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

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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.