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May 26, 2016  17th Edition
Summer is almost here!
Announcement
  Another legislative session ended at 6:00pm, Friday, May 13th. Since my last newsletter I have been very busy with committee meetings, debate preparation and voting 885 times resulting in 146 bills that were truly agreed and finally passed and are on their way to the Governor.

You will be receiving my end of session report in the next few weeks. It will show what passed, what didn't pass and how I voted. As always, if you have any questions on any legislative or state matter, please contact me or my office. In the coming months I will be knocking on your doors, catching up on my volunteer work, raising funds for the campaign, and spending time with my family.
First Things First
  I want to give a big thank you to all of you who travelled to Jefferson City to express your support of or opposition to legislation. I really appreciate all of the emails and phone calls as well. Nothing carries more weight with the representatives than people who tell us their personal stories.
The Session
  What passed, what did not pass, and my votes will be shared with you in my End of Session Report, which will come to you by US mail from the House. I write it, my assistant, IT guy and a couple of readers make sure spelling and all content are correct and then the House publishes and mails it to you. So you will get the information in about 3-5 weeks.

What began as a calm, but busy session turned into an emotional one. Normally we can argue back and forth and when the vote is taken it is over, but things became more heated at times. It might be that with this being an election year, there was more posturing; or perhaps the various issues just became emotional. In this Newsletter I will try to give you a bit of a feel for what we do during session.

Ethics

  Efforts were made to strengthen our almost non-existent Ethics laws. Bills to do this have been offered every year but nothing ever happened with them. This year was designated "the year for ethics changes." The wish list included stopping the revolving door of elected officials becoming lobbyists; limits on campaign donations; disclosure of exactly who or what organization made the donation; as well as how the funds were distributed. In spite of many bills with strong statements, very few were heard and little was done. What did pass was:
 
  • A six month period must now elapse between the end of a legislator's term (or resignation) and the time that they could register as a lobbyist. That won't exactly stop the revolving door of legislator to lobbyist activity, but it does force a slight break. A full year would have been far more effective.
  • A ban on campaign funds being invested in long term assets will soon be in effect. This might sound strange, however one legislator invested a sizable amount of his campaign funds into ownership of a bank… yes… a bank. Also, public officials must liquidate any campaign accounts before they can work as a lobbyist. That's huge!
  • A ban on public officials having a side business as a political consultant while in office will also be in place. Yes, a past speaker had sold his services as a political marketing consultant to colleagues. What was left out was the inclusion of legislative staff in this restriction. It is rumored to be one legislative aid (not mine) who earns more than three times his capitol salary as a consultant. That has the appearance of pay me and I'll get my boss to sponsor your bill to it.
What was ignored was:
  • Campaign funding limits — limits on contributions and spending. We're still the only state with an almost anything goes philosophy on campaign finances.
  • Identification of donors to "other" committees — wouldn't it be nice to know who's funding that attack ad?
  • Limitations on gifts by lobbyists — don't get me started.
I kept telling everyone baby steps are better than no steps; at least we took some baby steps.

Committee Work

  The Children and Families Committee, where I serve as the Ranking Minority Member, had 64 bills assigned to the committee. We held hearings on a total of 41 bills and two of those bills made it to the Governor's desk. 23 bills were never heard, and if they were sponsored by someone from the minority party, they did not get assigned to committee until May 13th, the last day of session. This is the reason I have filed so few bills. It is better to get my ideas on the table by working with someone from the majority and letting them take all the credit. Spending all that time and effort for two bills to make it to the Governor's desk can get one's dander up.

I sit on four committees, but Children and Families is the most challenging. We see lots of tears when people come to tell their stories at hearings. Many times it is difficult to maintain composure when hearing either someone's story or when someone proposes a bill that is basically punishment for being poor or having problems beyond one's control. Sometimes the bills are just mean spirited. This was the committee that heard the bill taking away Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) if 30 hours of work effort per week was not made. As a result, 6,300 children are no longer receiving benefits. Most of the time my vote is one of three voting no, out of twelve on the committee

On a Partisan Note — Cheers!

  I take pride in my ability to do my job in a bipartisan fashion. I have friends on the Republican side of the aisle that will give my views a fair hearing. But when all is said and done, I am a member of the Democratic Party; and I am proud to be part of a party that cares about people, all the people. With that in mind, I want to share this press release from the House Democratic Caucus with you.
  May 13, 2016

The House Democratic Caucus Hunger Awareness Food Drive has collected more than $3,000 worth of food and other essential items, plus another $1,000 in monetary donations. House Democrats launched the food drive on May 3 in response to Republican policies that in recent years have increased hunger and food insecurity in our state.

The collections gathered by House Democrats will be donated to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, along with other food pantries in the state.

"Very little help from struggling Missouri families comes from the State Capitol these days," said House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis. "Since the majority party hasn't shown interest passing laws to address serious problems like hunger, House Democrats have taken what action we could to ensure that at least a few less children will go hungry next week."

In just the last year, the Republican-controlled legislature has enacted laws that resulted in more than 6,300 children losing their welfare benefits and cut the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits by nearly one-third.

Election Year

  I am up for re-election and will be canvasing the district door–to–door just like in 2012 and 2014. I am looking forward to seeing all of you again and hope you are home when I drop by for a short chat. We are also going to be updating the web page so you can meet my family. We have a new son-in-law this time around.

So far we have a number of ballot initiative petitions submitted to the Secretary of State's office where they will be verified as to whether they meet the criteria to be on the ballot. Once certified, the Governor will announce whether they will appear on the August primary or November general ballot. The most notable initiatives that are likely to appear on your ballot are:
  • Legalization of medical marijuana
  • A ban on all new sales taxes and services
  • Re-impose caps on campaign contributions
  • A cigarette tax of 67 cents per pack for big tobacco brands with an additional 60 cents ($1.27 total increase) for small tobacco brands to fund early childhood education. Proposed by large tobacco companies
  • A 23 cent per pack increase per pack on all cigarettes to help fund state roads. Proposed by small tobacco companies.
On the Federal level, we will elect:
  • US President
  • Representative to the US House (for either the 1st or 2nd districts, depending upon where you live)
  • US Senator for Missouri
Statewide races will include:
  • Governor
  • Lt. Governor
  • Attorney General
  • State Treasurer
  • Secretary of State
It will be a long ballot so remember, local races are important as they are closer to home.






Oh, yes, if you are in the Overland area, I will be riding in the Overland Block Party Parade June 4th and hope to see you there.
As always

Thank you for your support, and for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Jefferson City. Keep in touch and give me your thoughts on potential town hall topics.

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Paid for by Friends of Sue Meredith, Pam Crowley — Treasurer