Thursday, September 27, 2007

Joint Committee on Tax Policy Meets in Kansas City

Senators Join Fellow Lawmakers to Discuss Missouri’s Tax Policies

JEFFERSON CITY — Members of the Joint Committee on Tax Policy met this week to discuss updates, review recommendations, and listen to testimony on Missouri’s current tax policies. The meeting, which took place in Kansas City, focused on a variety of tax credits and property tax practices throughout the state.
The Joint Committee on Tax Policy was established in 2004 to conduct a continuous study and analysis of current and proposed tax policy in Missouri with a special focus on fairness, economic impact, effectiveness, and burden on taxpayers. Since its inception, the committee has issued reports on property taxation and assessment, sales tax on services, income tax, sales and use tax, and tax credits. The committee continues to study these and other issues relating to taxes in the state.
This week, the committee reviewed tax credits for the use of wood energy, the production of charcoal, the recycling of flexible cellulose casings, and senior citizens’ property. The Missouri State Assessors Association and Missouri State Tax Commission also discussed property tax issues affecting the state and its citizens. A section for public testimony was included on the agenda so that citizens could express their views and concerns.
For more information about this and other legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.
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Blue Ribbon Autism Panel to Hold Final Public Hearing

JEFFERSON CITY — The Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism, chaired by Sen. Scott T. Rupp, R-Wentzville, will hold its final public hearing Friday, September 28 in Kansas City. The hearing will be held in the Plaza Room of the Administrative Center on the UMKC campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The panel will hear expert testimony from insurance representatives, as well as specialists in reimbursement and executives from the Department of Mental Health. The public is invited to testify at the hearing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The 16-member Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism is comprised of lawmakers, parents, doctors, and health officials and is charged with determining the state of autism in Missouri. Panel members have been looking at services, teaching, training and research and will make recommendations for improving the quality of life for those with autism and their families.
After completing the meetings, the panel will issue a report to Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, by October 31st.
Members of the public wishing to testify at Friday’s hearing should contact Sen. Rupp’s office at (573) 751-1282 or by email at mdestefano@senate.mo.gov to set up a time to testify.For more information about this event or legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Senators Appointed to Chronic Kidney Disease Task Force

JEFFERSON CITY — Two Missouri Senators were appointed to the Chronic Kidney Disease Taskforce this week, which was created through Senate Bill 577, an omnibus healthcare package that went into effect on August 28. Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) has appointed Sen. Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon) and Sen. Harry Kennedy (D-St. Louis) to fulfill the Senate’s role on the committee.
The taskforce will consist of at least 17 members including lawmakers from both legislative bodies, physicians, healthcare providers, and patients. Additional members of the group can be selected by the chair, who will be chosen by the members of the taskforce.
The group will meet throughout the upcoming months in order to develop an educational plan for highlighting the advantages and methods of early screening for chronic kidney disease. The taskforce will also make recommendations on the implementation of a plan for early screening, diagnosis, and treatment for people in Missouri. A report containing any applicable information and recommendations will be submitted to the General Assembly by August 30, 2008.
Chronic kidney disease results in gradual loss of kidney function over time and can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, or a primary disease of the kidneys. Numbers of Americans suffering from chronic kidney disease are on the rise with 16.8 percent of all adults — one in six individuals— suffering from chronic kidney disease according to the Center for Disease Control. Approximately 67,000 people die each year because of kidney failure.
For more information about this and other legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Senate Committees Meet During Week of Veto Session

Discussions of Consumer Protections, Judicial Selection Process, and Sheriffs’ Compensation among Committee Topics

The Senate convened for a veto session this week, although most work on House Bill 327, the only bill vetoed by the governor, was completed during a special session in August. Since the constitution required the General Assembly to meet, lawmakers seized the opportunity to hold several interim, Senate, and joint committee meetings.
A veto session is constitutionally required to be held on the first Wednesday following the second Monday of September to discuss any bills returned by the governor. A two-thirds majority is required to overturn the governor’s veto. Last month, the General Assembly met in a special session in order to discuss an omnibus economic development package (HB 327) vetoed by the governor due to concerns over cost. The Legislature passed House Bill 1, a less expensive re-work of the vetoed bill, which has since been signed by the governor.
Lawmakers took advantage of the time in Jefferson City to meet in several interim committees. The Senate Committee of Rules Joint Rules, Resolutions, and Ethics met on Tuesday (9/11) to discuss the process in which Missouri’s Supreme Court judges are selected. Since the 1940s, judges in the state have been selected through the Missouri Plan—a selection process in which a commission of lawyers, citizens, and the chief justice selects candidates and the governor chooses between the candidates. The commission has recently come under scrutiny for the openness of the process. Discussion at Tuesday’s meeting included an explanation of the process, issues of openness during the selection process, and the possibility of changing or updating the plan. The committee meeting ended with the promise of further discussion of the issues at hand.
The Senate Interim Committee on Consumer and Financial Protection convened for the first time for an organizational meeting also on Tuesday (9/11). The five member panel will be examining opportunities for the Legislature to protect consumers from dishonesty and fraud. Issues being examined by the committee will include Stranger-Owned Life Insurance (STOLI) schemes that take advantage of seniors by promising “free life insurance,” mortgage fraud that employs dishonest real estate practices, and the practice of “naked short selling” where investors profit off of shares they have never possessed.
The five-member Senate Interim Committee on Funding for County Sheriff Offices met on Wednesday (9/12). The purpose of the committee is to review current court costs, fees and other funding mechanisms relating to the operation of law enforcement or civil justice-related activities of county sheriff departments. The committee has also been charged with studying the current compensation formulas for deputy sheriffs in Missouri counties and comparing compensation of deputy sheriffs across different county classifications in Missouri and neighboring states.
Interim committees are traditionally given a deadline to report any findings or suggested legislative action. Standing committees meet at the discretion of the chair throughout the year, but typically hold the bulk of committee meetings during the regular session.

Senate Convenes for Ceremonial Veto Session

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate convened for a constitutionally required veto session today (9/12), although much of the work on House Bill 327, the only vetoed bill, was already completed during a special session last month. The governor vetoed the economic development package, and then called the Legislature into an extraordinary session to craft House Bill 1, a less expensive version of the measure.
The constitution requires the General Assembly to convene on the first Wednesday following the second Monday in September to discuss any bills that have been returned (vetoed). The governor has 45 days from the final day of session to veto, sign, or not sign a bill. During a veto session, both legislative bodies must have a two-thirds majority in order to overturn the governor’s veto.
In August, the General Assembly met for a special session to discuss the omnibus economic development package that included a cap increase for the Quality Jobs Act. The Legislature completed work on the bill, and it was signed by the governor, leaving little work to be completed during the veto session.
For more information about this event or legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Senate Committee Discusses State Judicial Commission

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate Committee on Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics met yesterday (9/11) to discuss the Judicial Appellate Commission. After the retirement of Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White, questions of openness and accountability arose as the commission went about selecting a state of replacements.
The committee meeting included testimony by Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stiff, a member of the commission, who gave a brief history of the Missouri Plan—the system used in the state to select Supreme Court and Appellate Court judges. In 1940, the plan was decided on by the voters, who found fault in the previous purely electoral system, as a non-partisan plan to select and appoint judges. The selection process includes the Judicial Appellate Commission, which is made up of lawyers from each of the state’s three regions, three citizens from those same regions, and the chief justice. The lawyers on the commission are selected by the Missouri Bar Association, and the citizens are appointed by the governor. The commission selects three candidates and the governor chooses from those candidates. The governor has the option to select none of the candidates, and then the final decision lies with the commission. The next general election following the judge’s selection is when a retention election is held—giving voters the chance to retain the judge based on his or her judicial record.
The commission has recently come under scrutiny for what some assert is a lack of openness during the selection process. Discussion during the committee meeting included explanation of the plan, issues of accountability during the selection process, and the possibility of changing or updating the plan. Those that defend the process argue that the judicial commission, since it is not a political body, is not subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law and that issues of personnel would not be open to the public in any situation. Detractors worry that the process has become too secretive, allowing politics to enter the system and limiting the number of qualified candidates the governor is able to choose from.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), chair of the committee, had requested the meeting with the members of the commission in order to ask questions about some of the assertions and to look into making improvements in the process. He concluded the meeting by saying that the committee would continue to examine the plan through further discussion.
For more information about this event or legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Special Session Bills Signed into Law

JEFFERSON CITY — The governor has signed into law the two bills that were the subjects of the recently-completed special legislative session. The legislature came back into special session on August 20th, 2007, to consider a new economic development bill and a measure to move forward the Missouri Department of Transportation’s plan to fix more than 800 of the worst bridges in the state. Lawmakers wrapped up their work on the bills last week.
House Bill 1 is an all-encompassing economic development measure brought about by the veto of HB 327, an economic development bill passed during the regular session. The governor had criticized HB 327 as having grown too large with an anticipated price tag of more than $200 million a year when it reached maturity in a few years and vetoed the bill. House and Senate members worked throughout the summer to craft this new HB 1 with a price tag closer to about $70 million a year. The new economic development measure will increase money to the Quality Jobs Program from $12 million to $40 million a year and authorize the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act, which gives a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the costs and 100 percent of the interest incurred for the acquisition of an eligible parcel of land. Eligible land is defined as a tract of at least 75 acres in an economically distressed area. The bill also includes $3 million in Qualified Beef Tax Credits, New Markets – Qualified Equity Investment Tax Credits of $15 million, and Film Production Tax Credits totaling $4.5 million a year.
The tragic bridge collapse in Minnesota was a large, driving factor behind House Bill 2, the measure that will change state laws regarding the bonding mechanism so the state transportation department can contract to have more than 800 of Missouri’s worst bridges fixed and keep them maintained for 25 years after that… although MoDOT officials and lawmakers are quick to point out that the plan has been in the works long before the tragedy in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The project’s total cost is expected to be between $400-600 million with no additional appropriations to pay that cost.
For more information about this event or legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Rep. Tom Dempsey to Fill Senate Seat Vacated By Chuck Gross

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Representative Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, won a special election Tuesday to fill the 23rd District senate seat vacated by Chuck Gross. Gross resigned from the Missouri Senate at the end of the legislative session to take a position in St. Charles County government.
Dempsey prevailed by a 56-44 percent margin over Democrat Ed Applebaum of St. Peters in the Sept. 4th special election called by the governor to fill the 23rd District seat.
Dempsey most recently served the House as majority floor leader, as chairman of the House Ethics Committee and as vice chairman of the House Rules Committee.
The 23rd Senate District covers the eastern part of St. Charles County. Dempsey will serve the remainder of Gross’s Senate term, which expires in January of 2009. State law allows Dempsey to subsequently serve up to two full four-year Senate terms.
Dempsey’s election victory produces a vacancy in his 18th District House seat. The governor will set the date for a special election to fill that vacancy.
For more information about this event or legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.