Monday, December 04, 2006

Legislative Committees Meet This Week

Two legislative committees are meeting this week to gather public testimony as they prepare legislation for the First Regular Session of the 94th Missouri General Assembly, which convenes Jan. 3.
The Joint Committee on Terrorism, Bioterrorism and Homeland Security will meet Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 9:30 a.m. in Senate Committee Room 2 on the first floor of the Capitol Building.
For a list of members, click here.
To review the committee’s charge, click here. The Joint Committee on Terrorism, Bioterrorism and Homeland Security is required to present its report to the General Assembly by Jan. 15.
Also on Wednesday, Dec. 6, the Senate Agriculture, Conservation, Parks and Natural Resources Committee will hold a field hearing in West Plains. The public hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the West Plains Civic Center, 110 St. Louis Street, West Plains. The public is invited to comment relating to future marketing ideas and promoting Missouri livestock. The meeting will be held in the Theater Room of the Civic Center. Call 417-256-8087 for more information. Directions to West Plains Civic Center (Center is on East side of town):From Jefferson City, take Bsn 63 South, Right on St. Louis Street. Holiday Inn Express and Best Western are available if lodging accommodations are necessary.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Senate Committee on Adoption & Child Support To Hold Hearing

The Senate Interim Committee on Adoption Promotion and Child Support Enforcement will hold a public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 28 in Senate Committee Room 1 beginning at 11 a.m.
The duties of the committee include:
1) To study the recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive parents in Missouri.
2) To examine the use and effectiveness of funding with regard to promoting the adoption of foster children in this state.
3) To examine the practices and outreach efforts this state has undergone in the past and make recommendations to improve their effectiveness.
4) To evaluate the current adoption processes and review them in order to identify obstacles and barriers associated with the adoption process.
5) To review current law relating to adoption and termination of parental rights (TPR) to determine whether modifications could be made to encourage adoptions in Missouri and to make the adoption and TPR processes more efficient and more cost effective.
6) To explore ways to improve customer service, and the timeliness and accuracy of processing and disbursing child support collections.
7) To study the state's responsibilities including locating parents, establishing paternity, establishing child and medical support orders, monitoring and enforcing compliance with child and medical support orders, reviewing and initiating modification of support orders and distributing support collections.
The committee shall issue a report and make recommendations, as deemed appropriate by a majority of the members of the committee, to the general assembly for legislative action no later than January 26, 2007.
For a list of committee members, click here.
For the most current listing of Missouri Senate hearings, click here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pay Panel Seeks Public Input

On November 7, Missouri voters approved Amendment 7 by a five-to-one margin. The amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote of the General Assembly in order to change or disapprove the salary recommendations of the Missouri Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials. The purpose of the amendment, as stated in the ballot language approved by voters, is to prevent the General Assembly from changing the commission’s recommended compensation schedule for elected officials through the appropriations process.
Amendment 7 also prevents statewide elected officials, members of the General Assembly and state judges from receiving a state pension if they are convicted of a felony while in office or if they are removed from office for misconduct or after impeachment.
The Missouri Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials meets today (11/20/06) in the Senate Lounge at the Capitol Building from 10:30 until noon today, although public comment will not be received until the afternoon session. The commission will receive public comment in the Senate Lounge from 2-4 p.m. this afternoon. Citizens are invited to submit comments during the hearing in writing or in person. Those who wish to speak are asked to be brief to allow everyone who wishes to comment an opportunity to speak within the two hour time frame. Comments received during the public hearing will be considered when the commission prepares its schedule of compensation for elected officials.
Members of the General Assembly cannot receive any compensation increase approved by the Citizens’ Commission until Jan. 1, 2009.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Senators Elect Leadership

Senate Republicans and Democrats have nominated their colleagues for leadership positions for the First Regular Session of the 94th Missouri General Assembly.
Senate Republicans unanimously endorsed Sen. Michael R. Gibbons, R- Kirkwood, to serve as President Pro Tem of the Missouri Senate for the 94th General Assembly beginning Jan. 3, 2007. Gibbons must be elected to the post by the full Senate when they convene. He was elected unanimously as Senate President Pro Tem in 2005.
“When I became pro tem, my goal for the Missouri Senate was to work together with the House and Governor to give every Missourian the opportunity to pursue their dreams, improve their lives and make our state the best place in America to live, work and raise a family,” Gibbons said. “The reforms we accomplished over the past two years have put Missourians on a strong foundation for decades to come and I want to continue that work as president pro tem.”
Others elected to Senate Majority Caucus leadership positions include:
§ Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, re-elected as Majority Floor Leader
§ Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, re-elected as Assistant Majority Floor Leader
§ Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, elected Majority Caucus Whip
§ Sen. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville, re-elected as Caucus Chair
§ Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, re-elected as Caucus Secretary
Senate Democrats have chosen Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, to retain her position as Minority Floor Leader. Coleman was elected Assistant Minority Floor Leader in November of 2002, and Minority Floor Leader in 2004.
Others elected to Senate Minority Caucus leadership positions include:
§ Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, re-elected as Asst. Minority Floor Leader
§ Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, elected as Minority Caucus Chairman
§ Sen. Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City, re-elected as Minority Caucus Secretary.
The First Regular Session of the 94th Missouri General Assembly will convene in Jefferson City on Jan. 3.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Republicans Retain State House, Senate Majorities

Missouri Republicans will maintain majority control of the Missouri House and Senate for the First Regular Session of the 94th Missouri General Assembly, although their margins shrank a bit in Tuesday’s election.
Senate Republicans held a 23-11 advantage heading into the November 7 election, but Democrats picked up the seat held by Republican John Cauthorn in the 18th Senatorial District. Cauthorn, who is vacating the seat due to term limits, will be replaced by Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, who defeated Rep. Bob Behnen, R-Kirksville.
Incumbent Senator Bill Alter, R-High Ridge, was defeated Tuesday night by former Rep. Ryan McKenna, a Democrat from Crystal City who follows in his father’s footsteps in representing Jefferson County in the state senate.
There will be a few other new faces in the Missouri Senate next year. Democrat Jolie Justus is a Kansas City attorney who defeated Republican Jerry Mounts to succeed Charles Wheeler in Missouri’s 10th Senatorial District.
Rep. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, won the chance to succeed Sen. David Klindt, R-Bethany, by defeating Democrat Jim Neely in Tuesday’s election. Klindt is leaving the senate due to term limits.
Finally, St. Louis Democrat Jeff Smith will take over the 4th District seat held by veteran legislator Patrick Dougherty, D-St. Louis, who also is stepping down due to term limits. Smith ran unopposed in Tuesday’s election.
All other incumbent senators won re-election November seventh.
The Republican and Democratic parties will caucus tomorrow (Nov. 9) at noon to elect their leaders for the 94th General Assembly.
In the House, Democrats picked up five seats Tuesday; Republicans now have a 92-71 majority in the House.

Monday, November 06, 2006

17 Senate Seats on Ballot in Tuesday Election

Polling places open at 6 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7 and remain open until 7 p.m. Typically, voter turnout is low for non-presidential election years, but county clerks across the state are forecasting record turnout tomorrow. For example, Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren predicts 65-percent of voters will cast ballots Tuesday. In non-presidential election years, voter turnout typically runs from 20-30-percent.
The high profile U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Jim Talent and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill and Amendment 2, which would permit embryonic stem cell research in Missouri, are driving voter interest in the elections this year. Voters are also being asked to increase tobacco taxes (Amendment 3) and increase the minimum wage (Proposition B).
In the Missouri State Senate, 17 seats are on the ballot across the state, although two candidates face no formal opposition.
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Rita Heard Days, D-St. Louis, was not challenged in the primary and faces no Republican opposition Tuesday.
Democrat Jeff Smith won his primary to replace term-limited Senator Patrick Dougherty, D-St. Louis; no Republican candidate is challenging Smith.
Two other senators, John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, and David Klindt, R-Bethany, also are leaving due to term limits. Three of the four candidates seeking those two seats are current members of the Missouri House; the fourth candidate is a doctor/farmer.
Two incumbent senators, Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, and Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, are being challenged by independent candidates.
One incumbent senator, Charles Wheeler, D-Kansas City, chose not to pursue another term in the Senate and is seeking elective office in Kansas City.
The ten other incumbent senators all face opposition in Tuesday’s election. For a complete listing of Missouri State Senate races, click here.
For a complete list of all candidates on the ballot in Missouri, click here.
For a complete list of all of the ballot initiatives, click here.
And for an explanation of acceptable identification needed to cast a ballot, click here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Senate Committees Wrapping Up Work

With just two months to go before the start of the First Regular Session of the 94th Missouri General Assembly, lawmakers will be spending a lot of attending committee hearings. The various committees are each tasked with studying a particular issue, gathering public testimony, drafting proposed legislation, and then issuing a report to the General Assembly.
For example, next week the Senate Administration Committee (link) and the Senate Interim Committee on Pandemic Preparedness (link) will meet November 9 in Jefferson City.
The Senate Administration Committee, chaired by Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (link), is meeting next Thursday in closed session to consider personnel matters.
The Senate Interim Committee on Pandemic Preparedness, chaired by Sen. Rob Mayer (link), is meeting next Thursday to hear a presentation by Dr. R. Gregory Evans, Director of the Institute for Biosecurity, Saint Louis University, School of Public Health. The public hearing begins at 10 a.m. in the Senate Lounge.
The following week, the Senate Interim Committee on Adoption Promotion and Child Support Enforcement (link), chaired by Sen. Norma Champion (link), will hold a public hearing Nov. 14 in St. Louis, while the Joint Committee on Tax Policy (link), chaired by Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (link), will hold a public hearing Nov. 15 at the UMKC Conference Center in Kansas City.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Missouri Mental Health Task Force Holds Hearing Wednesday

Missouri Mental Health Task Force Holds Hearing Wednesday

The Missouri Mental Health Task Force will hold a public hearing in the Senate Lounge at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25.

(From the Missouri Mental Health Task Force website, click here.)
Mission Statement
“The charge of the Missouri Mental Health Task Force is to develop and propose long-term solutions to prevent abuse and neglect, assure thorough investigation of abuse and neglect allegations, and recommend actions to increase the safe delivery of mental health services for Missourians with disabilities.”
The Missouri Mental Health Task Force was formed at the direction of Governor Matt Blunt to oversee a cross-agency effort to address incidents of abuse and neglect and client deaths at Department of Mental Health facilities and community-based agencies.
The Missouri Mental Health Task Force, co-chaired by Lt. Governor Peter Kinder and Missouri Department of Mental Health Interim Director Ron Dittemore, met on July 11, 2006, at the State Capitol to discuss the current status of the state mental health system and develop long-term solutions for identified problem areas.
The task force is made up of the departments of Mental Health (DMH), Public Safety, Health and Senior Services (DHSS), and Social Services (DSS). Lt. Governor Peter Kinder and Ron Dittemore, interim director for the Department of Mental Health, serve as co-chairs of the task force.
On June 16, the task force announced five short-term action items to improve investigations of abuse, neglect, and deaths at state-operated mental health facilities and community-based contract agencies.
Ø DMH will ensure that a DMH representative participates in every Child Fatality Review Panel evaluation of deaths of children that occur in DMH licensed or certified facilities.
Ø DMH will report every child death in a DMH facility to the DSS State Technical Assistance Team (STAT), and all child deaths will be investigated by STAT for at least the next 60 days.
Ø All reports of abuse and neglect in DMH facilities will be co-investigated by DMH and the DHSS for the next 60 days.
Ø DMH will immediately notify the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement of any deaths or assaults in a DMH facility.
Ø DMH will propose an administrative rule change that will mandate that all deaths in DMH licensed or certified facilities be reported to the coroner or medical examiner.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Joint Committee on Tax Policy to Meet Next Week

News & Blog
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The Joint Committee on Tax Policy is comprised of five senators and five representatives and is authorized to meet throughout the year. The committee is charged with studying and analyzing current and proposed state tax policy as it relates to fairness and equity, economic impact, the burden on individuals and businesses, etc. To see the complete charge of the joint committee, click here.
The committee will hold its next public hearing Monday, Oct. 30 at the UMKC Conference Center at the Administrative Center on campus. The meeting will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will cover sales/use taxes and tax credits and will include a public comment portion. The UMKC Conference Center is located at 5115 Oak Street, Plaza Room 2nd Floor, Kansas City.
To view the committee’s previous report, click here.
To visit the Joint Committee on Tax Policy website, click here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Missouri Supreme Court Rules Portions of SB 1014 (Voter ID Bill) Unconstitutional

The Missouri Supreme Court on Monday ruled the new law requiring voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot to be unconstitutional, upholding a lower court decision. The photo ID requirement was among the main provisions of Senate Bill 1014 (link) sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City (bio).
Quoting from the Opinion, “The Court en banc holds (1) The trial court properly held that SB 1014’s photo ID requirement violates the equal protection clause of Article I, Section 2 of the state constitution. It also properly held that the photo ID requirement violates the right to vote as guaranteed by Article I, Section 25 of the state constitution, which provides more expansive and concrete protection to the right to vote that the federal constitution...SB 1014’s photo ID requirement fails to pass constitutional scrutiny because it creates a heavy burden on the fundamental right to vote and is not narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest.” For the complete Supreme Court opinion, click the following link: Oct. 16 opinion.
Judge Stephen Limbaugh issued the lone dissenting opinion in the 6-1 ruling, saying the requirements during the transition period from now until 2008 were constitutional. Limbaugh also argued the General Assembly could change the law to address concerns about the cost of obtaining a photo ID card.
Sen. Scott tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he will try to craft a voter ID measure in January that addresses the concerns cited by the court (PD story).
A spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party (link) says the “decision is a direct attack on free and fair elections by activist judges who ignored the will of a majority of Missourians who support the voter identification law.”
A spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party (link) counters that the “Missouri Supreme Court stood up for (the right to vote) today when it struck down attempts to suppress Missourians’ voices through the voter ID law.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Underage Drinking Roundtable Held This Week

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Underage Drinking Roundtable Held This Week

In 2005, lawmakers created new tools to combat underage drinking. August 28, 2006 marked the anniversary of new laws that increased and added penalties on underage drinking that are an attempt to help curb this growing epidemic.
Senate Bill 402 changed misdemeanor penalties to address both the possession and consumption of alcohol by minors. Under the act, a minor can be found guilty of a “minor in possession” if he or she is visibly intoxicated or has a blood alcohol content of more than .02. Any minor found guilty of a “minor in possession” now loses their driver’s license for 30 day for a first offense. The measure also prohibits adults from allowing minors to drink on their private property unless they are the minor’s legal guardian.
Senate Bill 402 was drafted with input from students, parents, community advocates, prosecutors and law enforcement officials. In an effort to determine the success of the new law in curbing underage drinking, Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, is hosting a series of regional roundtables. Participants also will discuss the ease of implementation and if there are further steps that need to be taken.
The roundtables will be hosted at the nine regional Highway Patrol Headquarters located throughout Missouri. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, Troop F in Jefferson City will host a Regional Roundtable on Underage Drinking. The discussion will be held in the Troop F Conference Room located at Troop F headquarters at US 50 and Shamrock Road at 11 a.m. Interested parties from Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Camden, Cole, Cooper, Gasconade, Howard, Miller, Moniteau, Montgomery, Morgan and Osage counties have been invited to participate.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Senators to Promote English as Official Language

Senators to Promote English as Official Language

A group of Missouri Senators will hold news conferences on Friday, Oct. 6 to promote legislation for the 2007 session making English the official state language in Missouri. The draft legislation is identical to House Bill 1814, which was approved by the House and sent to the Senate during the 2006 session. The measure was referred to the Senate Pensions, Veterans’ Affairs and General Laws Committee in early May, but did not receive a hearing in those final two hectic weeks.
The act would require English to be the language of all official proceedings in Missouri, except those occasions where American Sign Language is used for the purpose of communication or education.
Senators Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, are scheduled to discuss the proposed legislation at the Joplin Public Library at 11 a.m. October 6. They will be joined by Senators Norma Champion, R-Springfield, Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vernon, and Dan Clemens, R-Marshfield, at a second news conference at the Springfield Public Library at 1:30 p.m. that afternoon to promote the legislation.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Interim Committee to Hold Field Hearing

Interim Committee to Hold Field Hearing

The Missouri Senate Interim Committee on the Cost of a College Education will hold a hearing next month in Joplin. The five-member committee is studying the role of state funding in higher education, considering alternative methods of funding a college education, and looking at the debt load college students are carrying. The panel will meet October 18 at the Billingsly Student Center, Room 310, Missouri Southern State University, 3950 E. Newman Road, Joplin, Missouri. The public hearing will begin at 1 p.m.. The charge of the interim committee and a list of members is posted below:

Missouri State Senate
Senate Interim Committee on the Cost of a College Education

MEMBERS:
Senators:

Gary Nodler, 32nd, Chairman
Scott Rupp, 2nd
Charlie Shields, 34th
Frank Barnitz, 16th
Chuck Graham, 19th

Established pursuant to the Missouri Constitution.

The committee shall consist of five members, three Republicans and two Democrats, and will be responsible for reviewing the affordability of a college education in this state. The duties of the committee shall be:

1) To consider the role of the state in funding a college education for Missouri students.
2) To examine how higher education is funded in this state and consider alternative funding structures.
3) To examine the mechanism by which tuition rates are set at Missouri institutions of higher learning.
4) To study the utilization of college savings plans by Missouri families.
5) To examine the Gallagher and Guarantee public grant programs and study options for making the state-need-based scholarship programs more efficient and effective.
6) To study student indebtedness resulting from funding a college education.
The committee shall be staffed by counsel from Senate Research and may hold public hearings at locations to be determined by the chairman. Reasonable, actual and necessary expenses of the committee shall be reimbursed by the Missouri Senate.

The committee shall issue a report and make recommendations, as deemed appropriate by a majority of the members of the committee, to the general assembly for legislative action no later than January 26, 2007.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Democrats Fail to Convince Colleagues to Hold Special Session

Democratic leaders in the Missouri House and Senate attempted to bring motions to the floors of their respective chambers during the annual Veto Session calling for a special session to partially reinstate the Medical Assistance for the Working Disabled or MAWD program.
In the Senate, Minority Floor Leader Maida Coleman (link), D-St. Louis, rose to speak on a point of personal privilege and tried to introduce a motion allowing lawmakers to call themselves into special session. Senate Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields (link), R-St. Joseph, cited Article III, Sect. 32 of the Missouri Constitution (link) in arguing that lawmakers convened during the Veto Session could only consider bills vetoed by the governor. Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (link), R-Kirkwood, then ruled the motion out of order.
In the House, Minority Leader Jeff Harris (link), D-Columbia, tried to introduce a similar motion but was ruled out of order by House Speaker Rod Jetton (link), R-Marble Hill.
Special sessions typically run concurrently with the annual Veto Session, and Gov. Matt Blunt (link) had said he would call a special session to partially restore the MAWD program only if lawmakers also agreed to pass legislation targeting Medicaid fraud by providers. The Senate approved a Medicaid provider fraud bill during the 2006 session, but the House refused to accept key provisions of the legislation. Those same objections were raised when a special House committee was formed this summer to try to find a compromise between the House and Senate versions. Since lawmakers could not agree on a Medicaid provider fraud bill, the governor refused to call a special session.
Lawmakers can call themselves into special session (link) if 75 percent of the members of both chambers sign a petition calling for a special session, but they have never managed to muster the necessary signatures to accomplish that.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Missouri Senate to Honor Retiring Members

The Missouri Senate will convene at noon September 13th for the annual Veto Session. Governor Matt Blunt has vetoed line items in four appropriations bills (veto messages), but lawmakers are not expected to muster the two-thirds majority necessary to override the governor’s vetoes. The Veto Session will mark the final chapter in the Senate careers of four retiring members.
Sen. Patrick Dougherty, D-St. Louis, was elected to the Senate in a special election in 2001 and re-elected to a full term in the Senate in 2002. Dougherty is serving his last term in the legislature due to term limits (link, bio).
Sen. Charles Wheeler, D-Kansas City, the only physician serving in the upper chamber, was elected to the Senate in 2002 (link, bio). He retired from the Senate to pursue other elected office.
Sen. David Klindt, R-Bethany, was elected to the Senate in 2001 (link, bio). A farmer and rancher for over 30 years, Sen. Klindt has been named Vice President of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.
Sen. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, was elected to the Senate in a special election in 2001 and re-elected to the 18th District seat in 2002 (link, bio). He is retiring due to term limits.
A retirement ceremony will be held in the Senate chamber at 3 p.m. Wednesday for the four retiring members.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Senate Hearings Scheduled for Week of Veto Session

Senate Hearings Scheduled for Week of Veto Session:

A number of Senate committees and Joint committees have scheduled hearings next week, when lawmakers will return to the Capitol for the annual Veto Session. If the governor vetoes a bill, it is returned to the house of origin with his objections. A two-thirds vote by members of both houses is required to override a governor's veto. To date, Governor Blunt has vetoed four line items in four appropriations bills, all of which originated in the House. To view the Veto Messages from the governor, click the following link:

Veto Messages

During the week of Sept. 11, the following committees will hold public hearings at the Capitol:

Committee: Senate Interim Committee on the Cost of a College Education
Date: Tuesday, September 12 Time: 10:00 AM Room: Senate Lounge

Committee: Joint Committee on Legislative Research
Date: Tuesday, September 12 Time: 2:00 PM Room: House Hearing Room 6
Quarterly business meeting. Some portions of the meeting may be closed pursuant to Section 610.021.

Committee: Joint Committee on Tax Policy
Date: Wednesday, September 13 Time: 9:00 AM Room: House Hearing Room 1
Sales Tax Cases Presentation - DOR
Clayton Property Tax Issue - Paul Fedchack, CFO of Clayton School District
Personal & Corporate Income Tax

Committee: Senate Interim Commiittee on 21st Century Choice in Technology
Date: Wednesday, September 13 Time: 9:00 AM Room: SCR 2
Topic: The financial, legal, social, taxation, environmental, and technological issues of 21st century telecommunications, cable television, and all Internet services.

Committee: Senate Interim Committee on Pandemic Preparedness
Date: Wednesday, September 13 Time: UPON ADJOURNMENT Room: SCR 1
Organization meeting

Committee: Joint Committee on Corrections
Date: Thursday, September 14 Time: 8:00 AM Room: SCR 2
The Committee will hear presentations from the Department of Corrections



Committee: Administration, Gibbons, Chair
Date: Thursday, September 14 Time: 9:00 AM Room: Room 326
Pursuant to Section 610.022.2 relating to closed meetings and Section 610.021(3) relating to personnel matters, a vote may be taken to hold a closed meeting to discuss personnel issues.

Committee: Senate Interim Committee on the Missouri State Public Defender System
Date: Thursday, September 14 Time: 1:00 PM Room: Senate Lounge
Discussion

For a complete listing of committee members and the duties of each committee, visit the Senate website:

http://www.senate.mo.gov/

Click on the “Committees” button on the left side of the page.

Monday, August 28, 2006

New Laws Take Effect Today

New Laws Take Effect Today

Most legislation passed by the Missouri General Assembly and signed by the governor becomes effective today. About 130 news laws are on the books this year, including a measure requiring voters to present a photo I.D. before casting a ballot (SB 1014), legislation requiring drivers to move over when approaching emergency vehicles (SB 872), and legislation restricting the use of eminent domain (HB 1944).
The Missouri Constitution designates August 28th as the effective date of legislation signed into law by the governor, unless the measure contains an emergency clause (EC). Those bills become effective upon the governor’s signature, such as Senate Bill 578 restricting protests at funeral services, which took effect February 27th when Acting Governor Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, signed the bill into law (SB 578).
For a complete list of legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor, click the following link: 2006 Legislation.

Missouri Constitution:
Article III LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT Section 29 August 28, 2005
Effective date of laws--exceptions--procedure in emergencies and upon recess.
Section 29. No law passed by the general assembly, except an appropriation act, shall take effect until ninety days after the adjournment of the session in either odd-numbered or even-numbered years at which it was enacted. However, in case of an emergency which must be expressed in the preamble or in the body of the act, the general assembly by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each house, taken by yeas and nays may otherwise direct; and further except that, if the general assembly recesses for thirty days or more it may prescribe by joint resolution that laws previously passed and not effective shall take effect ninety days from the beginning of the recess.
Source: Const. of 1875, Art. IV, § 36.
(Amended November 3, 1970)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Senate Interim Committee on Missouri State Public Defender System Adds Hearing

Senate Interim Committee on Missouri State Public Defender System Adds Hearing

The Senate Interim Committee on the Missouri State Public Defender System has scheduled an additional public hearing for Friday, August 25 in the Senate Lounge. The hearing will begin at noon. In testimony presented during the first public hearing on August 10, the acting director of the public defender system told senators the system is in crisis. To review a previous posting about the August 10 hearing, click the link:

http://www.senate.state.mo.us/05info/press-room/Documents/2006/PublicDefenderSystemiCrisis081006.doc

The members of the committee and its charge are listed below:


MEMBERS:
Senators:
Jack Goodman, 29th, Chairman
Michael Gibbons, 15th
Luann Ridgeway, 17th
Joan Bray, 24th
Chuck Graham, 19th
Established pursuant to the Missouri Constitution.
The committee shall consist of five members, three Republicans and two Democrats, and will be responsible for reviewing the current effectiveness of the Missouri State Public Defender System. The duties of the committee shall be:
1) To study the causes and implications of the significant increase in caseloads and to develop proposals to reduce the number of caseloads.
2) To review the standards and eligibility requirements for those to whom a public defender might be assigned.
3) To study attorney turnover rates, staffing and personnel issues, and compensation practices.
4) To evaluate the Missouri State Public Defender System's organizational practices including, but not limited to: overhead, office location, technology, and distribution of resources.
The committee shall be staffed by counsel from Senate Research and may hold public hearings at locations to be determined by the chairman. Reasonable, actual and necessary expenses of the committee shall be reimbursed by the Missouri Senate.
The committee shall issue a report and make recommendations, as deemed appropriate by a majority of the members of the committee, to the general assembly for legislative action no later than January 26, 2007.
The committee also will hold a public hearing on September 14 at 1p.m. in the Senate Lounge.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Senators Discuss Immigration Reform

In the August edition of Capitol Dialogue, two Missouri state senators discuss the impact of illegal immigration on the state and possible legislative solutions. Sen. Bill Alter, R-High Ridge, sponsored Senate Bill 1250 in the 2006 session. The measure would prohibit employers from hiring undocumented workers, prevent illegal immigrants from receiving state or local public assistance (except for state or local public assistance that is mandated by federal law), and it would allow state highway patrol officers to receive training in federal immigration law (Senate Bill 1250). SB 1250 was amended and approved by the Missouri Senate, but died in the House in the last week of session. Sen. Alter discusses immigration reform with Sen. Tim Green, D-Spanish Lake, in this month’s edition of Capitol Dialogue.
Hosted by Missourinet News Director Bob Priddy, Capitol Dialogue is a monthly 30-min. television program about the Missouri General Assembly. The program is broadcast by cable access and community television stations across Missouri. Streaming video also is available at the following link: Capitol Dialogue

Monday, August 07, 2006

Missouri Senate Committee Hearings For Week of 080706

Missouri Senate Committee Hearings For Week of 080706
Senate Interim Committee on the Missouri State Public Defender System
Thursday, August 10 Time: 12:00 PM Room: Senate Lounge
The duties of the committee shall be:
1) To study the causes and implications of the significant increase in caseloads and to develop proposals to reduce the number of caseloads.
2) To review the standards and eligibility requirements for those to whom a public defender might be assigned.
3) To study attorney turnover rates, staffing and personnel issues, and compensation practices.
4) To evaluate the Missouri State Public Defender System's organizational practices including, but not limited to: overhead, office location, technology, and distribution of resources.
The committee shall be staffed by counsel from Senate Research and may hold public hearings at locations to be determined by the chairman. Reasonable, actual and necessary expenses of the committee shall be reimbursed by the Missouri Senate.
The committee shall issue a report and make recommendations, as deemed appropriate by a majority of the members of the committee, to the general assembly for legislative action no later than January 26, 2007.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Senate Committee Hearings for the Week of 07/31/06:

Committee: Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering
Date: Monday, July 31 Time: 11:00 AM Room: Senate Lounge

Subject: Illegal Gaming Devices

The committee shall be responsible for, but not limited to, legislative review of all state authorized gaming and wagering activities including proposed constitutional and statutory changes or other pertinent information that may affect the integrity of these activities. The committee is authorized to meet and act year round, employ the necessary personnel within the limits of appropriations and to report its findings annually to the general assembly.


Committee: Joint Committee on Tax Policy
Date: Tuesday, August 1 Time: 10:30 AM Room: Teleconference Call
Subject: Consideration of FY 2007 JCTP Budget

It shall be the duty of the committee:
(1) To make a continuing study and analysis of the current and proposed tax policy of this state as it relates to:
(a) Fairness and equity;
(b) True economic impact;
(c) Burden on individuals and businesses;
(d) Effectiveness of tax expenditures;
(e) Impact on political subdivisions of this state;
(f) Agreements and contracts with the federal government, other states and territories, political subdivisions, and private entities relating to the collection and administration of state and local taxes and fees;
(g) Compliance with the state and United States Constitution and federal and international law; and
(h) The effects of interstate commerce;
(2) To make a continuing study and review of the department of revenue, the department of economic development, the state tax commission, and any other state agency, commission, or state executive office responsible for the administration of tax policies;
(3) To study the effects of the coupling or decoupling with the federal income tax code as it relates to the state income tax;
(4) To make recommendations, as and when the committee deems fit, to the general assembly for legislative action or to report findings and to the departments, commissions, and offices for administrative or procedural changes;
(5) To study the effects of a sales tax holiday; and
(6) To examine and assess the public benefit of any tax credit program that is the subject of an audit by the state auditor pursuant to section 620.1300, RSMo, and provide a report to the general assembly and the governor with the committee's findings and recommendations, if any, regarding such tax credit program within six months of receiving the audit report.
Committee: Senate Interim Committee on Certificate of Need
Date: Tuesday, August 1 Time: 1:00 PM Room: Senate Lounge Subject: Organizing/Purpose of the committee, testimony
Discussion will include proponents of CON, results from states that have eliminated and/or reinstated CON, effects of completely eliminating CON, and a 20 minute presentation by Thomas R. Piper, Director, Missouri Certificate of Need Program regarding the background of CON on the state and national level, and the current status of CON in Missouri for hospitals, medical facilities, equipment, and long term care.

Committee: Senate Interim Commiittee on 21st Century Choice in Technology
Date: Friday, August 4 Time: 1:00 PM Room: Long Memorial Hall, 110 W. Columbia, Farmington

Subject: The technological and economic impact of deregulation and increasing competition in energy production, distribution and sale on residents, businesses and other stakeholders.

The duties of the committee shall be:
1) To study the use of technology to improve education and rural medical care and the implications of improved technology on competition and consumer choice.
2) To examine the financial, legal, social, taxation, environmental, and technological issues of 21st century telecommunications, cable television, and all Internet services.
3) To review and develop an understanding regarding the recent changes by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission and how these changes affect this state.
4) To evaluate the technological and economic impact of deregulation and increasing competition in energy production, distribution and sale on residents, businesses, and other stakeholders.
5) To explore assistive technology for disabled, aged, and blind individuals, specifically as it relates to Relay Missouri.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lawmakers Continue to Work During Interim

A fair number of Missourians probably assume that once the annual legislative session ends in May, lawmakers return to the private sector for the rest of the year. While it is true that many lawmakers return to their “second” jobs as doctors, lawyers, or farmers, the duties and responsibilities of Missouri legislators continue throughout the year.
In the Missouri Senate, most members serve on one or more interim committees, which meet during the summer and fall to gather public input and draft legislation to be considered in the next session. The Senate Interim Committee on the Cost of a College Education, for example, will meet this summer to consider the role of the state in funding a college education for Missouri students. Committee members will examine how higher education is funded in this state and consider alternative funding structures, they will examine the mechanism by which tuition rates are set at Missouri institutions of higher learning, and they will study student indebtedness resulting from funding a college education. Other Senate interim committees will examine adoption promotion and child support enforcement, wellness promotion in healthcare, and pandemic preparedness.
Health care issues are typically addressed each legislative session. Some legislative ideas may come from the Senate Interim Committee on Certificate of Need, which will hold a public hearing at the state Capitol building August 1st. Certificate of Need is an effort to contain costs, improve quality and increase access for many of Missouri’s major health care services.
The interim committee is tasked with a number of duties, including:
- evaluating options that would limit or repeal the application of certificate of need requirements for hospitals and other healthcare facilities
- evaluate the impact of physician ownership and self-referral in healthcare
- examine the effect of the current certificate of need law on consumer choice
- evaluate the effect of the certificate of need law on flexibility in developing alternative healthcare delivery systems that are sufficient to meet the needs of the expanding elderly population, and
- explore the impact of various changes to the certificate of need law on competition in the healthcare market.
The committee must issue a report and make recommendations for legislation by January 26, 2007.
The Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering will hold a hearing July 31 in the Senate Lounge to consider legislative responses to the growth of illegal gambling devices in Missouri.
To access the Senate hearing schedule, click on the following link:
senate hearing schedule.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Latest Senate Bills Signed by Governor Blunt

Latest Senate Bills Signed by Governor Blunt

7/12 SB 618 Provides that electronic access cards may be issued to custodial parents for disbursement of child support payments Koster
7/12 SB 641 Requires all contributions to the Missouri Higher Education Savings Program be held for twelve months Scott
7/12 SB 778 Raises fees for registration of boats, vessels Ridgeway
7/12 SB 834 Alters various provisions of the state's special education policy Nodler
7/12 SB 1146 Modifies the process for review of an administrative agency's decisions Ridgeway
7/10 SB 616 Prescribes requirements for assisted living facilities Stouffer
7/10 SB 840 Modifies the highway and bridge naming process Stouffer
7/10 SB 892 Modifies law relating to financial institutions Scott
7/10 SB 894 Renders multiple alterations to the state's education policy Nodler
7/10 SB 900 Modifies provisions on the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Fund Shields
7/10 SB 1002 Allows the imposition of an additional fee for drainage districts Mayer
7/10 SB 1066 Allows certain telecomm. companies the opportunity to request waiver that tariff be filed to reduce rates Klindt
7/10 SB 1208 Modifies law allowing corporations to amend their articles of incorporation
Koster
7/7 SB 567 Modifies provisions relating to health insurance Dougherty

Monday, July 10, 2006

Latest Legislative News

A bill drafted and advanced by Sen. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis, expanding healthcare insurance coverage for Missourians has been signed into law by the governor.
Sen. Dougherty’s healthcare accessibility initiative makes insurance coverage more available and affordable for patients and employers by requiring health insurance companies to provide coverage for routine patient-care costs incurred as the result of phase II clinical trials undertaken to treat cancer. The law as it stood required coverage for clinical phases III or IV. Clinical trials help identify the best care for cancer patients and often lead to cures.
The bill represents the final piece of legislation Sen. Dougherty will handle over his 28-year legislative career due to term limits, which prevent him from serving longer.
The legislation also requires health insurers to charge only one co-payment on a prescription if the required single dosage is not available and a combination of dosage amounts must be dispensed to fill the prescription.
The bill, now set to take effect August 28, also offers more flexibility to employers when it comes to health care insurance coverage. Currently, employers may provide or contract for health insurance at a reduced premium rate for employees who do not smoke or use tobacco products. This act allows employers to provide or contract for health insurance at a reduced deductible level for such employees.

Today, Monday July 10, Governor Blunt will sign Senate Bill 616, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton. SB 616 repeals the terms "residential care facility I" and "residential care facility II" and replaces them with "residential care facility" and the newly created term “assisted living facility," respectively. Assisted living facilities contain services consisting of social models based on the premise that the resident's unit is his or her home. There are new definitions for "activities of daily living" which include eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, transferring, and walking and for "instrumental activities of daily living" which consist of preparing meals, shopping for personal items, medication management, managing money, using the telephone, housework, and transportation ability. There are also new definitions for "appropriately trained and qualified individuals," "community based assessment" and "social model of care."
This act prescribes requirements for assisted living facilities in order to accept or retain individuals. An individual in a facility must not require hospitalization or skilled nursing. The facility must employ a staff large enough and skilled enough to handle twenty-four hour care. The facility must also have a written plan for the protection of all residents in the event of a disaster. The signatures of an authorized representative of the facility and the resident or legal representative shall be contained in the individualized service plan. The facility must implement self-care and leisure activity programs.
The act repeals the requirement that residential care facilities can only admit persons who are capable mentally and physically of negotiating a normal path to safety under certain conditions. This acts now allows for an assisted living facility to accept or retain an individual with a physical, cognitive, or other impairment that prevents the resident from safely evacuating the residence with minimal assistance so long as the facility has sufficient staff present twenty-four hours a day to assist in evacuations and contains an individualized evacuation plan for such a resident. The facility shall also be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system, an automated fire door system and smoke alarms compliant with national fire codes. This act also provides a licensed hospice exception to the pathway to safety provisions. For more information on SB 616, visit the following link:http://www.senate.mo.gov/06info/BTS_Web/Bill.aspx?SessionType=R&BillID=116

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Latest Senate Bills Signed by Governor Blunt

Latest Senate Bills Signed by Governor Blunt

6/30 SB 583 Emissions inspection program Griesheimer
6/30 SB 1023 Modifies the laws relating to DNA Profiling Analysis and resulting restitution Gibbons
6/30 SB 1189 Creates the Holocaust Education and Awareness Commission Gibbons
6/29 SB 667 Memorial Highways Engler
6/29 SB 701 Modifies educational assistance benefits for Missouri National Guard members Crowell
6/29 SB 749 Modifies minimum experience requirements for interior designer registration Engler
6/29 SB 756 Modifies requirements for licensing and registration of certain professionals Clemens
6/29 SB 819 Modifies licensure requirements for professional engineers and land surveyors Scott
6/29 SB 825 Investment District Koster
6/29 SB 828 Repeals the sunset provision for dental hygienists Scott
6/29 SB 830 Military Leave Ridgeway
6/29 SB 871 St. Louis City Retirement System Coleman
6/29 SB 872 "Move Over" Law Gibbons
6/29 SB 881 Land Conveyance Engler
6/29 SB 934 Barber shop licensure Engler
6/29 SB 980 Modifies the student loan program for nursing students Clemens
6/29 SB 990 Memorial Highways Vogel
6/29 SB 1017 State Milk Board Clemens
6/29 SB 1020 Fuel Storage Tanks Vogel
6/29 SB 1057 Physical Therapists Loudon
6/29 SB 1059 Officer Thomas G. Smith Jr. Memorial Highway Kennedy
6/29 SB 1060 Military Family Relief Kennedy
6/29 SB 1139 Sergeant William McEntee Memorial Highway Gibbons
6/29 SB 1177 Allows a local registrar to be an employee of either a county or city health agency Callahan
6/29 SB 1197 Allows sixteen-year olds to donate blood with parental permission Wheeler
6/29 SB 1216 Modifies the law relating to travel clubs Goodman

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More signed legislation by Gov. Blunt

Senate Bills Signed by Gov. Blunt

6/21 SB 612 Land conveyance Engler
6/21 SB 747 Car dealers Klindt
6/21 SB 845 Corporations Kennedy
6/21 SB 870 Appropriations payments Mayer
6/21 SB 893 Tax: corporate Scott
6/21 SB 964 Modifies provisions regarding the appointment and duties of assistant adjutant general Crowell
6/21 SB 1086 Police Officers Kennedy
6/21 SB 1122 Land conveyance Shields
6/21 SB 1165 Water pollution Klindt

Monday, June 19, 2006

Senate Bills signed by Governor Blunt

6/12 SB 580 - Shields - Creates a more effective education system
6/12 SB 614 - Stouffer - Income tax credit for contributions to residential treatment agencies
6/12 SB 645 - Griesheimer - Modifies the Missouri Business Use Incentive for large-Scale Development Act (BUILD)
6/12 SB 650 - Champion - Revises requirements for terms of government board of MO State University
6/12 SB 678 - Gross - Repeals the quarterly tax collections report requirement for temporary tax collection
6/12 SB 718 - Crowell - Revises the loan requirements be contingent on a borrower’s reliable means of repayment
6/12 SB 765 - Dougherty - Enacts provisions relating to emergency medical treatment
6/12 SB 822 -Gross - Nursing facility reimbursement allowance, and Medicaid managed care reimbursement allowance sunsets
6/12 SB 912 - Goodman - Authorizes establishment of virtual school
6/12 SB 919 - Scott - Repeals statute permitting city council of a third-class city to prohibit carrying concealed weapons
6/12 SB 936 - Vogel - County library boards may issue bonds for up to 5% (was 1%) of value of property within district
6/12 SB 1003 - Mayer - Authorizes the Governor to convey state property
6/12 SB 1045 - Goodman - Statute of limitations for recovery of lands does not extend to lands help by public utilities
6/12 SB 1084 - Gibbons - Extends the sunset for the healthcare for uninsured children program
6/12 SB 1094 - Champion - Authorizes governing body to dissolve special business district
6/12 SB 1155 - Stouffer - Technical advisory committee on the quality of patient care and nursing practices sunset
6/12 SB 1207 - Mayer - Allows New Madrid County to impose an additional sales tax
6/12 SB 1229 - Champion - Tax credits for children in crisis and adoption tax credit 6/13 SB 1026 - Cauthorn - Lt. Gov. to administer certain veterans programs
6/14 SB 932 - Scott - Creates new age/residency requirements for county treasurer candidates
6/14 SB 1001 - Griesheimer - Exempts drivers over 65 from showing proof of lawful presence for driver license
6/14 SB 1008 - Klindt - Governor’s Advisory Council on Agriculture Science and Technology 6/14 SB 1014 - Scott - Missouri Voter Protection Act

Monday, June 12, 2006

Governor Signs Education Legislation

Governor Signs Education Legislation
June 06, 2006

Governor Matt Blunt today signed two bills that originated in the Missouri Senate which will enhance educational opportunities for Missouri students and achieve a more efficient and effective educational system.
Senate Bill 912, sponsored by Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, requires the State Board of Education to establish a virtual public school by July 1, 2007. Any student in kindergarten through grade 12 may enroll in the virtual school, regardless of where that student lives. Supporters say the Internet-based school could be used by a variety of students — the sick, the disabled, home-schooled students, students who are failing in a traditional classroom or those who need a more challenging curriculum. Students will be allowed to enroll full time in the virtual school or take just a course or two.
Governor Blunt also signed Senate Bill 580, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, which requires collaboration among various state agencies to achieve a more efficient and effective education system. The act calls on the Commissioner of Higher Education, the chair of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, the president of the State Board of Education, and the director of the Department of Economic Development to meet and discuss ways their respective departments can work together to improve the state education system to better prepare students for the challenges of entering the workforce.

Other Senate Bills Signed:

6/9
SB 558
Removes termination date for experimental tariffs for schools
Gibbons
6/9
SB 559
Municipality/government/public corporation created under MO law or US considered a person
Gibbons
6/9
SB 561
Limits amount of expenditures of revenue from gaming board admission fees
Gross
6/9
SB 578
Makes it unlawful to protest activities near funeral services
Shields
6/9
SB 630
Eligibility requirements for properties owned by unmarried people as joint tenants
Gross
6/9
SB 648
Changes wording from “lunatic asylums” to “mental health facilities”
Champion
6/9
SB 677
Cleans up statute by deleting duplicative duties by Committee on Radiation Control
Gross
6/9
SB 725
Permit underage culinary students to taste, but not consume, certain alcoholic beverages
Bray
6/9
SB 751
Allow political subdivision to sell property purchased from school district for any purpose after 25 years
Stouffer
6/9
SB 785
Jailer may serve arrest warrant on inmate already in custody
Alter
6/9
SB 809
Provides municipalities option of adopting zoning regulations of county in lieu of their own
Graham
6/9
SB 837
Revises membership on governing bodies that administer insurance programs
Loudon
6/9
SB 863
Includes municipal fire departments in definition of volunteer fire protection association
Engler
6/9
SB 931
Property owners once vote per acre when electing directors for transportation development district
Scott
6/9
SB 933
Duty of appointing railroad policemen to Director of Public Safety from Highway Patrol
Scott
6/9
SB 974
Mental health waitlist for services
Shields
6/9
SB 981
Authorizes the superintendent to issue general orders for highway patrol members for secondary employ
Goodman
6/9
SB 1016
Requires county commissions to set tax rates by Sept. 20
Gross
6/9
SB 1056
Revises method of how community improvement districts may impose sales taxes
Griesheimer
6/9
SB 1117
Moves MO RX Plan Advisory Commission to DSS
Stouffer
5/31
SB 769
Permits school districts meeting certain criteria to make a one-time additional fund transfer and to reduce their school terms
Mayer
5/19
SB 802
Defines the term “owner,” “registered voter” and “voter” when used in provisions about certain sewer districts
Shields

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Selected Key Dates





Following are selected dates leading up to the next legislative session.

For more information on these dates, or on any legislative matter, call Senate Communications at: (800) 877-5982.

Or visit Senate Communications online at:
www.senate.mo.gov/sencom

May
30 Constitutional Adjournment of the Year’s Regular Session.

June
30 2006 Fiscal Year Ends.

July
01 Secretary of the Senate Begins Accepting Bills.
01 2007 Fiscal Year Begins.
14 Last Day for the Governor to Veto Bills.

August
08 Primary Elections. (6 for Senate Seats)
28 Effective Date for (Most) Enacted Bills.

September
12 Veto Session Convenes, if one or more vetoes exist.

November
07 General Elections. (17 for Senate Seats)

December
01 Secretary of the Senate Begins Numbering Prefiled Bills.

January, 2007
03 First Regular Session of the 94th General Assembly Convenes.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Lawmakers Approve Voter ID, Ethanol Standard in Final Week

Campaign-finance reform, sex-offender legislation also passes

Jefferson City — In the final week of the legislative session, lawmakers worked late into the night on several occasions to compromise on and pass legislation before the 6 p.m. Friday deadline. One particularly contentious bill makes changes to state laws affecting voters.

The General Assembly gave final passage to Senate legislation requiring Missourians to submit a government-issued photographic identification card in order to vote. SB 1014 prohibits individuals from using paychecks, utility bills or bank statements as valid identification. The bill also requires the state to issue photo IDs to all citizens who cannot afford them.

SB 1014 contains several exemptions to the photo-ID requirement for the 2006 elections. Under the latest version, elderly and mentally and physically disabled Missourians, those with a “sincerely held” religious opposition to photo IDs, and individuals 65 or older can still vote in this year’s elections if they sign an authorized affidavit affirming their identity. Individuals without photo IDs can also vote in 2006 elections if their identity is affirmed by election officials at the polling station. Those without photo IDs can also cast a provisional ballot if they have a non-photo ID and sign an affidavit. All exemptions would be cancelled after the 2006 elections.

Lawmakers also agreed to legislation requiring most gasoline sold in Missouri to contain a 10 percent ethanol blend. House Bill 1270 requires the ethanol standard to be in place by Jan. 1, 2008. Jet fuel and premium gasoline are exempt from the measure, and the mandate would be suspended if ethanol blends cost more than regular unleaded gasoline. Ethanol is a motor fuel derived from agricultural products, such as corn.

Wide-ranging legislation affecting how candidates raise money for political campaigns has also been approved. House Bill 1900 removes spending limits on individual contributions to candidates as a way to make campaign donations more open to the public. Currently, individual contributions are capped at $325 for House candidates, $650 for Senate candidates and $1,275 for statewide candidates. However, there are no caps on donations to political party committees, which can contribute to candidates much more than can individuals. As a result, contributors can donate large sums to party committees, which then pass on the donations to candidates. In turn, supporters say, there is no way to tell how much individual contributors are giving to candidates. Opponents say contribution limits help level the playing field for female and minority candidates, who cannot draw on the same financial support as others.

Also under the bill, lobbyists must report each legislator for whom they have bought meals or gifts and cannot report caucuses as recipients. Currently, 10 or more lawmakers can organize as a caucus, which disguises who is receiving gifts. HB 1900 also requires lawmakers to file electronic campaign-finance reports and prohibits fundraising during the legislative session.

A House bill imposing harsher penalties on sex offenders also received final approval. HB 1698 imposes mandatory life sentences against certain repeat sex offenders, establishes a toll-free hotline to report sexual abuse and allows probation and parole officers to have access to registered sex offenders’ personal computers to look for evidence of child pornography. The measure also enhances penalties against those convicted of certain forcible sexual offenses, denies bail to those convicted of child molestation or possession of child pornography, and establishes a grant program to fund the hiring and training of online detectives to investigate those who use the Internet to lure children.

HB 1698 also changes some standards of who is included on the statewide sex offender registry. Under the bill, some new offenses are to be included in the registry, while various nonsexual crimes no longer require offenders to be registered.

A measure changing some state highway-safety regulations has also been approved. The most contentious provision of SB 872 requires children up to age 8 to be seated in child booster seats while in automobiles. The legislation imposes various child-restraint requirements specific to four different height and weight classifications. Supporters of the requirement say seat belts do not adequately protect children. Opponents call it government overreach and cite the cost and inconvenience to parents.

SB 872 also increases fines for various offenses that occur within highway work or construction zones and creates the crime of “endangerment of a highway worker.” In addition, the measure stiffens penalties against motorists who fail to move over when approached by an emergency vehicle or do not move over when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle. SB 872 also imposes an additional fine and driving suspension on any person who fails to yield the right-of-way when the violation results in physical injury or death.

Lawmakers also sent to the governor a bill implementing a new avenue to public education for Missouri students. SB 912 establishes a virtual school program that utilizes the Internet to reach children at home for a variety of reasons. Virtual schools are intended to be used by students who are temporarily homebound or who want to take advanced courses not offered in their school districts. Under the program, students use a personal computer to access lessons modeled on in-class instruction. An estimated 2 to 4 percent of the public school body would be enrolled. Virtual schools would be subject to all laws applicable to Missouri public school districts.

Friday marked the final day of the Second Regular Session of the 93rd Missouri General Assembly. In 2006, 700 bills were introduced in the Senate, and 93 were passed by both chambers. Of the 23 Senate Joint Resolutions introduced, one has been truly agreed to. Lawmakers convene again in 2007 for the First Regular Session of the 94th Missouri General Assembly.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Lawmakers Agree on Bill Limiting Use of Eminent Domain

Legislation sets requirements for fair compensation

Jefferson City — Lawmakers from the Senate and House agreed to legislation modifying state laws on eminent domain.

The House bill tightens state law concerning the use of eminent domain. HB 1944 prohibits eminent domain from being used solely for economic development. The legislation also prohibits farmland from being considered “blighted.”

HB 1944 also requires factors such as fair market value and heritage value to be considered when deciding fair compensation for property taken through eminent domain. Those who have had their homes taken by a condemning authority are required to receive 25 percent more than the home’s value. Under the heritage value provision, homes, farms or businesses that have been in the same extended family for at least 50 years will automatically receive an additional 50 percent of the land’s value. The bill is on its way to the governor.

The General Assembly gave final approval to the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 of this year. The budget, made up of HBs 1001-1013, represents Missouri’s expected appropriations and revenues for the 2007 fiscal year. The approximately $20.8 billion budget is now on its way to the governor.

The budget is marked by a 4 percent pay raise for state employees and the return of some state health-care services compromised last year. Services that had been subject to appropriations last year, such as funding for eyeglasses and wheelchair components for adult Medicaid recipients, are now guaranteed.

Also under the spending plan, Missouri’s K-12 funding formula will receive an additional $142 million and $25 million will go toward the new Healthcare Technology Fund, to invest in electronic medical services. Among state departments, the Department of Social Services receives the most funding with an approximately $6.2 billion appropriation. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will receive $5 billion, and $2.6 billion will go to the Missouri Department of Transportation. Higher education will collect $1.07 billion.

House legislation changing Missouri laws on sex offenders was approved by the Senate. HB 1698 imposes mandatory life sentences against certain repeat sex offenders, establishes a toll-free hotline to report sexual abuse and allows probation and parole officers to have access to registered sex offenders’ personal computers to look for evidence of child pornography. The measure also enhances penalties against those convicted of certain forcible sexual offenses and denies bail to those convicted of child molestation or possession of child pornography.

HB 1698 also changes some standards of who is included on the statewide sex offender registry. Under the bill, some new offenses are to be included in the registry, while various nonsexual crimes no longer require offenders to be registered. The bill has been returned to the House.
The House passed a Senate bill requiring Missourians to submit a government-issued photographic identification card in order to vote. SB 1014 prohibits individuals from using paychecks, utility bills or bank statements as valid identification. The bill also requires the state to issue photo IDs to all citizens who cannot afford them.

The House version of SB 1014 contains several exemptions to the photo-ID requirement for the 2006 elections. Under the latest version, elderly and mentally and physically disabled Missourians, those with a “sincerely held” religious opposition to photo IDs, and individuals 65 or older can still vote in this year’s elections if they sign an authorized affidavit affirming their identity. Individuals without photo IDs can also vote in 2006 elections if their identity is affirmed by election officials at the polling station. Those without photo IDs can also cast a provisional ballot if they have a non-photo ID and sign an affidavit. All exemptions would be cancelled after the 2006 elections.

SB 1014 is now in conference committee, where House and Senate members must agree to a final version of the legislation in order to send it to the governor.

The House and Senate have given final approval to Senate legislation modifying Missouri’s emissions-inspection program. SB 583 decentralizes the emissions-testing program, which applies to residents of the St. Louis metropolitan area, and loosens emissions restrictions on some vehicles. Instead of the specialized emissions-testing stations operating now, certified motor-vehicle repair workers at private repair shops would be able to perform emissions tests. Lawmakers have removed a provision included earlier in the year that would have eliminated a state law requiring drivers to undergo biennial vehicle safety inspections. The bill is on its way to the governor.

Final legislative approval also was given to Senate legislation allowing culinary students to taste, but not consume, certain alcoholic beverages that are part of class curriculum. Both chambers have agreed on SB 725, which allows students who are 18 or older to taste beer, wine and other beverages that are part of a culinary course.

The Missouri Senate will reconvene Monday, May 8, in its final week of session. The Second Regular Session of the 93rd Missouri General Assembly runs through Friday, May 12.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Senators Approve 10 percent Ethanol Requirement

House measure requires ethanol blend for gasoline by 2008

Jefferson City — Senators this week approved legislation requiring most gasoline sold in Missouri to contain a fuel additive derived from agricultural products.

After lengthy debate, which pitted members of the same party against each other, senators this week approved a House measure implementing a 10 percent ethanol standard for unleaded gasoline. House Bill 1270 requires the ethanol standard to be in place by Jan. 1, 2008. Jet fuel and premium gasoline are exempt from the measure, and the mandate would be suspended if ethanol blends cost more than regular unleaded gasoline. Ethanol is a motor fuel derived from agricultural products, most often corn.

Supporters of the bill say it will create new markets for farmers, temper increases in the cost of gasoline, reduce Missouri’s dependence on foreign sources of fuel and protect the environment. Opponents say the market, not state government, should decide whether the fuel additive is widely used. The bill has been returned to the House. The House and Senate must approve identical versions of the legislation for it to be sent to the governor, who has expressed support for an ethanol mandate.

Senators gave final approval to a bill requiring Missourians to submit a government-issued photographic identification card in order to vote. Senate Bill 1014 prohibits potential voters from using paychecks, utility bills or bank statements as valid identification. The bill also requires the state to issue photo IDs to all citizens unable to obtain them for financial reasons.

SB 1014 exempts from the photo-ID requirement voters with disabilities and individuals born before 1941 who have completed an authorized affidavit. The measure, which would take effect this year, contains an exemption for 2006 elections. The bill allows those lacking photo IDs to cast a provisional ballot that would count if they sign an affidavit, present another form of ID and can be verified as registered voters. SB 1014 has been sent to the House.

Legislation implementing stricter laws on illegal immigration this week received final approval from the Senate. SB 1250 requires members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol to receive training on federal immigration laws from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The legislation also allows police officers in Missouri to apprehend illegal immigrants and transfer them to federal immigration officials. Also under the measure, illegal immigrants are prohibited from attending public colleges and universities in Missouri.

A House bill restricting the use of eminent domain this week was approved by the Senate Pensions, Veterans’ Affairs and General Laws Committee. HB 1944 prohibits governments from taking private property “for predominantly economic development purposes.” The measure also requires property to be determined fully blighted before it can be taken by eminent domain and exempts farmland from being designated as blighted. HB 1944 also requires factors such as fair market value, willingness of the owner to sell the property, heritage value, and the costs of relocation to be considered when deciding fair compensation for property taken through eminent domain. Approval by the full Senate sends the bill back to the House.

The Senate Transportation Committee approved House legislation strengthening penalties against Missouri drivers who do not pull over for emergency vehicles. HB 1310 increases the penalty from a class B to a class A misdemeanor for motorists who fail to yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles. If drivers have acted with criminal negligence to cause the death of emergency personnel, they will be charged with second-degree involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault.

The House and Senate gave final approval to a Senate bill changing laws on emergency medical treatment. Under SB 765, consent for an experimental medical treatment is not required if the patient is subject to a life-threatening emergency and the review board responsible for approving the research has endorsed the procedure and a waiver of informed consent. The board must ensure that all exceptions for federal informed consent requirements have been met. The legislation is now on its way to the governor.

Senate legislation creating a new option for public education was approved this week by two House committees. SB 912 establishes a virtual school program to be made available over the Internet. Virtual schools are intended to be used by students who are temporarily homebound or who want to take advanced courses not offered in their districts. Under the program, students would use a personal computer to access lessons modeled on in-class instruction, and an estimated 2 to 4 percent of public school students would be enrolled. Virtual schools would be subject to all laws applicable to Missouri public school districts. Approval by the full House sends the measure back to the Senate.

A Senate bill imposing regulations on various blasting and excavation activities was approved by the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. SB 882 establishes and outlines statewide licensing requirements for the blasting and excavation industry and charges the Missouri Division of Fire Safety with issuing licenses. Blasters must also notify the division, appropriate municipalities, fire-protection officials and nearby residents two days in advance of any explosive excavations.

The House Local Government Committee approved Senate legislation modifying Missouri law on financing development. SB 832 changes laws on tax increment financing, or TIF, which uses tax revenues generated by development projects to help subsidize construction. The practice often is used to redevelop blighted parts of urban areas. SB 832 bans the use of TIF on certain undeveloped, vacant or agricultural lands and on 100-year flood plains. It also permits citizens to petition against some TIF projects and prohibits the use of eminent domain by local governments for certain projects.

The Missouri Senate will reconvene at 2 p.m. Monday, May 1. The Second Regular Session of the 93rd Missouri General Assembly runs through Friday, May 12.

Missouri Senate Approves 10 percent Ethanol Standard

Measure requires regular gasoline to contain corn-based fuel additive

JEFFERSON CITY — Senators on Tuesday, April 25, approved legislation requiring most gasoline sold in Missouri to contain a renewable fuel derived from agricultural products.

After considerable debate between members of the same party, senators this week approved a House measure implementing a 10 percent ethanol standard for unleaded gasoline sold in Missouri. House Bill 1270 requires the ethanol standard to be in place by Jan. 1, 2008.

Ethanol is a motor fuel derived from certain agricultural products, such as corn. All motor vehicles manufactured since the 1970s can run on a 10 percent ethanol blend. Jet fuel and premium gasoline are exempt under HB 1270, and the mandate would be temporarily halted if ethanol blends cost more than regular unleaded gasoline.

Supporters of the bill say it will create new markets for farmers, temper increases in the cost of gasoline, reduce Missouri’s dependence on foreign sources of fuel and protect the environment. Opponents say the market, not government, should decide whether the fuel additive is widely used.

HB 1270 has been returned to the House. The House and Senate must approve identical versions of the legislation for it to be sent to the governor, who has expressed support for an ethanol mandate.

For more information about the Missouri Senate, visit http://www.senate.mo.gov/. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Senate Advances Budget for 2007 Fiscal Year

Thirteen budget bills make up $20.8 billion spending plan

Jefferson City — The Senate this week approved the state budget after receiving the budget bills from the Senate Appropriations Committee. The budget, made up of House Bills 1001-1013, represents Missouri’s expected appropriations and revenues for the 2007 fiscal year, which begins July 1 of this year.

Lawmakers dedicated much of the latter half of the week to passing the approximately $20.8 billion budget, which is marked by a 4 percent pay raise for state employees and the return of some state health-care services compromised last year. Services that had been subject to appropriations last year, such as funding for eyeglasses and wheelchair accessories for adult Medicaid recipients, are now guaranteed.

Under the budget plan approved by the Senate, the Department of Social Services receives the most funding with an approximately $6.2 billion appropriation. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is due to get $5 billion, and the Missouri Department of Transportation will receive $2.6 billion. Higher education is slated to collect $1.1 billion.

Members of the Senate and House now must meet to settle any differences between the budgets they’ve approved. Once passed by a conference committee, the budget bills will return to the House and Senate for final approval before being sent to the governor.

Several other bills also received Senate approval, including legislation modifying Missouri law on financing development. SB 832 revises state law concerning tax increment financing, or TIF. TIF uses tax revenues generated by development projects to help subsidize construction. The practice often is used to redevelop blighted parts of urban areas. SB 832 bans the use of TIF on certain undeveloped, vacant or agricultural lands and on 100-year flood plains, permits citizens to petition in opposition to some TIF projects, and prohibits the use of eminent domain by local governments for certain development projects. The bill has been sent to the House.

The Senate also gave final approval to a bill designed to protect storm victims from unethical insurance practices. An amendment to SB 895 prohibits insurance companies from raising the rates or ceasing to cover Missourians who inquire about or file claims for property damaged by severe weather.

Legislation requiring closer inspections of Missouri dams and reservoirs also received final Senate approval. Among the bill’s provisions, SB 1236 requires all high- and significant-hazard dams to be inspected periodically to determine if they constitute a threat to public safety. The bill also removes regulation exemptions for dams constructed for soil and water conservation, irrigation or wildlife conservation.

A measure requiring Missourians to submit a government-issued photographic identification card in order to vote received initial approval after another round of lengthy debate. SB 1014 prohibits potential voters from using paychecks, utility bills or bank statements as valid identification. The bill also requires the state to issue photo IDs to all citizens unable to obtain them for financial reasons. SB 1014 exempts from the photo-ID requirement voters with disabilities and individuals born before 1941 who have completed an authorized affidavit. Final approval is needed to send the bill to the House.

A bill making changes to state laws concerning illegal immigration was approved this week by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. SB 1250 requires the state to ensure that undocumented immigrants cannot participate in family-literacy, parents-as-teachers, vocational or tutoring programs. The state is also charged with prohibiting any form of financial assistance for non-citizens at Missouri public institutions of higher education. Also under the bill, Missouri law enforcers are authorized to investigate, apprehend, detain, or remove non-citizens located in Missouri.

The House Transportation Committee has approved Senate legislation modifying Missouri’s emissions-inspection program. SB 583 decentralizes the emissions-testing program, which applies to residents of the St. Louis metropolitan area, and loosens emissions restrictions on some vehicles. Instead of the specialized emissions-testing stations now in place, certified motor-vehicle repair workers at private repair shops would be able to perform emissions tests. Approval by the full House would require agreement with the Senate before the bill is sent to the governor.

An omnibus bill reforming state education laws passed the House Higher Education Committee. SB 590 gives the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education power to fine educational institutions that disregard board policies. The board was created to limit redundancy among college curriculum in Missouri, yet it has limited means of enforcement. The bill also calls on state education officials to work together to improve higher education in Missouri and offers tuition grants to Missourians who have served in the Iraq war.

Senate legislation creating a panel to investigate the environmental health of children was approved this week by a House committee. The House Children and Families Committee approved SB 568, which establishes the Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council. The council, which would replace the Advisory Committee on Lead Poisoning, is charged with gathering information on the environmental health and protection of children, evaluating existing environmental health programs and identifying children’s environmental health issues not being addressed, and recommending policies to improve children’s environmental health.

The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this week approved legislation providing funding for umbilical-cord-blood banks and adult stem cell research. SB 774 would use a portion of Missouri’s tobacco-settlement money to establish and expand cord-blood banks and fund research into therapies involving human stem cells derived from non-embryonic and non-fetal sources. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research site umbilical-cord blood and adult stem cells as non-controversial sources of cures for medical conditions.

Legislation creating the “Prevention First Act” also was heard this week by the judiciary committee. SB 943 requires Missouri pharmacies to fill all valid prescriptions, establishes the Women’s Health Services Program to reduce unintended pregnancies, and prohibits governments from interfering with access to safe methods of contraception. The legislation also requires health-care facilities to provide rape victims with emergency contraception, if requested, and allows Missourians to request an investigation by the state auditor into a local school district’s curriculum on human sexuality.

The Missouri Senate will reconvene at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 24. The Second Regular Session of the 93rd Missouri General Assembly runs through Friday, May 12.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Senate Approves Medicaid, Development Reforms

Bills target Medicaid providers and limit use of TIF

Jefferson City — The Missouri Senate this week approved bills to reduce Medicaid fraud at the provider level and tighten tax breaks for developers.

Senate Bill 1210, which received final approval, enhances penalties against health-care providers who commit Medicaid fraud and offers financial incentives to whistleblowers. Under the legislation, penalties for first-time and repeat offenders are increased, those who defraud the system are prohibited from participating in the system and offenders must serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence. The bill also implements felony penalties against those who willfully obstruct Medicaid-fraud investigations. Further, individuals who come forward to identify instances of Medicaid fraud are allowed to keep a portion of the money recovered from any subsequent investigations. The legislation is on its way to the House for similar consideration.

Senators this week gave initial approval to legislation modifying Missouri law on financing development. SB 832 revises state law concerning tax increment financing, or TIF. TIF uses tax revenues generated by new economic development projects to help pay for project construction. The practice often is used to redevelop blighted parts of urban areas. SB 832 bans the use of TIF on certain undeveloped, vacant or agricultural lands and on 100-year flood plains, permits citizens to petition in opposition to some TIF projects, and prohibits the use of eminent domain by local governments for certain development projects. The bill is now slated for a final Senate vote.

Lawmakers also gave final approval to legislation offering restitution to Missourians found to have been wrongfully imprisoned. SB 1023 makes eligible for compensation individuals incorrectly found guilty of a felony and later exonerated due to DNA evidence. Those who have been wrongfully imprisoned may receive $50 for each day they were incarcerated after their conviction. The legislation also bars these individuals from filing lawsuits against the state or any political subdivision.

A bill giving a new look to public education received final approval by the Senate. SB 912 establishes a virtual school program, to be administered via the Internet, to improve the quality of education for certain students. The virtual school would be subject to all laws applicable to Missouri public school districts, and the bill is not designed to replace traditional means of public education or homeschooling. Instead, students who are temporarily homebound or want to take advanced courses not offered in smaller districts would be able to use a computer at home to access lessons based on in-class instruction of students at the same grade level. An estimated 2 to 4 percent of the public school students would be enrolled in the virtual school.

Also receiving final approval was a bill expanding insurance coverage for clinical trials for cancer treatment. SB 567 requires health insurance companies to provide coverage for routine patient-care costs incurred as the result of phase I or II clinical trials undertaken to treat cancer. Current law requires coverage only for phases III or IV.

Legislation designed to protect storm victims from unethical insurance practices has received initial approval. An amendment to SB 895 prohibits insurance companies from raising the rates or ceasing to cover Missourians who inquire about or file claims for property damaged by severe weather.

The Senate Appropriations Committee this week passed the 13 bills that make up the state budget for the 2007 fiscal year, which begins July 1. HBs 1001-1013 contain the approximately $21-billion budget, which is highlighted by funding for the state’s new foundation formula for public schools and a proposed 4-percent pay raise for state workers.

The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee this week approved Senate legislation requiring greater collaboration between state education and workforce-development officials. SB 580 requires the commissioner of Higher Education, the chair of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, the director of the Department of Economic Development and others to meet and discuss ways to achieve a more efficient and effective education system.
The officials are charged with developing a system that more adequately prepares students for the workforce, and they must report their recommendations to the governor and Legislature. Approval by the full House would require agreement with the Senate before the bill is sent to the governor.

A House committee this week approved Senate legislation allowing culinary students to taste, but not consume, certain alcoholic beverages that are part of class curriculum. The House Local Government Committee passed SB 725, which allows students who are 18 or older to taste beer, wine and other beverages that are part of a culinary course.

Legislation making several changes to highway-safety regulations was approved by the House Transportation Committee. SB 872 increases fines for various offenses that occur within highway work or construction zones and creates the crime of “endangerment of a highway worker.” The measure also stiffens penalties against motorists who fail to move over when approaching stationary emergency vehicles and imposes an additional fine and driving suspension on any person who fails to yield the right-of-way when the violation results in physical injury or death.

Legislation making changes to state laws concerning illegal immigration was heard this week by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. SB 1250 requires the state to ensure that undocumented immigrants cannot participate in family literacy, parents-as-teachers, vocational or tutoring programs. The state is also charged with prohibiting any form of financial assistance for non-citizens at Missouri public institutions of higher education. Also under the bill, Missouri law enforcers are authorized to investigate, apprehend, detain, or remove non-citizens located in Missouri.

The Missouri Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, April 18. The Second Regular Session of the 93rd Missouri General Assembly runs through Friday, May 12.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Senate Reforms Medical Malpractice, Expands No-Call List

Controversial cable bill is withdrawn by sponsor

Jefferson City — In a week marked by the withdrawal of one of this year’s most controversial bills, the Missouri Senate took to work on several bills that have not seen many headlines. The sponsor of Senate Bill 816 pulled the legislation, which would have affected how cable and telephone companies compete in cable markets, after lawmakers this week failed to come to a compromise on specific provisions. The Senate went on to pass bills modifying medical malpractice and telemarketing laws.

SB 905, which received final passage from the Senate this week, requires companies that provide medical malpractice insurance to receive state approval for rates. Under the bill, insurers must report rate information to the state insurance director so the Department of Insurance can publish a rate comparison. SB 905 states that rates are not allowed be excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory. The legislation also strengthens penalties against companies that fail to report rate information. The bill has been sent to the House.

A measure protecting consumers from unwanted telecommunications solicitations received final approval this week. SB 613 allows residential and business cell-phone users and residential fax-machine users to sign up with the Missouri No Call list, which keeps the numbers safe from telemarketer calls. Under the bill, telecommunications carriers or customers are allowed to recover damages from those who violate the act. Telecommunications providers that maintain telephone records are also required to establish procedures to protect against fraudulent disclosure of phone records. SB 613 contains an emergency clause, which means it will take effect immediately upon the governor’s approval.

Lawmakers also approved a bill modifying laws concerning water vessels. Under SB 778, vessel owners must provide proof that they have paid personal property taxes when certifying or renewing their vessels. The legislation also raises certain application fees related to vessel certification. A portion of the revenue raised from fees is to be deposited in the newly created Missouri State Water Patrol Fund, which is to be used by the Missouri Water Patrol.

Legislation requiring school districts with low levy rates to contact the state has also received final approval. SB 894 requires school districts with levy rates below the state performance rate to provide written notice to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education asserting whether or not the district is providing an adequate education to its students. The state performance rate is $3.43 per $100 of assessed valuation. If a district states that it is not providing an adequate education, such inadequacy is to be deemed a result of insufficient local effort. Supporters of the bill say it will hold accountable districts that are not meeting the state performance rate, yet are suing the state to receive more education funding. Opponents say the bill works to intimidate low-levy districts and does not account for districts whose residents cannot afford to pay higher property taxes.

Lawmakers also approved legislation modifying state law concerning child abuse investigations. SB 690 prohibits the Missouri Children’s Division from closing a child abuse or neglect investigation if a child subject to the investigation dies during the investigation. The division can close the abuse investigation as soon as any separate investigation regarding the death is completed.

Senators this week gave final approval to legislation creating the Kansas and Missouri Regional Investment District Compact. Under SB 825, the bi-state compact allows the Kansas City metropolitan area to pool funds raised across the region to pay for regional improvements. The bill also creates a governing commission that is charged with working alongside local officials and the public to prepare plans for programs that will benefit the area.

A bill allowing state courts to appoint standby guardians also received final approval by the Senate. SB 596 authorizes courts to appoint a standby guardian to temporarily assume the duties of guardian over a minor child upon the disability, incapacitation or death of an appointing parent or legal guardian. Before the court confirms the appointee, the other parent or another person who has care and custody of the minor may file a written objection to the appointment of the standby guardian. If the parent or guardian should die, the standby guardian may petition the court within 60 days to make a formal guardianship request.

Legislation requiring shipping entities to pay a fee in order to transport radioactive waste through Missouri received initial passage. SB 976 directs shippers to pay $1,800 for each truckload of high-level radioactive waste and $1,300 for the first cask and $125 for each additional cask of waste transported by rail. Shippers are to be charged $125 for each truck or train-car transporting low-level radioactive waste. All revenue is to be deposited in the state’s environmental-radiation monitoring fund. Final approval sends the bill to the House.

First-round approval also was given to legislation regulating various blasting and excavation activities. SB 882 establishes statewide licensing requirements for the blasting and excavation industry. The legislation details the qualifications required of applicants, and the Missouri Division of Fire Safety is charged with issuing licenses. Blasters must also notify the division, appropriate municipalities, fire-protection officials and nearby residents two days in advance of any explosive excavations.

Legislation creating the Urban Flight Scholarship Program was heard by the Senate Education Committee this week. Under SB 920, the program provides scholarships for eligible students who commit to a teacher-education program and agree to teach in an urban or metropolitan Missouri public school with a higher-than-average “at-risk” student population. Students are required to teach for two years for every year they received a scholarship, otherwise the scholarship will be treated as a student loan.

Members of the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industrial Relations Committee heard legislation requiring construction workers to take drug tests before working on school property. Under SB 1149, positive drug tests preclude construction workers from working on school grounds. Employers can also require employee to participate in a drug-abuse program. If employees test negatively, they are not required to undergo another test for one year.

The Missouri Senate will reconvene on Monday, April 10. The Second Regular Session of the 93rd Missouri General Assembly runs through Friday, May 12.