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|July 8, 2015 12th Edition|
|Maybe the rain has stopped for a while. It feels like summer is finally here with a vengeance. It has been a busy time since the end of session on May 16.
Please forgive the length of this report, but many of you have asked about various issues.
We have heard proposals about making I-70 a toll road and various sales tax possibilities. I want to give you the opportunity to hear from MoDOT and to share your thoughts and ideas. As St. Louis County is such a large area there are different divisions. In the case of our district the line between the north and south districts runs right through the middle of the district so we will hear from both area engineers.
I want to give special thanks to The Brain Injury Association for graciously allowing us to meet in their building. You might recall that I reported on their program in my November 2013 newsletter. The Brain Injury Association works with survivors of brain injuries to help them rebuild their lives after suffering a brain injury. While we are there we might want to consider the fact that many brain injuries occur in traffic accidents.
|Directions:||From the intersection of Page and Schuetz go north on Schuetz. The building is on the southwest corner of Schuetz and Westline.
|We have all had some concern for happenings in Ferguson and how to deal with the underlying reasons. For the most part the legislature ignored the many bills relating to the issues. As the vast majority of the members of the legislature do not live in cities there is a tendency to overlook issues that do not directly affect them. We have people representing urban and suburban area who respond the same way to rural issues.|
|Shortly after session ended a young woman from New York stayed at our home while researching what happened in Ferguson. She found a wide variety of people to talk with, to gain their perspective; people she met on the street, and people to whom she sought introduction. Among her subjects were: residents, shop and business owners, diners in restaurants, legislators, ministers and clergy, people living in Ferguson and some from outside. There was a mixture of black and white. including a white SWAT team member and a black police officer from the area. When her writing is published I will let you know where to find a copy. This is about all of us, we are all part of the solution.|
|In our schools the superintendents are taking the reins on the transfer/accreditation issue. Dr. Marty, Parkway; Dr. Fulton, Pattonville and Dr. Kilbride, Ritenour are all serving on committees of School Superintendents looking for solutions. This is actually where I thought the work should have been based as superintendents are the ones responsible to the School Boards to run and manage the educational systems in our schools. The committees are looking at broad areas and I believe they will come up with solutions that are realistic and attainable and most important enhance our system, producing better prepared students.|
|The current transfer law and the way it is interpreted will eventually have a domino effect, as where one school fails, the next neighbor school will fail, and on it goes. The money waste is intolerable in my opinion. Increasing class size by one student in each class does not have a $12,000 tuition impact for each student.|
|So what else is new?|
|We once again have a Dental School in St. Louis. The school is part of the A. T. Still University, Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health out of Kirksville. There are 92 chairs, including a pediatric unit. Something I thought was special was a dental room set up for wheelchairs. The patient stays in the wheel chair and is placed on a special platform that will make it work like a dental chair. It goes up and down as well as has a head rest so the chair can tilt back. Pretty nifty.|
|Children's Hospital now has a specialty unit in their new building at I-64 (Hwy 40) and Mason. It is very well done and kid friendly with bright colors, a train in the lobby (watch only – no touching). This facility is not a hospital but a pediatric specialty center offering a central location where children can be treated for multiple issues in one place. Physical therapy, cancer treatments, are just two of the types of care given.|
|I visited the Job Corps open house in June. You just have to love this place. Students are accepted as young as 16 and up to age 24. It is not a regular tech school. Job Corps helps students get their GED if they have not graduated from high school first. Then for those who have completed high school or a GED they are given job training. The best part is they really do get jobs. Job Corps partners with companies to train the students for specific jobs. Among those in partnership are Hollywood Casino and BJC. Real assistance is delivered to real people in need of a job; training and grooming them for a specific job to get them started in life. They learn the skills necessary to perform the job, plus how to talk to people, work ethics and so on. YES!
Got a business, need a worker or 10? Give them a call. 314-679-0300 or 314-679-6200
|And my education continues…|
|As a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate for children), chair of the Children's Services Commission and member of the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and member of the standing Committee on Children and Families I visit a number of agencies, meetings and seminars related to children's issues. Recently I have met with the Foster and Adoptive Coalition, Children at the Center, St Louis County Children's Service Fund, attended a seminar on Domestic Violence sponsored by the St. Louis County Courts and a seminar on LGBTQ and millennials|
|Just for fun…|
|Once again, I participated in the Pride Parade and Festival. I love this event. It is such a great opportunity for those who have what might be considered an alternative lifestyle to just be themselves, just as they are who they are and not worry about what others think. I particularly like the groups with all the balloons. It is such a happy day it just makes everyone smile.
At the Pridefest with Secretary of State (and future U.S. Senator) Jason Kander and St. Louis County Assessor (and future Missouri Attorney-General)Jake Zimmerman.
|Because I think it is important…|
|There is a multitude of clinical research trials going on in our area. This is one of the side benefits of living in a town with two great medical schools. We see and hear about a variety of conditions and diseases for which there is not yet a cure or treatment. We can donate funds and we can also volunteer as a participant in these trials. Give it some thought It might be a cancer study or diabetes or Alzheimer's, or something rare. I am participating in a study and find not only am I furthering the research, it is terribly interesting, does not cost more than my time, and my help might prevent this condition from occurring in my children and grandchildren. No I am not a victim, but I don't want people to suffer so I am trying to do my part. Funding is good but there are lots of other opportunities to help find cures. I will have more on this to come.|
|Summarizing the 2015 Bizarre Session|
|Even longtime observers of Missouri government were scratching their heads by the end of this session. Of my three years in the House, this was by far the least productive. The following chart lists the number of bills that were introduced, considered and passed by each chamber (excluding appropriations bills):
Of course, there are two ways of looking at these numbers. On one hand, this was a very unproductive legislature (especially if you remove the 20 bills that named a bridge or highway, or designated an official state whatever). The opportunities that were missed are too many to list. On the other hand, maybe we didn't do as much harm as we could have. And in case you missed it, you might want to update your calendar to reflect October 16th as Walt Disney - “A Day to Dream” Day.
You've probably received my official end of session report in the mail, however here are some additional thoughts on some notable legislation that did or did not make it into law.
|Vetoed by the Governor Overridden by the House and Senate|
|Welfare (SB 24) — Reduces the maximum time a family can receive benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program from 60 weeks to 45 weeks over a lifetime, which will cause about 9,500 current recipients to lose their benefits early when the new, lower limit takes effect on Jan. 1. I voted no. This punishes the neediest Missourians for no reason. Supposedly, this legislation is intended to encourage people to get jobs. As over half of the TANF recipients are children, how is this supposed to help?
Vetoed by the governor on April; veto overridden in both the House and Senate on May 5, and will become law.
|Bills Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed — Vetoed (subject to legislative override)|
|Charter School Expansion (HB 42) — Authorizes the expansion of charter schools (which at present can operate only in the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts) to all districts in St. Louis County and all but three small districts in Jackson County. The legislation originally was intended provide clarity to fix problems with the state law that allows students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to nearby accredited districts at their home districts expense. The most critical issue not addressed is one that faces unaccredited districts — capping the tuition charged by receiving districts. I think there is another solution that is far less expensive.
I voted no, as I feel charter schools are private schools. They do not have a board elected by the people, nor do they have to abide by the same rules as public schools. I do not support funding what are essentially private schools with taxpayer dollars.
Governor Nixon announcing his veto of House Bill 42
|Overriding Local Control Pre-Emption (HB 722) — Bans local governments from prohibiting the use of plastic bags by retailers or from establishing a local minimum wage. It’s interesting how many who claim to favor and support local control want to impose state restrictions on local governments on other issues. Discarded plastic bags are a real problem in some cotton-growing areas as they foul the harvesting machines and damage crops (and don't they look lovely on trees and fences?) With regard to a local minimum wage, I can only guess that they fear that a city with a higher minimum wage might draw more workers from nearby communities. Yes, this was all in one bill.
I voted no
|Right To Work (HB 116) — Makes it a crime punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine for companies to negotiate labor contracts that require workers as a condition of employment to pay dues for the union representation they receive. This is a ridiculous attempt to prevent labor and management from collaborating with each other. That is a 1st Amendment issue. This bill would inhibit freedom of speech.
I voted no. Vetoed by the governor on June 4. The bill garnered only 92 votes during it’s initial passage, which will make it difficult to achieve the 109 votes necessary for an override. Nonetheless, sustaining the veto is not guaranteed.
|Bills Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed — Vetoed, House Override, No Senate Action|
|Unemployment Benefits (HB 150) — Establishes a sliding scale on the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits based on the statewide unemployment rate. A maximum of 20 weeks would be provided only if the unemployment rate is 9 percent of higher, with maximum benefits dipping as low as 13 weeks if the unemployment rate is under 6 percent statewide, which does not allow for local market fluctuations
I voted no. This is an arbitrary penalty on people without jobs. It does nothing to help them find meaningful employment, while saving the state pennies. Some areas of the state have no jobs available, while others may have many. This law punishes those who live in those (mostly rural) areas without job opportunities.
Vetoed by the governor on May 2. House voted 109-53 in favor of override; Senate has taken no action as yet. There is considerable debate as to whether or not the Senate can still act to override this in the Veto session scheduled for September. Stay tuned!
For an updated, complete list of all bills signed or vetoed by Governor Nixon click here.
|Notable bills that failed to advance|
|Fuel Tax (SB 540) — Sought to increase the state fuel tax by 1.5 cents per gallon for gasoline and 3.5 cents per gallon for diesel. Died on the Senate floor without a vote.
The deterioration of Missouri’s roads and bridges is reaching crisis proportions. 47 states apply a higher tax on gas and diesel than we do. The penny and a half increase would have moved us up one notch, even if we were to increase the fuel tax by 7.5 cents, there would still be 29 states with higher fuel taxes. The question here is “which is more likely to attract more business to the Missouri economy, an artificially low fuel tax; or well-funded and maintained roads?” Come to the July 29 Town Hall meeting (above) and tell me what you think.
|Campaign Limits (SB 2) — Sought to establish per-donor campaign contribution limits of $5,000 for statewide office, $2,500 for state senate and $1,250 for state representative. This legislation was heard in a Senate committee, and never brought to the floor of either the Senate or House.
I would have supported this legislation. Time after time, the people of Missouri have endorsed campaign limits through the ballot box and through public discussion, however legislative leaders in both the House and Senate prefer to ignore calls for reform.
|Ethics (SB 11) — Sought to bar state legislators from working as paid political consultants for other lawmakers or legislative candidates; prohibit former lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office and limit gifts lawmakers may accept from lobbyists, among other provisions.
After 6 amendments were added to the bill rendering it ineffective, I voted no. Again, the people have been quite clear in their thoughts on this. They don’t want a revolving door between public service and personal enrichment at the expense of the public.
|Medicaid Expansion (SB 125) — Sought to expand the state’s Medicaid eligibility threshold to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, basically an annual income of about $32,500 for a family of four or $15,856 for an individual. Under the Federal Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay the full cost of expansion until 2017 and at least 90 percent of the cost thereafter.
Died without a vote in the Senate Veterans Affairs and Health Committee. I fully supported this legislation. I liken it to having someone leave a pile of money on your doorstep, and you refuse to open the door and take advantage of it; so it just blows away to other states.
How can people carry tout family values and allegedly caring about others, then not expand medicaid, cut TANF and reduce unemployment benefits along with so many other helpful things? What is said does not match actions taken. If you talk the talk, you should walk the walk.
Thank you for your support, and for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Jefferson City.
I look forward to seeing you at the Town Hall!
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