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.