to reflect Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which is used to punish employers for discriminating against employees in protected classes such as race, sex, national origin, age, or religion. The proposed legislation will allow court cases to be handled more quickly and efficiently by allowing an employer to get a ruling in a frivolous lawsuit through a summary judgment. This allows spend more time and money on developing their business, rather than spending that valuable time and money in the courtroom. When businesses have the certainty and stability of knowing they will not be driven out of business by unnecessary and unwarranted lawsuits, they become more apt to invest, grow, and expand.

As the Missouri House works to create a business friendly environment we must not neglect the multifaceted reality of our state’s economy. From agriculture to manufacturing and from Main Street to the many farm roads; Missouri’s economy relies on many different sources of revenue. In a meeting this week with constituents I was reminded of the vital role that public transportation, especially the OATS program, plays in fueling the economy of Missouri.

It is easy to see how every dollar invested in public transportation will yield four dollars in return to the local economy. Not only does the OATS program ensure the health and wellbeing of our seniors by providing much needed rides to the doctor, but it also keeps them connected to the community and thus active investors and purchasers in the local economy. The OATS program is of great importance since more than twenty-five percent of Missouri’s population is over the age of sixty five years or older and without a vehicle.

Another important player in Missouri’s economy is agriculture. Next week, the House Committee on Agricultural Policy will hold a public hearing for House Bill 1404, sponsored by Representative Bill Reiboldt. HB 1404 designates December as “Pet Breeders Appreciation Month.” Doing so will serve as a great reminder to the state how vital all segments of the economy, especially agricultural related endeavors, are in order for the state as a whole to succeed.

For more information about the legislation mentioned above or about any others that have been introduced, please visit the House of Representatives website, www.house.mo.gov. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Engler: Stopping Prescription Drug Abuse in Missouri

We had our first lengthy filibuster in the Senate this week over Senate Bill 592, which modifies the law relating to the Missouri Human Rights Act and employment discrimination. This is a highly controversial bill. Supporters claim it will make Missouri more hospitable to businesses. Opponents say it is a major step backwards for workers’ rights.

Many of us in the Senate were frustrated by the situation. We passed almost the exact same bill last year. The governor vetoed it, as he’ll probably do this time. There are a lot of pressing issues we need to address this session. It’s hard to watch valuable time spent on a bill that will more than likely die on the governor’s desk.

Last week I filed Senate Bill 710, which would establish a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. If this bill passes, it could be one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of the General Assembly this year. Prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing types of drug abuse in the country. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, annual admissions to substance abuse treatment centers for prescription pain reliever abuse increased by 131 percent from 2003 to 2009. The annual number of deaths from unintentional overdoses of these drugs has increased by 83 percent in the same amount of time.

Despite this, Missouri and New Hampshire are the only states in the entire country without a prescription drug monitoring program. All of our neighboring states have some sort of program in place for tracking prescription medications. People are coming into Missouri from those states to find their prescription drugs because we don’t track them. We have people who “doctor shop,” going from one doctor to another, until they’re prescribed the drug they want.

We must do more to fight prescription drug abuse in Missouri. Senate Bill 710 would require the Department of Health and Senior Services to develop a program to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of all Schedule II through Schedule V controlled substances by all licensed professionals who prescribe or dispense these medications in Missouri.

This does two things: It prevents people from shopping around and getting multiple prescriptions to the same drugs, and it monitors (with a warrant) doctors who are over-prescribing or abusing their privileges. With a drug monitoring program, we could prevent incidents like the one that took place in Washington County where a doctor prescribed dozens of prescriptions of OxyContin in one day.

Everyone I’ve spoken to in the medical community supports this bill. Doctors are in support of this legislation because they tell me only doctors with something hide in their prescription patterns would oppose it. Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, which benefits from every prescription sold, tell me that’s not the type of business they want. Ten other senators have already signed on to this bill, and I’ve strongly urged my colleagues to help me get this legislation passed.

I also filed Senate Bill 737 this week, which would restrict the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) from including data from facilities serving neglected or delinquent children in the overall data collected from a school district.

These facilities, like the Valley Springs Youth Ranch in Reynolds County, are wonderful organizations that give troubled youth a second chance. However, these schools are also for exceptional cases. I don’t believe their information should be included with regular public schools’ data. This information is used in the Foundation Formula for a school district, a way of determining how much state aid it will receive.

The legislation would stop DESE from including the data from facilities dealing with troubled youth unless the information is annotated to differentiate between the two and an explanation is included. This would ensure fairness in the distribution of state funding to school districts, whether they include a school for neglected and delinquent children or not.

To follow my sponsored legislation, visit my Senate website at www.senate.mo.gov/engler. I will continue to keep you updated on the events at the Capitol.

Denison: Employment Law Fix, Budget Update

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg”. – Abraham Lincoln

House Begins Work on Employment Law Fix



This week we began discussion on the House floor on legislation that would address the disturbing trend of legal decisions we have seen in this state that have eroded the intent of Missouri’s employment law. With each court decision we have seen our state become more anti-business compared to the states around us – something that greatly impairs our ability to attract and retain businesses in Missouri. The bill we are considering now [HB1219] would reform the Missouri Human Rights Act regarding discrimination claims to more closely reflect federal Title VII protection. It’s similar to legislation we approved last year that was ultimately vetoed by the governor. We’re hopeful this year will see this important change make its way into law.

The issue at hand is that the MHRA has been interpreted in ways more plaintiff-friendly than the federal statutes. In effect, court decisions in Missouri regarding the MHRA have made it much easier for employee plaintiffs to get claims to an expensive jury trial, and to impose liability on the employer and individual supervisors. By changing our law to be more in line with the federal standard, we would strike a good balance between creating a stable legal environment for businesses and protecting the rights of Missouri workers.

The bill also would cap compensatory jury awards and impose lower limits on punitive damages to bring them in line with federal standards. Missouri currently has unlimited compensatory damages and a significantly higher cap for punitive damages. The bill also would tighten whistleblower protection, so that it applies only in cases when an employee alerts authorities to an actual illegal act.

We believe this combination of changes will help create a more business-friendly environment that will allow us to retain and attract businesses at a time when we desperately need the economic activity they generate. At the same time, we continue to provide adequate protection to employees who have suffered from discrimination. This is not a weakening of our employment laws but instead an attempt to bring them in line with federal standards. We hope this will give us an advantage when competing with neighboring states for new businesses.

Budget Update


As work on the budget progresses in the various appropriations committees, the overall budget picture for our state continues to become clearer. Right now our unemployment rate is at 8 percent which is slightly better than that of the national average of 8.5 percent and drastically improved from last year’s record unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. As more Missourians have gone back to work we’ve seen a slight uptick in our revenues. However, estimating future state revenues has continued to be a challenge. The Consensus Revenue Estimate (CRE) for the current fiscal year calls for 2.7 percent growth for a total General Revenue collection of approximately $7.3 billion. For the next fiscal year the CRE agreed to by the House, Senate and the governor’s office calls for growth of 3.9 percent. That would result in total collections of approximately $7.586 billion. That figure would represent an increase in revenue collections of $285 million from the CRE figures used for the current fiscal year.

So with what appears to be an increase in revenues for the state some may question why our state is facing the prospect of a budget deficit. As I’ve mentioned in previous reports, our current budget is balanced with more than $500 million of one-time Federal Budget Stabilization Funds. Those funds will not be available for our next budget. Combine that with the fact that our state will need to increase the size of our state match for Medicaid funding by some $90 million and you can see how the modest growth in our revenues cannot keep up with the demands of the budget. The budget proposal outlined by the governor during his State of the State Address balances the budget through a series of reductions, cost containment and debt refinancing plans. His budget is also dependent on the legislature passing several changes to statute in order to generate approximately $88.7 million in additional revenue. In the coming weeks we will take a close look at his proposals to determine if they represent changes that are in the best interests of Missouri taxpayers. One thing you can rest assured of is that we will balance the budget this year without increasing the tax burden on you and your family.

Modernizing Missouri’s No Call List


Nearly 2 million Missourians are signed up for the state’s no-call list that is designed to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls. However, while the list has been a huge success in our state, it currently applies only to landlines. As more and more Missourians have transitioned away from landlines to the use of cellular phones, it has revealed the need to change our no-call list to allow wireless numbers to be protected from telemarketers as well. The attorney general’s office, which is responsible for maintaining the list, says it fielded more than 22,000 calls in 2011 complaining about unwanted telemarketing calls. Many of those calls went to Missourians’ cell phones. This year we hope to protect all phone users, both landline and wireless, from these undesirable solicitations. Bills in both the House and Senate are making their way through the process that would expand the no-call list to include cell phones and also prohibit telemarketers from sending text messages or images to a cell phone. It’s a change I think all Missourians would appreciate. I will do my best to keep you updated on this issue as session progresses.

Visitors


There were several visitors to the Capitol this week. On Tuesday, January 31, 2012, several individuals with Ozark Electric Cooperative stopped by my office. I appreciated to opportunity to visit with David Trogdon, Jim Crouch, Jim Stine, Earl Carpenter, all on the Board of Directors; and Patrick Oehlschlager, Division Manager, Member Services.

On February 1, 2012, Ashley French, Ozarks Regional YMCA; Mary Kromrey, Ozarks Regional YMCA; Stephanie Currao, Ozarks Regional YMCA; Andrea Bishop, Ozarks Counseling Center; Paul Blackwell, ALS Association, Keith Worthington Chapter; Kathryn L. Hope, PhD, RN, Missouri State University; all Missouri Foundation for Health grantees from the Southwest District. They gave an update on their organizations and on the grants they received from the Missouri Foundation for Health.


Pictured left to right: Mary Kromrey, Andrea Bishop, Ashley French, Stephanie Currao, Dr. Kathryn Hope, Rep. Charlie Denison, Paul Blackwell

On February 1, 2012, Jeff Robinson, Southwest Area Manager, OATS, Springfield, was at the Capitol visiting legislators. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Jeff about the service OATS provides to the citizens of southwest Missouri.

Also, on February 1, 2012, I met with Paul Ebisch, President/CEO), Assemblies of God Credit Union. I am grateful for the information provided by Mr. Ebisch and for our visit.


Pictured left to right: Rep. Charlie Denison, Paul Ebisch

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.

Lampe: Lessening Blow To Higher Education Funding Cuts,

Op. note: House Bill 1174 is erroneously identified in this missive as House Bill 1147. HB1147 would require drivers license examinations to be administered in English.
At right: Representative Lampe meets with Dr. Charles Sheppard to discuss legislation.


Since Governor Nixon announced his plan for higher education funding, Missouri's colleges and universities have been faced with several challenges. Without doubt, all of our institutions of higher learning will find ways to deal with funding shortfalls. However, it is also important for our Budget Committee to consider measures that will lessen the burden our schools will face.

Missouri State University's Interim President, Clif Smart, did an excellent job speaking before the Education Appropriations Committee about higher education. His expertise was useful to the entire committee, and I applaud his insight and vision. Southwest Missouri is home to some of the finest colleges and universities in the state, including Ozark Technical Community College. I serve on the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, but I am proud to represent the interests of these institutions of higher learning as well. Through cooperation among our legislature, governor, and school leadership, I hope that we can find a solution that keeps the quality of a Missouri education a top priority.

Elementary and Secondary Education Committee


The Elementary and Secondary Education Committee has been hard at work. Three bills were discussed in committee this week: HB 1147, School Accreditation, HB 1043, Education Funding Formula, and HB 1526, Teacher Tenure. HB 1147 and HB1043 were voted on and passed by the committee.

HB 1043 changes the laws regarding the elementary and secondary education funding formula. More detailed information about the specific funding mechanism can be read here.

HB 1174 revises the law regarding the timelines and options for State Board intervention when it classifies a district as unaccredited. The bill would allow the State Board to conduct a hearing regarding the status of the district at any time after the district is classified as unaccredited. This legislation and all actions taken on it can be found here.

HB 1526 changes the laws regarding school personnel and establishes the Teacher Multiyear Contract Act. It also revises the provisions of the Teacher Tenure Act and revises the evaluation process of teachers. The committee heard significant opposition to this bill when the committee met on Wednesday. You can access bill information and action updates on this legislation here.

Discrimination and Voter ID Press Release from the House Democratic Caucus


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri House Republicans today celebrated the first day of Black History Month by debating separate bills that would severely weaken the state's employment discrimination laws and disenfranchise roughly a quarter-million legal Missouri voters, with racial minorities, the elderly, the disabled and the poor being the most affected. House Democrats have pledged to unanimously oppose both bills, and Republicans were unable to bring either measure to an immediate vote.

House Bill 1219 would bar the courthouse doors to many legitimate claims of employment discrimination and further protect wrongdoers by limiting damage awards in those cases that still manage to clear the proposed new legal hurdles. The bill would make it much easier for unscrupulous employers to escape punishment for wrongful discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability or religion.

"Missouri's existing anti-discrimination laws protect victims and punish wrongdoers," said Assistant House Minority Leader Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis. "A 'yes' vote on this bill would turn the law on its head to protect wrongdoers and punish victims. House Bill 1219 is beyond redemption; it cannot be fixed. The only way this bill could be improved is to run it through a shredder."

Making it easier for employers to escape accountability for wrongful discrimination is a top priority for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the state's other major business groups.

"This bill was derived in greed and discrimination and to bring it forth on the very first day of Black History Month is unbelievable," said state Rep. Steve Webb, D-Florissant and chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus. "This is a slap in the face to all who have fought for and sacrificed their lives for equality in this state and this country. I guess next I'm going to walk out of my office and find a 'coloreds only' water fountain."

The other bill debated, House Bill 1104, would require voters to produce a government-issued photo identification at their polling place in order to cast a regular ballot. The Secretary of State's Office estimates that about 250,000 legal Missouri voters don't have a government issued photo ID and many, through no fault of their own, are unable to obtain one for a variety of reasons. Republican House leaders set the bills aside following brief debate on each but are expected to revisit the bills later.

Don't Forget to Vote!


Don't forget that the Presidential Primary Election is Tuesday, February 7th. You can find more information here. I urge you to place your vote and make your voice heard.

Former Student Spotlight


It is no secret that I am proud of every student that I have had the privilege of teaching. Being a teacher, advocate for gifted children, and a voice for quality education in Missouri for the past forty years is an honor that I am thankful for every day. I cannot think of a better way to thank my students for giving such great memories and experiences than by recognizing them for their accomplishments. For the remainder of session, I will honor one or more of my former students in this section of the newsletter. If anyone has recommendations of former students who would like to be recognized, please contact my office with your suggestion.

Lichtenegger: Mercury Round-Up

Two important House Bills were debated this week; both were laid over.

House Bill 1219 If you have concerns regarding workplace discrimination and how the Missouri Statues would change if this bill passes, I recommend that you read it (link to full text is at the beginning of this paragraph) and consider the below basic provisions:
  • It adds whistleblower protection to the Missouri Human Rights Act. This provision protects workers who refuse to participate in illegal activities for their employer.
  • It will clarify our discrimination laws making it easier for Missouri businesses to comply, and
  • it caps damage awards according to the size of the business being sued. This keeps small businesses from being bankrupted by a single lawsuit, saving Missouri jobs in the process.
  • It has the potential to eliminate frivolous cases and reduce litigation costs by allowing decisions to be rendered by summary judgment.
The other, House Bill 1104, changes state laws regarding voter ID. Below is the House Summary:
  1. Specifies that a person seeking to vote in a public election must establish his or her qualifications as a United States citizen lawfully residing in this state by presenting a form of personal identification containing his or her photograph to election officials. All costs incurred by an election authority to implement the photo identification requirement must be reimbursed by the state. If there is no appropriation and distribution of funds, the election authority must not enforce the photo identification requirement;
  2. Allows an individual to vote by casting a provisional ballot after signing an affidavit if he or she does not possess a required form of personal identification because of the inability to pay for a birth certificate or other documentation necessary to obtain the identification;
  3. Requires the state and all fee offices to provide at no cost at least one form of personal identification required to vote to a qualified individual who does not already possess the required identification and desires the identification in order to vote;
  4. Allows an individual to vote using a provisional ballot if he or she lacks photographic identification and then return to the election authority within three days after the election with a valid form of identification so that the provisional ballot may be counted; and
  5. Repeals the provision requiring a disabled or elderly person to be able to obtain a non-driver’s license photo identification through a mobile processing system operated by the Department of Revenue.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact me and let me know what you think of these or any other legislative issues.

And if you would like an overview of the Governor’s 2013 Fiscal Year state budget email me (link right here, right now) with “Governor FY-13 Fiscal Year Budget” in the subject line, and I will forward it to you. This budget summary includes reductions, increases and spending proposals for the state’s fiscal year that runs July 2012 through June 2013.

Constituent Corner


Ever wonder what to do with old, damaged items that contain mercury? If you’re like me, you don’t want to just put in it the household trash. So the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a “mercury round-up”. Such mercury-containing items as thermometers, blood pressure cuffs or thermostats can be dropped off Monday through Friday at the below centers in Southeast Missouri.

IMPORTANT:
  1. Be sure to place your items in two zip-top or taped bags and then place in a crush-proof sealed container such as a coffee can, tub or beverage bottle.
  2. Please call the site before taking mercury instruments for disposal, and never leave items if the facility is closed.
    • Cape Girardeau Health Department, 1121 Linden St., 573-335-7846, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Perry County Health Department, 406 N. Spring St., Perryville, 573-547-6564, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
If you are uncomfortable with transporting mercury instruments, or have large quantities of mercury, you can contact DNR’s spill line at 573-634-2436 to arrange to have items picked up.

02 February 2012

Neth: Busy Week For Committees, An Old Friend Visits Jeff City

This was a week with very little floor activity, but a lot of committee action. See below for a summary.

In some ways this was a flashback week on the House floor. We took up and started debate on a bill regarding Employment Law and Whistleblower protection(HB 1219). For some of you who were connected with me last year, you might remember my opposition to this bill. In short, it is a bill that has the backing of my caucus, but I and a few others in the majority caucus, oppose the bill and that causes for some interesting times. The bill passed the Senate and the House last year but was vetoed by the Governor. Due to the few of us that opposed in the Majority party, there was no chance to override the Governor's veto, thus it did not become law. We have not voted on the bill yet and it was held over for debate in the coming days.

Such are the dynamics of the legislative process and the ins and outs of the many relationships between different persons and groups. It is this part of being a Representative that is the most frustrating, but also is the most invigorating as it is challenging to work towards a solution and consensus. But in my opinion, solutions and consensus are what we are charged to accomplish. I just wish more people thought that way, instead of stubbornly holding their own views in higher regard than others.

Until next week,
Myron

Visit to Northview Elementary


I had the privilege of speaking to the 5th Graders at Northview Elementary in the North Kansas City School District. I had a great time and loved their interest in how government works.

I was met at Northview Elementary by Carson and Jacob. They introduced themselves and then escorted me to the room where the rest of their classmates were. They then had a great introduction for me with my bio and other information. I then proceeded to talk to the kids and take lots of great questions. I had a great time.

Visitors to the Capitol


My friend and predecessor, Tim Flook visiting his old stomping grounds this week. I was thrilled to see him as was many others. He was and is highly respected in the ranks of the legislators and someone I look to as a great example.

Mike Torres and Dennis Fulk with Platte Clay Electric Cooperatives. We visited about some current issues and legislation that is affecting their industry.

Dr. Brian Robb from Liberty Emergency Physicians. He was in town for some meetings as well as to meet with some local legislators.

Several patrons of the OATS public transportation system in Clay County came by to express their support for this service. I plan to support keeping this valuable service funded in order to help our seniors and others who benefit from it in our community.

This Week in Committee


Elections Committee

HB 1250: Allows for cities classified as third class to cancel a primary election when there are not enough candidates in February that involves a mayoral race or councilman.

Financial Institutions Committee

HB 1192: This Bill will allow the board of Missouri Higher Education to study the benefit options of other states in order to provide benefit options the same or similar to other states for new contracts.

HB 1349: Allows banks or trust companies to transfer fiduciary obligations to any other bank or trust company which has authorized trust authority, rather than just a Missouri Trust office belonging to an out-of state bank agency.

HB 1103: Repeals the requirement for certain banks, savings institutions, and credit unions to not have independent appraisers file information that registered real estate appraisal management companies must file.

HCS HB 1308: Repeals provisions allowing federal home loan banks to use bonds as acceptable collateral for public deposits.

Elementary and Secondary Education Committee

HCS HB 1043: Changes laws in relation to the funding formula given the recent lack of money to fully fund the school formula.

HCS HB 1174: Addresses the issue of school accreditation and makes it easier for the Missouri board of education to be flexible in dealing with unaccredited schools.

This Week on the House Floor


HCS HB 1104: This bill was debated on the floor and will continue to be hotly contested. Creates new safeguards against fraudulent voting on ballots by requiring a form of photo ID to be shown prior to voting, creating measures for persons w/o voter ID to still vote and have that vote protected.

HB 1219: Changes the laws regarding unlawful discriminatory employment practices as they relate to the Missouri Human Rights Act and establishes the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Holsman: Visitors To Urban Agriculture Committee

At right: Chairman Holsman and Vice-Chair Lembke confer during the hearing on vertical farming and aquaculture.

The business of the state moves fast and it would be difficult to capture everything that has transpired.This newsletter highlights my office's work over the final two weeks of January.

I would like to draw your attention to a new feature of the newsletter titled "Rules Corner". In this section you will see links to all of the bills that have passed through Rules on their way to Majority Floor Leader Tim Jone's desk.

We had an exciting week with both the Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture and Renewable Energy holding hearings.

On Monday I plan to file the Urban Agriculture Act which is the legislative culmination of months of dedicated committee work by the Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture.

It is my honor to serve you in our state capitol. Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,
Jason

Dr. Dickson Despommier speaks at Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture on Jan. 24th, 2012

Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor from Columbia University, spoke at the fifth hearing held by the Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture on Jan. 24th, 2012 in Jefferson City.

Dr. Despommier has pioneered the concept of 'vertical farming', from which he has authored a novel "The Vertical Farm: Feeding Ourselves and the World in the 21st Century." His speech emphasized the growing human population, and the increased need for space to grow more food.

One answer could be cities facilitate their own food production. Facilities that grow food indoors can meticulously monitor the progress of the crop, and apply new techniques such as drip irrigation, aeroponics, and hydroponics providing the methodology for making these developments a reality.

Ideas discussed by Dr. Despommier are not merely theoretical, but are actually happening in various cities around the world. The closest example to Missouri is in Chicago at a facility that has been coined 'The Plant,' a repurposed meat packing plant that is in the process of being converted into a carbon net-zero vertical farm. 'The Plant' will take a retired industrial building and transform it into a facility that employs 125 workers, provides spaces for business incubation, and provides educational opportunities to the community all the while producing fresh food in the heart of one of the most populated cities in the world.

James Godsil and Emmanuel Pratt of Sweet Water Organics present to Urban Agriculture


At right: Emmanuel Pratt and Dr. Despommier

The Joint Committee took testimony from Sweet Water Organics Co-Founder James Godsil, and Executive Director of the Sweet Water Organics Foundation Emmanuel Pratt.

Sweet Water Organics began in an abandoned crane factory in Milwaukee's south side Bay View neighborhood in 2008.

The crane factory was repurposed with work from unemployed and underemployed tradesmen from the Milwaukee area. Godsil was able to put his 30 plus years of roofing experience as the President of the Community Roofing and Restoration Company to work constructing this urban fish and vegetable farm. Utilizing aquaponics, the synthesis of aquaculture and hydroponics, Sweet Water is able to grow lettuce, basil, watercress, tomatoes, peppers, chard, and spinach while raising tilapia and perch in a controlled indoor environment all year long.

Since 2008 Sweet Water has become a vibrant example of the potential within the urban agriculture movement. Sweet Water has forged relationships with local restaurants that gladly purchase their produce and fish. The Sweet Water facility is able to raise 35,000 perch and 20,000 tilapia in their aquaponics systems.

Godsil and Pratt hit on the points of re-engaging urban areas and the general restructuring of post-industrial cities. This vision applies not only to places like Detroit, Milwaukee, or Chicago but every urban and metropolitan area that has seen their manufacturing and industrial base relocate, leaving behind a workforce without work and assembly lines with nothing to assemble. Godsil and Pratt are working towards training the next evolution of urban farmers and entrepreneurs through the many educational outlets of their organization, with a focused mantra of 'turning waste into community resource'.

St. Louis Alliance and Developments, FarmWorks


Left to right: Francisco Gomes (Novus), David Hoffman (Gateway Greening), Travis Howser (Grand Center Inc.), and Craig Heller (LoftWorks).

The Committee took testimony from a collaborative group that has come together on a grand project incorporating urban agriculture in St. Louis. The project in question is termed 'FarmWorks' and is an effort drawing resources from: non-profit community gardening group Gateway Greening Inc., St. Charles based health and nutrition development institution Novus International, non-profit organization that oversees the development of St. Louis' historic arts and cultural district Grand Center Inc., and St. Louis real estate development company Loftworks.

The collaborative effort aims to put together a facility on St. Louis' riverfront just north of the downtown area. Led by urban real estate development company LoftWorks, FarmWorks is a proposal that would re-purpose the former St. Louis Stamping Company facility into an innovative urban farm, coupled with housing, business incubation, and educational components.

FarmWorks will produce food for commercial sale, provide housing and job training opportunities for organizations such as the St. Patrick Center4, as well as offer low cost warehouse space for developing 'green' businesses in the St. Louis area that encourage sustainable living practices

Myles Harston Speaks to Urban Agriculture Committee

The Joint committee on Urban Agriculture also received testimony from Myles Harston. Harston, a practitioner of aquaponics since 1992 is the founder of the AquaRanch in Flanagan, Illinois and has been referred to colloquially as one of the fathers of aquaponics. Mr. Harston gave the committee the perspective of viewing the aquaponics discipline as a means to increase our food security, as well as mitigate the negative effects of depleting current fishery stocks around the world and the amount of pollution being placed into our waterways that leads to hypoxia in the delta.

Myles indicated to the committee that roughly 80% of the fish that we consume in America comes from outside of our borders, often traveling weeks on ships then having to be transported to market by trucks. Fish are often treated with carbon dioxide as a way of preserving the exterior as to appear attractive to the consumer, when really the product may be deficient in many nutritious categories.

Myles' efforts are expanding to the St. Louis area with the installation of one of his systems into Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School (former informational hearing site 10/4/10), as well as with the construction of an aquaponics production facility in Pagedale, in conjunction with Sub-Advisory Committee member Randy Wood.


Left to right: Rusty Lee (Advisory Committee member), Emmanuel Pratt (Sweet Water Foundation Executive Director), Representative Jason Holsman, Myles Harston (AquaRanch), Dr. Dickson Despommier (Columbia University), James Godsil (Sweet Water Co-Founder), Adam Saunders (Advisory Committee Member).

Rupp: Protecting the Values of the Constitution

One of the duties I have in serving the state of Missouri is to protect and uphold our state and federal Constitution, as well as to defend our liberties. Last week, I offered Senate Concurrent Resolution 18 in the Missouri Senate, which would repeal Missouri’s 1983 call for a constitutional convention. Many states have already repealed their calls for constitutional conventions, and Missouri should implement the same policies.

Since the 1983 call for a constitutional convention, the will of the people has changed. Missourians don’t want to see our nation’s Constitution potentially redrafted, and many citizens and state officials agree that such a convention could dramatically change our Constitution, thus altering the face of our nation.

Without a doubt, a constitutional convention would be the riskiest way to amend and address articles in the Constitution — there are no set rules on how to select an agenda, meaning any of our liberties could be up for grabs and altered, even if the call for a constitutional convention was called only to address a specific issue. Drastic revisions to the Constitution could create chaos and confusion, resulting in years of legal pandemonium, and we could see our rights, which we hold so dear, stripped from us by an unelected group pushing radical agendas.

Some groups may argue that a constitutional convention could be called only to discuss one particular issue. However, even former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Warren E. Burger, stated that “a convention, notwithstanding whatever limitation might be placed on it by the call for a convention, may propose sweeping constitutional changes or, by virtue of the authority of a constitutional convention, redraft the Constitution of the United States, creating an imminent peril to the well established rights of citizens and to the duties of various levels of government.”

We must also remember that our Founding Fathers once met to amend the existing Articles of Confederation — ultimately, a whole new Constitution was written, thus we need to be careful in choosing our actions that will direct our nation into the future.

The bottom line — my resolution would protect and honor the U.S. Constitution, ensuring the foundation and principles of our great nation are upheld. Together, we can take necessary steps to preserve the beauty of living as an American citizen. Thank you and God Bless.

Ridgeway: Homegrown Energy

Unlike Washington, DC and our President, Missouri has wholeheartedly embraced plans for an oil pipeline going through our state. Enbridge Inc. has unveiled a plan to install an underground pipeline along a 600 mile route from Flanagan, Illinois to Cushing, Oklahoma. The pipeline would go through eleven counties in Missouri. It would follow the path of an existing pipeline, so approval may be more easily obtained.

After President Obama rejected Keystone XL Pipeline which would have greatly reduced our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and created thousands of good paying jobs, this latest development with Enbridge is welcome news. Any time we can use North American oil and provide jobs, we need to support such projects with everything we have at our disposal. I cannot comprehend why President Obama saw fit to singlehandedly send that energy supply and benefits to China.

If Enbridge moves forward with the pipeline and gains the approval needed, it is expected to take about a year to complete with oil to begin flowing sometime in 2014.

This is a viable plan to bring energy supply to us at a reasonable cost. Let’s face it – when energy costs go up due to bad government policy, it’s nothing more than a back door tax increase. Our energy companies need the ability to access new energy sources and build new plants. Our businesses and families need consistent and reliable energy at reasonable cost. None of this can happen if Missouri and the U.S. continue to turn down construction of new energy supplies. That’s why I’m pleased to see the progress made toward the Enbridge pipeline.

Kelley: Updates On Workplace Discrimination, Voter ID Bills

At left: Rusty, Bobbi and Jeff from Barton County Electric.

Happy Ground Hog’s Day 2012!!! We got an extended weather forecast from a jittery, inconsistent, reddish brown rodent this morning and it seems that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. Despite the beautiful spring-like weather, it looks like we’re going to have 6 more weeks of winter. As we began our fourth full week of session in the House I have been busy at the Capitol with daily committee hearings. With legislation moving quickly through the process we are already engaging in floor debate of house bills. While much of my time is spent in Jefferson City at the Capitol, I travel back to the district every weekend to spend time with my family and I really enjoy the opportunities to visit with constituents.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

Legislative Update


HB 1219 and HB 1104 were presented for “perfection” and debated on the House Floor this week. Both bills have been laid over as we anticipate resuming discussion on them next week.

HB 1219, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Elmer (R-141), will protect Missouri jobs and Missouri employers by returning Missouri law to a position that is consistent with the federal Civil Rights Law. The bill removes provisions which currently make a manager liable for the actions of an employee and establishes a graduated scale for damages based on the number of employees which provides a level of uniformity in awarding damages. Court cases need to be handled more quickly and efficiently, businesses need to be free to appropriately handle problematic, harmful employees to keep the workplace safe, and this bill reinstates the original summary judgment standards that have existed in our nation and state for many decades to help courts accomplish this objective. Businesses need certainty if we want employers to expand, grow and re-invest. With the current system set up to punish employers, businesses are having difficulty dealing with our current litigious environment. HB 1219 restores certainty and fairness and treats employers and employees equally.

HB 1104, sponsored by Rep. Shane Schoeller (R-139), specifies that a person seeking to vote in a public election must show a valid photo identification, driving or non-driving, to election officials before they can receive a ballot and have it counted. This is a simple, common sense requirement that all should embrace to protect one of our most sacred and fundamental rights and to seek to end the rampant voter registration fraud that continues to be discovered across our Nation. All costs incurred by an election authority to implement the photo identification requirement will be reimbursed by the state. If the voter does not have a valid identification, they are allowed to cast a provisional ballot. If the reason for not having a valid identification is because they cannot afford to receive a new birth certificate or other documentation, they can sign an affidavit to receive a ballot. If an individual does not have their identification with them, they are allowed to vote using a provisional ballot. It will only be counted if they return to the election authority and present the appropriate identification within three days after the election.

At right: Dade County Commissioners visiting the Capitol

Important Tax Information


Taxpayers making $57,000 or less can visit www.irs.gov/efile to prepare and E-File federal tax returns for FREE, a landmark partnership between the IRS and tax software providers.

Just for Fun: Did you know?

  • In 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair, Richard Blechyden served his tea over ice, and thus “invented” ice tea. (www.50states.com)
  • Also invented at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair was the ice cream cone. When an ice cream vendor ran out of cups, he asked a waffle vendor for help and—voilĂ !—the iconic treat was born. (www.legendsofamerica.com)
  • Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than Paris and more fountains than every other city in the world except Rome. (www.50states.com)
  • Among the early immigrants to St. Louis were two men named Adolphus Busch and Eberhard Anheuser. Through hard work and innovative thinking, they turned their local brewery into a national (and currently, multi-national) corporation. (www.thingstodo.com/states/MO/facts.htm)

Quick Links


For information on the Missouri House of Representatives: www.house.mo.gov
For information on Missouri State Government: www.mo.gov
For information on the Missouri Senate: www.senate.mo.gov
For information on Unclaimed Property in Missouri: www.treasurer.mo.gov/mainUCP.asp
For information on Highway Construction: www.modot.org
The US Debt Clock: http://www.usdebtclock.org/
1948 Cartoon This seemed far-fetched in 1948

Please contact me with any suggestions that you may have for Missouri legislation. Also, if you should experience problems in contacting or resolving an issue with a Missouri state agency, please feel free to call my Capitol office at (573) 751-2165 or email at mike{dot}kelley{at}house{dot}mo{dot}gov. Thank you for the honor to serve as your Representative in the Missouri House of Representatives. Until my next update, I am, and remain, in your service.

Purgason: Long Road Ahead For 2012 Session

The 2012 legislative session is now underway. It appears that we have a long, hard road ahead of us this year.

Issues up for discussion this year will include jobs, the budget, and education. Other topics will probably include tax credit reform, workers’ choice legislation, moving toward a fairer way to tax our citizens, and I’m sure a second nuclear plant will be brought up again this year.

We need to find good ways to help create and grow new small businesses in our state. By decreasing regulations and allowing these businesses to keep more of their own money so they can hire new workers, we can help turn the economy around. When we limit the size of government and limit its role in our lives we open the door for a revitalized economy with more new jobs.

Our state faces a budget shortfall of approximately $500 million. If you have followed my columns over the years, you will recall that I have been saying for a long time that we simply have to cut back and spend within our means. The outlook is bleak this year. It will be an agonizing process to produce a balanced budget. Many difficult decisions will be made and many will be disappointed with the outcome.

Tax credit reform will be a big issue again this year. We need to have more oversight and review of these. As long as we keep taking millions and millions of dollars right off the top of our budget, we have no hope of curing the problems of funding for education and assistance to our needy.

Funding education will be a challenge this year. We owe it to our future generations to give them the best education we can afford. It appears that some changes will need to be made to the foundation formula in order to keep funding on a relatively equitable level.

It is vital that we give our children an adequate education. Businesses and industries looking to move to our state need to know that the children of their employees have access to a quality education. This helps to bring more jobs and prosperity.

I am hopeful that your General Assembly will renew its effort to adopt policies that promote smaller government with less regulation and that it has the good sense to keep spending under control. I look forward to renewing our efforts to make Missouri a safe place for our children, fund our children’s education, provide help for our most vulnerable citizens, protect our property rights, and work to reform our state’s tax policy.

As always, I welcome your comments and opinions. You may contact me at: Missouri Senate, 201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 416, Jefferson City, MO 65101; my telephone number is 573-751-1882 or you may email me at chuck{dot}purgason{at}senate{dot}mo{dot}gov.

Tim Jones: Voter ID, Workplace Discriminiation Bills Perfected

At right: With Rep. Anne Zerr, Tom Campbell (RCGA) & RCGA Board Chairman, Tom Voss, during the Annual Missouri Legislative Day for the St. Louis RCGA at the Capitol on January 24th.

Spring showered sunshine and fair temperatures across mid Missouri and throughout the greater Midwest this week as we returned for another week in the Legislative Session. One year ago this week, Old Man Winter treated us to a dramatically different scene as we experienced a mighty storm that blanketed most of Missouri in a thick carpet of swirling snow, causing an entire stretch of I-70 to be completely shut down and following that with a dose of record cold. What a difference a year always makes…

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

Legislative Update


HB 1219 and HB 1104 were presented for “perfection” and debated on the House Floor this week. Both bills have been laid over as we anticipate resuming discussion on them next week.

HB 1219, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Elmer (R-141), will protect Missouri jobs and Missouri employers by returning Missouri law to a position that is consistent with the federal Civil Rights Law. The bill removes provisions which currently make a manager liable for the actions of an employee and establishes a graduated scale for damages based on the number of employees which provides a level of uniformity in awarding damages. Court cases need to be handled more quickly and efficiently, businesses need to be free to appropriately handle problematic, harmful employees to keep the workplace safe, and this bill reinstates the original summary judgment standards that have existed in our nation and state for many decades to help courts accomplish this objective. Businesses need certainty if we want employers to expand, grow and re-invest. With the current system set up to punish employers, businesses are having difficulty dealing with our current litigious environment. HB 1219 restores certainty and fairness and treats employers and employees equally.

HB 1104, sponsored by Rep. Shane Schoeller (R-139), specifies that a person seeking to vote in a public election must show a valid photo identification, driving or non-driving, to election officials before they can receive a ballot and have it counted. This is a simple, common sense requirement that all should embrace to protect one of our most sacred and fundamental rights and to seek to end the rampant voter registration fraud that continues to be discovered across our Nation. All costs incurred by an election authority to implement the photo identification requirement will be reimbursed by the state. If the voter does not have a valid identification, they are allowed to cast a provisional ballot. If the reason for not having a valid identification is because they cannot afford to receive a new birth certificate or other documentation, they can sign an affidavit to receive a ballot. If an individual does not have their identification with them, they are allowed to vote using a provisional ballot. It will only be counted if they return to the election authority and present the appropriate identification within three days after the election.

Your Missouri House: Saving Taxpayer Dollars & Safeguarding Your Freedoms


Today, I decided that the Missouri House would only hold a Technical Session. This means that although House Committees and other meetings will still be held and will still proceed, there will be no active Floor Activity. By holding a Technical Session, we have the opportunity to save thousands of taxpayer dollars and not hold a Session when no legislation will be considered. Because the House has acted efficiently and purposely and it is still early in Session, there is no new legislation yet waiting to be heard on the House Calendar so there is no significant reason to hold a full blown Floor Session of the House today. And as the old adage goes: “as long as the Legislature is not in Session, your pocketbooks and liberties remain safe!” We will resume with a full Session of the House on Monday, February 5th.

The Capitol Dialogue Program


I had the opportunity to appear on a show that is posted on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website. I was joined by my colleagues, Assistant House Minority Leader Tishaura Jones, the Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan and Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer as we discussed what both parties hope to accomplish during this 2012 Legislative Session. You can view the Capitol Dialogue program at http://dese.mo.gov/comm/mps/LVIS.html.

Local News and Events


Honoring Iraq War Veterans

At right: The Heroes Parade in Downtown St. Louis on Saturday, January 28, 2012.

St. Louis hosted the country’s first parade to thank the veterans of the Iraq war for their service and welcome them home this past Saturday, January 28th. Thousands of people lined the parade route on Market Street, cheering, waving American Flags and holding “Welcome Home” signs. Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales and St. Louis police and fire departments joined 83 floats in the parade to show appreciation for the veterans. Prior to the parade, on Friday at 9:11 p.m. at Soldier’s Memorial in downtown St. Louis, a vigil was held where volunteers read the names of the U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who have died in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am proud that St. Louis stepped up, stepped forward and held a parade to honor the men and women that put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and liberties.

Important Tax Information

Taxpayers making $57,000 or less can visit www.irs.gov/efile to prepare and E-File federal tax returns for FREE, a landmark partnership between the IRS and tax software providers.

Garage Sale/Swap Meet

The City of Eureka’s Chamber of Commerce will be holding its 5th annual Garage Sale/Swap Meet Saturday, March 10th from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. located in the Six Flags Parking Lot. For more information and downloadable form go to www.eurekachamber.org and click on the events tab on the left hand side of your screen. You can also call the Chamber office at 636-938-6062 for more information.

Employment Opportunity

Six Flags St. Louis will host job fairs at the park in Eureka from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on three Saturdays in February – Feb. 4, 11 and 25 – to hire workers for this year’s season. The amusement park is looking to hire about 3,000 workers. For a listing of jobs and more information about the career fair, visit www.sixflags.com/stLouis and look under the Jobs tab at the top of the page.

Visiting the Capitol


I always enjoy it when constituents visit the Capitol, and this week I was thrilled to greet Mark Schwieder, Bill Brandes and Fred Goglia. I was also pleased to greet Mary Schaefer from Route 66 Senior Center in Pacific as well as Sherry Whitaker from the Choices for People Center in Rolla. If you ever find yourself in or around Jefferson City at any time during the year, please feel free to visit us! Stop by the Majority Leader’s Office in Room 302 and we will be happy to meet and greet you!

Personal News & Notes


If you know anyone who would be interested in receiving this Capitol Report, they can click the “Capitol Report Signup” button on my member home page at www.house.mo.gov and enter the appropriate information to receive the Capitol Report.