Economic Development, Chairman
Joint Committee on Gaming & Wagering
Joint Committee on Life Sciences
Appropriations - Health, Mental Health & Social Services
Administration & Accounts
Appropriations - Revenue, Transportation & Economic Development
Tourism & Natural Resources
Interim Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness & Efficiency
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March 20, 2015
Greetings from Jeff City
Spring comes on this Friday March 20th and so does a short Spring Break for the Missouri Legislature.
The vernal equinox signals the beginning of nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere. Worms begin to emerge from the earth, ladybugs land on screen doors, green buds appear, birds chirp and flowers begin to bloom. I look forward to getting back to my district and enjoying the warmer days with my family and friends.
House Floor Activity
House Moves to Improve Amber Alert System (HB 635)
The Missouri House took action this week to improve the state’s Amber Alert System that is used to alert Missourians when a child is missing. The House passed HB 635, which is known as “Hailey’s Law” in memory of a 10 year old Springfield girl who was abducted and murdered last year.
Hailey Owens was abducted while walking home from a friend’s house in February 2014. Because of the complicated and tedious process to issue an Amber Alert, it was two hours before an alert was put out about Hailey’s abduction. After her tragic death, her family call for a faster process for issuing alerts, which they believe could have saved her life.
These are some of the bills approved in the House this week and will be moving on to the Senate:
· HB 42— This week the House took action to address one of the most important issues we will discuss this year, or any year. Right now we have thousands of children in failing schools who are not receiving the educational experience they need and deserve. In an effort to give these young people the option to obtain a top notch education, we passed legislation this week that will modify our existing school transfer law to give students and parents more choices in regard to where they can go to school. Our current transfer law has caused a great deal of hardship for schools in both failing districts, as well as those that neighbor these areas. The issue is that the failing districts have to pay the cost associated with students transferring to nearby districts, and also that schools receiving these kids may not have the classroom space or faculty to accommodate the influx of students. The issues that have arisen from the current law that was put in place in 1993 have emphasized the need for reforms that will put the interests of our young people first without bankrupting school districts that are struggling to stay afloat. The bill passed this week represents a complex but common sense solution to this pressing problem. One of the key components of the bill would allow students in failing schools to move to better performing schools in their current district. Its purpose is to allow kids to stay closer to home. In addition, this will keep down costly transportation expenses. In the event space can’t be found in a better performing school within the district, students would be allowed to transfer to neighboring districts, attend a charter school, or take advantage of a virtual school option. These are just a few components to what is a complicated but crucial fix to the glaring problem we currently have with our student transfer law. We know going forward there will be a great deal of discussion with our counterparts from the Senate, who also approved their own version of a fix this week. While the scope of the bill may change as the session progresses, we know the underlying purpose will remain the same – to give the young people of our state a word class education that will prepare them for success as adults. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure we take an important step toward accomplishing that goal this year.
I send my sincere sympathies to the family of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, who died earlier today. He was a wonderful Auditor and a brilliant man who invested his extensive talents in service to the people of Missouri and the Nation. He will be missed.
Several bills have been passed through the House this week and will be moving on to the Senate:
· HCR 20—Strongly urges the United States Department of Defense to protect, promote, and leverage Missouri’s military bases and agencies.
· HCR 12—In the same week a federal judge in Texas temporarily stopped the implementation of President Obama’s executive amnesty, the Missouri House adopted a resolution urging our Attorney General to join 26 other states that have filed suit against the executive order. The lawsuit filed and joined by a coalition of states alleges that the president violated his obligations under the Constitution’s Take Care Clause, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act and federal immigration statutes. The lawsuit claims changes to these laws should be made by Congress, not the president. HCR 12 approved by the House urges Attorney General Koster to join the lawsuit and oppose this president’s decision to suspend the nation’s immigration laws. I think it’s important to point out that this suit is not about the issue of immigration itself, but rather the glaring overreach of the president’s authority. Our government is meant to have a system of checks and balances that require the branches of government to work together in order to put new laws into effect. When the president circumvents the system through an executive order it flies in the face of our Constitution. Moving forward, we want to see the branches of government work together to address this incredibly important issue of immigration.
Following are a few topics from our legislative week:
House Sends Unemployment Reform Bill to Senate
With the goal of preserving the state’s unemployment system so that it can continue to provide benefits to out-of-work Missourians, the House passed legislation this week that will implement some much-needed, common sense reforms. The bill we approved strikes a balance to ensure Missourians have access to unemployment benefits when they are out of work while also protecting Missouri’s job creators from excessive taxes and fees.
Missouri’s system of unemployment has had to borrow money from the federal government in order to pay its unemployment insurance claims. In fact, Missouri is the only state in the nation that has been forced to borrow money from the federal government in each of the last five recessions. The result has been not only that our state has taken on debt, but also that employers have been forced to pay millions in interest on the borrowed funds.
Following are a few topics from our legislative week:
Unemployment Benefits (HB 150)
While our state’s economy is slowly but steadily growing and unemployment numbers are dropping, we continue to deal with the after effects of the economic downturn that was extremely difficult for families and businesses throughout Missouri. One of the areas of state government that was stretched to its limit, and beyond, during our nation’s economic woes, is our system of unemployment.
Because so many people were out of work, our unemployment system had to provide benefits to more folks than the state could afford. The result was a need to borrow money from the federal government to afford the benefit payments to the many Missourians who were out of work. The state has already repaid the debt, but If you are like me, the idea of borrowing any money from the federal government is disturbing. To make matters worse, when states are forced to take this route, it also penalizes job creators by taking away a portion of a federal tax credit they normally receive.
Because we don’t want to be in a position where we borrow money from the federal government or put additional financial burdens on our business owners who create family-supporting jobs, a piece of legislation with common sense unemployment benefit reforms is currently working its way quickly through the House. HB 150 received approval from two separate House committees this week and is scheduled for discussion on the floor next week.