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This Week in the Missouri Senate for Dec. 28, 2009: Top Issues for 2010

Senators say the budget, tax credits and ethics reform will likely be among the most talked about issues when they return to Jefferson City next week. Listen to This Week in the Missouri Senate's report on the upcoming legislative session here.
This Week in the Missouri Senate is a weekly, five-minute audio program that wraps up the week’s news in the Missouri Senate. Programs are posted online every Friday in .mp3 format. Listeners have the option of subscribing to the program via podcast.

The Senate Minute for Dec. 29, 2009: Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

Lawmakers will return to Jefferson City in one week. When they come back, they will spend a great deal of time working on the fiscal year 2011 budget. Listen to the Senate Minute's report on the budget here. The Senate Minute is a condensed, one-minute audio report of current Senate news. Programs are posted in .mp3 format and available through podcast.

Missouri Senate Capitol Briefing for Week of Dec. 21, 2009

The 2010 legislative session, the Second Regular Session of the 95th General Assembly, will begin in just two weeks when lawmakers convene in the Capitol at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Already on the docket for 2010 is legislation addressing ethics reform, insurance coverage for autism and advanced voting systems. Numbers have been assigned to prefiled bills since Dec. 1. All prefiled bills will automatically be introduced and read for the first time on the opening day of the session. The following is a sampling of some of the bills that have already been prefiled by senators for consideration in 2010: Click here to read more.

This Week in the Missouri Senate for Dec. 21, 2009: Session Priorities

When lawmakers return to Jefferson City for the Second Regular Session of the 95th General Assembly in January, the budget, ethics reform and tax credits could dominate the discussion. Listen to This Week in the Missouri Senate's report on the upcoming legislative session here.
This Week in the Missouri Senate is a weekly, five-minute audio program that wraps up the week’s news in the Missouri Senate. Programs are posted online every Friday in .mp3 format. Listeners have the option of subscribing to the program via podcast.
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The Senate Minute for Dec. 22, 2009: Lawmakers Convene Jan. 6

Lawmakers are preparing to return to Jefferson City in two weeks. The Second Regular Session of the 95th General Assembly will convene on Wednesday, January 6, 2010. The budget will be a major issue for Missouri senators. Listen to the Senate Minute's report on the issue here. The Senate Minute is a condensed, one-minute audio report of current Senate news. Programs are posted in .mp3 format and available through podcast.

This Week in the Missouri Senate for Dec. 14, 2009: Autism Insurance Bill to be Considered in 2010

Missouri senators plan to focus some of their attention on autism next year. Senate Bill 618 is similar to a measure that was introduced during the 2009 legislative session. Listen to This Week in the Missouri Senate's report on the autism insurance bill here.
This Week in the Missouri Senate is a weekly, five-minute audio program that wraps up the week’s news in the Missouri Senate. Programs are posted online every Friday in .mp3 format. Listeners have the option of subscribing to the program via podcast.
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The Senate Minute for Dec. 15, 2009: Health Care Coverage for Autism

Lawmakers are shifting some of their focus to autism. Senate Bill 618 has been pre-filed. It resembles a bill that ran out of time last year on the same matter. Listen to the Senate Minute's report on the issue here. The Senate Minute is a condensed, one-minute audio report of current Senate news. Programs are posted in .mp3 format and available through podcast.

This Week in the Missouri Senate for Dec. 7, 2009: Senate Appropriations Committee Holds Public Hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee holds public hearings as lawmakers begin to craft Missouri's fiscal year 2011 budget. Listen to This Week in the Missouri Senate's report on the budget hearings here.
This Week in the Missouri Senate is a weekly, five-minute audio program that wraps up the week’s news in the Missouri Senate. Programs are posted online every Friday in .mp3 format. Listeners have the option of subscribing to the program via podcast.

Missouri Senate Capitol Briefing for Week of Dec. 7, 2009

Last week marked the first day (12/1) that bills prefiled by Missouri senators for the 2010 legislative session could be assigned a bill number. In preparation for the beginning of the legislative session in January, Missouri Senate rules allow prefiled bills to receive a number beginning Dec. 1 (senators may prefile bills as soon as July 1 each year). It is customary that each member of the Senate, beginning with the most senior member, picks his or her top three priority bills, which are then each assigned a number. Lawmakers may prefile bills continuing up to, but not including, the first day of session. Bills filed during this pre-introduction period are automatically introduced and read the first time on the opening day of session. Bills may also be introduced by any senator during the session, up until a certain deadline. Read more here.

November 2009 Capitol Dialogue

Host Bob Priddy from Missourinet, along with several lawmakers, discuss autism and how insurance coverage could be expanded for children across the state. Senator Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale; Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis; Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis; and Rep. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis, review the roles of lawmakers in the Senate and House regarding autism. A measure that addressed the needs of parents with autistic children ran out of time during the 2009 legislative session. All four lawmakers are concerned with the growing number of children born in Missouri with autism and share how they will address this issue in 2010. To view the show in streaming video, click here. Capitol Dialogue is a monthly half-hour roundtable program hosted by Missourinet's Bob Priddy that brings legislators together from the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives from different political parties to discuss their positions on specific issues and legislation.

The Senate Minute for Dec. 8, 2009: Appropriations Committee Holds Budget Hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee held two days of hearings this week as lawmakers start to consider the 2011 fiscal year budget, which will take effect on July 1, 2010. Listen to the Senate Minute's report on the issue here. The Senate Minute is a condensed, one-minute audio report of current Senate news. Programs are posted in .mp3 format and available through podcast.

Senate Appropriations Committee Conducts Public Budget Hearings

This week (Dec. 7 and 8) the Senate Appropriations Committee held two public hearings in the Capitol to take budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year.The committee holds these annual hearings to gather public testimony regarding the financial situation and budget needs of the various organizations, departments and agencies that receive state funds. The testimony will help inform committee members as they create a budget for FY 2011, which begins July 1, 2010, and runs through June 30, 2011. Read more here.

This Week in the Missouri Senate for Nov. 30, 2009: Transportation Funding

Members of the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight have heard from the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), who says his department will lose two-thirds of its normal funding in a few years. Listen to This Week in the Missouri Senate's report on transportation funding here.
This Week in the Missouri Senate is a weekly five-minute audio program that wraps up the week’s news in the Missouri Senate. Programs are posted online every Friday in .mp3 format. Listeners have the option of subscribing to the program via podcast.

Senate Leader Appoints New Select Committee to Prepare for Congressional Redistricting

In the Senate’s first step to prepare for its constitutionally mandated task of determining Congressional redistricting following the 2010 Decennial Census, Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, recently announced the creation of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting. The committee is charged with performing all duties necessary for the General Assembly to prepare for its role in the census. In Missouri, Congressional redistricting is the responsibility of the Legislature. The task of redrawing the state’s 34 Senatorial districts and 163 House districts is assigned to two bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor.Read more here.

The Senate Minute for Dec. 1, 2009: Role of the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight

The Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight has heard from the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). Department funding is expected to decrease by about one-third within a few years. Listen to the Senate Minute's report on the issue here. The Senate Minute is a condensed, one-minute audio report of current Senate news. Programs are posted in .mp3 format and available through podcast.

Bill Pre-filing Begins for 2010 Legislative Session; Sen. David Pearce Appointed Senate Education Committee Chairman

JEFFERSON CITY—Today (12/1) marked the first day that bills pre-filed by Missouri senators for the 2010 legislative session could be assigned a bill number. In preparation for the beginning of the legislative session in January, Missouri Senate rules allow pre-filed bills to receive a number beginning Dec. 1 (senators may pre-file bills as soon as July 1 each year). It is customary that each member of the Senate, beginning with the most senior member, picks his or her top three priority bills, which are then each assigned a number. Read more here. RSS Feed RSS Feed RSS Feed

This Week in the Missouri Senate for Nov. 23, 2009: Agriculture's Impact on Missouri's Economy

Agriculture is on the minds of Missouri's rural senators. Agriculture remains Missouri's number one industry, and some senators are hoping to see an omnibus agriculture bill emerge from the General Assembly next year. Listen to This Week in the Missouri Senate's report on agriculture here.
This Week in the Missouri Senate is a weekly five-minute audio program that wraps up the week’s news in the Missouri Senate. Programs are posted online every Friday in .mp3 format. Listeners have the option of subscribing to the program via podcast.

Missouri Senate Capitol Briefing for November 2009

Missouri senators will begin pre-filing their high-priority legislation on Tuesday, Dec. 1, and will continue to pre-file bills up until the first day the 95th General Assembly convenes for its Second Regular Session on January 6, 2010. Bills filed during the pre-filing period will be automatically introduced and read for the first time on the opening day of the session. It is customary that each member of the Senate, beginning with the most senior member, picks his or her top three priority bills, which are then each assigned a number.In other Senate news, Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) recently appointed Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) to serve as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee after the announcement that Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) will be stepping down from the chairmanship to pursue other opportunities. Read more here.

The Senate Minute for Nov. 24, 2009: Agriculture in Missouri

Most of the food on Missourians' plates this Thanksgiving will have come from right here in the Show-Me State. Rural Missouri senators Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, and Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, say they would like to see more done for the family farmer and agriculture in general. Listen to the Senate Minute's report on the issue here. The Senate Minute is a condensed, one-minute audio report of current Senate news. Programs are posted in .mp3 format and available through podcast.

This Week in the Missouri Senate for Nov. 16, 2009: Looking Ahead to 2010

The Joint Committee on Tax Policy and the Senate Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee are among several committees that have been meeting in anticipation of the forthcoming legislative session, which will begin in January.

Listen to This Week in the Missouri Senate's report on the committee meetings here.

This Week in the Missouri Senate is a weekly five-minute audio program that wraps up the week’s news in the Missouri Senate. Programs are posted online every Friday in .mp3 format. Listeners have the option of subscribing to the program via podcast.


New 4th District Senator Sworn In During Capitol Ceremony

Senator Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, was sworn in as state senator for the 4th Senatorial District, which includes the City of St. Louis, today (11/18) during a swearing-in ceremony at the State Capitol in Jefferson City.The Honorable Missouri Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff administered the oath of office to Sen. Keaveny, 53, who was elected during a special election on November 3 to fill an unexpired term. Read more here.

The Senate Minute for Nov. 17, 2009: Committee Meetings Continue

The Second Regular Session of the 95th General Assembly will convene on January 6, 2010. In the meantime, several committees continue to meet, including the Joint Committee on Tax Policy and the Senate Healthy Missourians 2020 Committee.

Listen to the Senate Minute's report on the meetings here.

The Senate Minute is a condensed, one-minute audio report of current Senate news. Programs are posted in .mp3 format and available through podcast.

Sen. Rob Mayer Named Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman

Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) has appointed Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) to serve as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee after the announcement last week that Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) is stepping down from the chairmanship to pursue other opportunities. Sen. Nodler will resign his position as chairman of the committee effective Monday, November 30. He has served on the committee for all seven of his years as a state senator, and chaired the committee for the past two sessions.To read more click here.

Missouri Senate General Column October 2009

The 2010 legislative session may be more than two months away, but lawmakers continue to maintain a busy legislative schedule, including attending committee meetings that help them gather public input and research specific issues as they prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Two of the three Missouri Senate 2020 Committees, which are assigned the task of developing long-range strategies in key policy areas, met this month. The Job Creation 2020 (10/28) and Healthy Missourians 2020 (10/29) committees both held meetings in St. Louis. The Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee will meet next week (11/5) at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg to begin hearing public testimony, which will focus on answering specific questions, such as what it means to be an educated citizen in 2020 and what employers will need from their employees in the year 2020.

To read more, click here.

September 2009 General Column: Missouri Senate Convenes for Annual Veto Session

On Sept. 16, the Missouri Legislature assembled for its annual veto session in Jefferson City. A September veto session is required by the state constitution if the governor vetoes any bills passed during the year’s legislative session. With 12 Senate bills, 11 House bills and line items in 11 budget bills receiving a governor’s veto, lawmakers gathered to consider these measures though, ultimately, did not overturn any of the vetoes. To read the rest of the column, click here.

Lawmakers Convene for Annual Veto Session

The Missouri General Assembly today (9/16) assembled for its annual veto session. A September veto session is required by the state constitution if the governor vetoes any bills passed during the year’s legislative session. With 12 Senate bills, 11 House bills and line items in 11 budget bills receiving a governor’s veto, lawmakers gathered to consider these measures though, ultimately, did not overturn any of the vetoes. (Click here for detailed information on this year’s vetoed and signed bills). A two-thirds majority vote from both chambers is required to override a veto, while initial passage of any bill requires a simple majority. A vote to overturn a veto is a rare occurrence and hasn’t taken place since 2003 when legislators voted to overturn three  vetoes, allowing Missourians to carry concealed weapons, barring lawsuits against gun manufacturing companies and requiring a waiting period for certain medical procedures.

Senate 2020 Committees Hold Organizational Meetings

Today (9/15) the Missouri Senate Healthy Missourians 2020 and Job Creation 2020 committees held their organizational meetings in the Capitol as senators returned to Jefferson City for the General Assembly’s annual veto session this week. The 2020 committees were created as a result of the Missouri Senate passing three resolutions during the 2009 legislative session. Senate Resolutions 302 (job creation), 303 (health care) and 304 (education), introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), each established the 2020 committees, whose members are assigned the task of defining where Missouri should stand in these respective areas in the year 2020. The committees will serve through December 31, 2010.The Healthy Missourians 2020 Committee is charged with developing solutions to improve Missouri’s health care system, control increasing health care costs and expand health care coverage to more uninsured Missourians. Committee members include Sen. Eric Schmi…

Aug. 2009 General Column: Most 2009 Bills Enacted Aug. 28

This Friday, Aug. 28, most of the bills passed during the 2009 legislative session that were not previously enacted will officially become law.  Rather than being just an arbitrary date, Aug. 28 is 90 days after the constitutional end of session, significant because the state constitution requires that no passed bills take effect before 90 days have passed with a few exceptions. For instance, most budget bills take effect at the beginning of the new fiscal year, or July 1 (unless they are supplemental budget bills for the current fiscal year). Other bills may contain an emergency clause that was attached during passage. When bills are passed with an emergency clause, they usually take effect immediately upon receiving the governor’s signature. In larger bills, some provisions may designate specific enactment dates while others do not. And some bills may assign a different enactment date altogether, such as the beginning of the following year. To read more, click here.

Senate’s Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee Holds “Visioning” Meeting

The Missouri Senate’s Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee will hold its second meeting tomorrow (8/25), which will focus on establishing a vision that will help guide the committee as it develops long-term strategies for improving education in Missouri. The committee was established this year under Senate Resolution 304 and is responsible for creating long-term plans and strategies for developing an educational system where Missouri students learn to be productive and successful citizens who are prepared for global competition.Some of the topics on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting include discussion of the committee’s vision and the process for developing that vision, the principles and values that will guide the process and the committee’s eventual goals. Serving on the committee are Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), chairman, Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis), vice-chairman, Sen. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), Sen. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarenc…

Senate Leader Appoints Senators to New Joint Energy Committee

Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) today (8/11) appointed five senators to serve on the Joint Committee on Missouri’s Energy Future. The committee was created under House Bill 734, a natural resources measure that was signed into law last month. The new panel is charged with developing a long-term energy strategy that meets the state’s energy needs and ensures Missouri residents and businesses access to affordable, abundant and clean energy sources while still providing them with low energy rates.  The committee consists of 10 members, five from the Senate and five from the House of Representatives. Senator Shields appointed the following senators to serve on the committee:Sen. Tim Green, D-St. LouisSen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas CitySen. Brad Lager, R-SavannahSen. Rob Mayer, R-DexterSen. Kurt Schaefer, R-ColumbiaMeeting notices will be available on the House and Senate websites. Committee members must prepare and submit a report to the General …

Bill Veto and Signing Deadline Passes

Yesterday (7/14) marked the last day the governor could either sign or veto the bills passed this year by the Legislature. (Click here to see which bills were signed and which were vetoed.) Thirty-seven Senate bills were signed and 12 were vetoed and 92 House bills were signed and 11 were vetoed by the governor (11 budget bills also contain line-item vetoes).Every bill the governor vetoes is sent back to the sponsoring chamber with his objections. The General Assembly may consider any of the vetoed bills during its annual veto session in mid-September. If lawmakers decide to try to override a veto, it will be put to a vote. To overturn a governor’s veto, a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers is required. Most bills not receiving a veto become law August 28, the default effective date for new laws. However, some took effect immediately upon receiving the governor’s signature and others will become law at another specified date. Individual bill provisions may also have d…

Paternity and Child Support Bills to Become Law

The governor yesterday (7/7) signed two measures addressing family and child support issues. Senate Bills 140 and 141, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis), will officially become law August 28. Senate Bill 140 allows non-violent defendants in criminal non-support cases to receive education, vocational training, a work program assignment and/or substance abuse treatment, in an effort to encourage them to resume their child support payments. Successful completion of these court-ordered programs or resuming support payments may reduce or dismiss the charges or penalties against the defendant. Currently, the crime of criminal non-support is a class D felony if the person owes more than $5,000 or has failed to pay six months of payments within the last 12-month period. Under SB 140, the crime will be a class A misdemeanor unless the total payment due is in excess of 12 monthly payments combined, in which case, it will be a class D felony.Also receiving the governor’s sig…

Veterans Bill Signed by Governor

To usher in the Independence Day weekend, the governor signed veterans-related measure House Bill 82 last week, which gradually grants a full state income tax exemption on military retirement income for Missouri veterans. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg). Two years ago, the Legislature passed a bill that gradually eliminates state income taxes on Social Security or public pension benefits for Missourians age 62 and older who do not exceed a certain income cap. However, the bill didn’t offer a complete tax exemption to all Missouri veterans for their retirement benefits until they reached age 62. House Bill 82 will exempt military retirement benefits immediately upon retirement, without requiring the retiree to be at least 62.  House Bill 82 phases in a 100 percent income tax exemption for veterans. The exemption increases by 15 percent annually beginning in 2010 until it is fully implemented at 100 percent in 2016.  The new law takes …

FY 2010 Budget Takes Effect

Today (7/1) the $23 billion fiscal year 2010 budget took effect after the governor signed the budget bills last week. The governor lent his signature to all of the budget bills last Thursday (6/25), while cutting $105 million through line-item vetoes and restricting an additional $325 million in spending until revenue improves. The FY 2010 operating budget is contained within House Bills 1–13, while House Bills 17, 21 and 22 contain funding for special projects. In addition to the operating budget, House Bills 21 and 22 are the primary vehicles for spending the stimulus money handed down by the federal government earlier this year. Post-veto, the operating budget contains $2.46 billion for elementary and secondary education, the state’s primary expenditure. Social services are the second-largest expense at $1.52 billion. The budget also contains $921 million for higher education, $842 million for health and mental health and $22 million for agriculture, conservation and na…

Emergency Personnel Benefit Fund Established with Governor's Signature

The governor signed on Friday (6/19) a bill that creates a new fund to help support the families of Missouri emergency workers who are killed in the line of duty. House Bill 580, which was handled in the Senate by Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), establishes the Line of Duty Compensation Act. The new law allows a claim to be filed with the Division of Workers' Compensation on behalf of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, air ambulance pilot or air ambulance registered nurse who is killed while on the job. The benefit is $25,000 and can be claimed up to one year following the individual’s death. The bill contains an emergency clause, which means it became law upon receiving the governor’s signature.

Governor Signs Unemployment Compensation Extension Bill

On Friday (6/12), the governor signed House Bill 1075, a bill that extends and expands unemployment benefits for Missourians. House Bill 1075 contained an emergency clause, which means it took effect immediately upon receiving the governor’s signature. The measure, handled in the Senate by Sen. John Griesheimer (R-Washington), allows the state to receive extended federal unemployment money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In turn, the state will use those funds to extend the amount of time out-of-work Missourians can receive unemployment benefits and expand who may be eligible for such benefits. House Bill 1075 specifies that the additional unemployment compensation can be offered to claimants during times of high unemployment (when the average total unemployment is greater than 6.5 percent during the most recent three-month period). This amounts to extending unemployment benefits from the typical 59 weeks to an additional possible 13 weeks (dur…

Governor Signs Jobs Bill

Today the governor signed HB 191, the comprehensive economic development measure passed by the Legislature on the last day of session. The bill is designed to create jobs and boost the economy while instituting major tax credit reform.

To read more about the bill, read the latest general column.

Military and Veterans’ Issues Top 2009 Session Priorities

As the nation celebrated Memorial Day this week and honored the military service men and women who lost their lives while serving their country, lawmakers were able to count military issues as one success of the 2009 legislative session.

Two military-related bills (HB 427 and HB 82), both handled in the Senate by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), were passed by the General Assembly and sent to the governor’s desk this session.

To read more about these bills, check out this week's general column.

Education Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

After encountering some difficulty in the House, Senate Bill 291, sponsored by Senate Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), was passed Thursday afternoon. The comprehensive education bill started as a single provision that allows school districts to offer virtual courses and receive state funding. The passed version builds upon that provision in several ways, including:
Providing that all revenue collected from the repeal of the casino loss limits be deposited into the Classroom Trust Fund and then dispersed to schools, ensuring that the money voters intended for public schools to receive is properly distributed. Establishing the P-20 Council as a private, not-for-profit entity on behalf of the state with the purpose of creating a more efficient and effective education system to better prepare students for entering the workforce.Creating the Missouri Senior Cadets Program, which will provide opportunities for 12th graders in public schools to mentor kindergarten through eighth grade s…

Comprehensive Crime Bill Revived

Though debated on the Senate floor intermittently throughout the session, it was unclear whether a large crime bill would have the legs to pass by the end-of-session deadline. With the Senate voting today to pass the House’s version (HB 62) and the House voting today to pass the Senate’s version (SB 262), omnibus crime legislation may still have time to make it to the governor’s desk before session ends at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 15. Sen. Matt Bartle (R-Lee’s Summit) sponsored SB 262 and handled HB 62 in the Senate. Both chambers made changes to the other’s legislation, so the bills will now make a trip to conference committee for negotiations.The bill passed by the Senate today, HB 62, includes a whole slew of provisions that:Prohibit the use of a false or misleading diploma in connection with admission to a college or university, or in connection with any business, employment opportunity, trade or public office. Allow university police officers to respond to emergencies or …

Omnibus Transportation Bill Sent to Governor

Today the General Assembly gave final approval to a comprehensive transportation bill that addresses fee offices, drunken driving and vehicle inspections, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk.

One of the most notable parts of House Bill 683 statutorily requires that the awarding of fee office contracts be done through a competitive bidding process. Until recently, the contracts were awarded on a subjective basis.

Another part of the bill establishes a drunken driving risk reduction awareness program. Called David’s Law, this program allows for the placement of MoDOT memorial signs at the scene of alcohol-related accidents.

The bill also exempts vehicles from the state motor vehicle safety inspection for the five-year period following their model year of manufacture. Currently, new vehicles are only exempt for two years.

Other parts of the HB 683 include requiring that shippers of radioactive waste in or through Missouri be subject to fees; creating an interstate interchange des…

General Assembly Approves $23.1 Billion Operating Budget

With a little less than 24 hours to spare, the General Assembly last Thursday voted to pass a $23.1 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2010. House Bills 2–13 now join HB 1, which was passed earlier in the session, at the governor’s desk. Together, these 13 bills comprise the state’s budget for FY 2010, which runs July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010.

The $23.1 billion budget includes a $63 million increase for the school foundation formula, which funds the state’s public K–12 schools. Higher education also received a $50 million funding increase. If passed by the General Assembly this week, a health care plan to insure approximately 35,000 low-income Missourians is set to receive $147 million under the FY 2010 budget. The approved budget also provides for a nearly $1 billion budget reserve for coming years.

Also sent to the governor were four supplemental spending bills, including House Bill 21 ($2.6 billion) and House Bill 22 ($600 million, including more than $381 million in fede…

Pre-need Funeral Bill Heads to Governor

After earning approval from both the House and Senate, today the first bill to be introduced this session, SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City), was sent to the governor's desk.

The bill establishes licensing requirements for pre-need funeral contract sellers, providers and seller agents and establishes requirements for all pre-need contracts. Pre-need funeral contracts allow individuals to pay for funeral and burial expenses prior to death.

Senators also voted 24-10 today for HB 21, a $2.6 billion supplemental stimulus spending bill for fiscal year 2010. The bill, which contains spending that was heavily regulated by the federal government, has moved back to the House for approval. All budget bills must be passed by 6 p.m. on May 8.

Senate Committee Hears Taser Bill

One senator would like to form a task force to study the use of tasers by law enforcement in Missouri, and today the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee held a public hearing on a bill that would do just that.

Senate Bill 328, sponsored by Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), would create a 10-member task force to study the use of conducted energy devices (CEDs, or tasers), their safety and how they physically affect people.

The task force would consist of two medical experts, two scientific experts, two legal experts, two law enforcement experts and two private citizens who have been shot or who have a family member who has been shot by a taser. All members would be appointed by the governor, under advisement by the Senate.

Members would issue recommendations to the governor, attorney general and Legislature by January 2011 so policy could be formed. Also, until the task force report is completed and its recommendations are passed and signed into law, the…

Senate Approves Income Tax Exemption for Military Retirement Benefits

The Senate today passed HB 82, a bill that creates a complete income tax exemption for military retirement benefits. The exemption will phase in gradually, beginning in 2010 with 15 percent of this type of income being tax exempt, increasing 15 percent each following year until 2016 when the exemption reaches 100 percent.

Part of the bill also removes the age requirement (62 years or older) on the income tax exemption of public retirement benefits that is currently being phased in as part of 2007's HB 444.

HB 82, which was handled in the Senate by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), must return to the House for approval before it can be sent to the governor.

Budget Conferencing Continues

The 10 members of the budget conference committee have been hard at work this week, negotiating amongst each other to get a compromise on the 2010 state spending plan to the House and Senate as quickly as possible. With a May 8th constitutional deadline looming, the committee is expected to begin sending House Bills 2–13 (13 bills make up the FY 2010 budget; HB 1 has already been passed) to the House, and then the Senate, in short order.

In other news, HJR 10, the resolution that would change the state's judicial selection process, was laid over before it could come to a vote last night. To read more about the proposed changes, read this week's general column.

Today the House also passed Sen. Bill Stouffer's (R-Napton) bill that allows Missourians who make a contribution to a developmental disability care provider to receive a tax credit. The income tax credit would be equal to up to 50 percent of the donation made (SB 71). Also passed by the House was a wide-ranging tax m…

Capital Improvements Bill Passes Senate Committee

Missourians could soon cast their vote on whether to allow the state to sell bonds to pay for capital improvements projects for college campuses and state facilities. Today the Senate Appropriations Committee passed HJR 32, which makes it eligible for Senate floor debate.

The resolution would put a constitutional amendment before voters, that if passed, would allow the state to issue bonds up to $800 million for higher ed and state facility building improvements, construction, landscaping and land purchases. The Senate's version is slightly different from the House's, which caps the bond sales at $700 million. It also would allow up to $250 million to go to state buildings, parks and other state facilities.

A passing Senate vote sends HJR 32 back to the House.

Other news today: The Senate started debate on HJR 10, a bill that could change the way Missouri judges are selected. Debate will likely be long and heated.

Family Bills Head to Governor

Sen. Jeff Smith's (D-St. Louis) Senate Bills 140 and 141 were passed by the General Assembly today and will now make their way to the governor's desk.

SB 140 will give non-violent defendants in criminal non-support cases the opportunity to take part in some sort of education or work program or training, and/or a substance abuse treatment program to encourage them to get back on track with their child support payments.

If they successfully complete the court-ordered program or resume their payments, defendants may see their charges or penalties dropped or reduced.

The bill also makes criminal non-support a class A misdemeanor instead of a class D felony, unless the total payment due is more than 12 monthly payments combined, in which case, it will still be a class D felony.

Switching gears to paternity cases, SB 141 protects presumed fathers from false paternity claims by giving them the right to contest paternity on the basis of DNA evidence. If DNA testing reveals false paternity…

Senate Sends Autism Insurance Coverage Bill to House

The Senate passed a bill today that would require health insurance carriers to provide coverage to Missouri children with autism. The bill, which was stalled in committee for a month, was revived before senators left for the weekend. After a second passing Senate vote, it was sent to the House for approval.

Coverage would be required for kids with autism who are younger than 18. Denying health insurance to a child based on his or her autism diagnosis would be prohibited.

Senate Bill 167 is the legislation and Sen. Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville) is the sponsor.

Budget Conference Committee Members Appointed

Budget negotiations between the Senate and House for fiscal year 2010 will soon get underway with Senate Leader Charlie Shields (R-St Joseph) appointing five senators to serve on the budget conference committee this week.

Senators Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville), Joan Bray (D-St. Louis) and Tim Green (D-St. Louis) will join five reps to hammer out the differences between the two chambers on 12 of the 13 budget bills (House Bills 2–13; HB 1 was already passed).

The Senate's version of the budget is around $23.2 billion, while the House's is about $22.9 billion—amounting to a $337 million difference.

The budget must be passed this year by May 8 as per the Missouri Constitution.

General Assembly Sends Two Bills to Governor's Desk

Less than four weeks remain in the legislative session, so with little time to waste, today lawmakers sent two more bills to the governor. They are:

Sen. Tom Dempsey's (R-St. Charles) SB 355, which allows car, boat and powersport dealers to charge administrative fees associated with the sale or lease of certain vehicles and vessels. However, they cannot charge for the preparation of paperwork in connection with a sale or lease.and
HB 382, handled by Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City), which further regulates the residential mortgage brokerage industry in Missouri.

Expanded Health Care Coverage Plan Earns Final Senate Vote

Around 35,000 low-income Missourians may soon have health care coverage under a plan approved by the Senate today.

The Show-Me Health Coverage Plan (SB 306), sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), was voted out of the Senate and now moves to the House.

The plan relies on federal dollars and existing hospital taxes to provide the insurance to working individuals and parents who are eligible. Participants would have access to a health care account from which they would pay for their medical services.

Down the road the plan has the potential to open up to 200,000 uninsured Missourians.

Senate Passes $23.2 Billion FY 2010 Budget

While thousands of Missourians were swarming the post offices on today's Tax Day, the Missouri Senate passed its complete version of the 2010 fiscal year budget (running July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010).

The $23.2 billion budget accounts for a $63 million increase for the K–12 public school foundation formula, as well as a $60 million increase in one-time funding to four-year colleges and universities. Health care coverage was another priority as the Senate set aside nearly $147 million to provide health insurance to the uninsured.

Twelve of the 13 bills that make up the FY 2010 budget (House Bills 1–13) will be sent back to the House (HB 1 wasn't changed by the Senate, so it is now ready for the governor's signature). If the House doesn't agree with the Senate's changes, the bills will be negotiated in a conference committee made up of both Senate and House members. After a compromise is reached, the bills will once again be sent to the House, and then to the Se…

Bill Establishing PSRS Committee Gets First Senate Vote

After a long night—or morning, depending on how you look at it—discussing the House's version of the eco devo bill (HB 191), the Senate met for a few hours on Thursday before leaving for an extended Easter holiday weekend.

One piece of business was giving a first-round vote to SB 383, sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), which would establish the Joint Interim Committee on the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) of Missouri.

The 10-person committee, which would be made up of Senate and House members and meet during interim, would study the PSRS, including contribution rates by employers and members, the long-term solvency of the program, and issues affecting other state retirement systems that may also impact PSRS. The committee would be expected to report its finding to the Legislature next year. SB 383 needs another Senate vote to move to the House.

The full Senate will convene next Tuesday at noon.

Increased Spending Allowance for Long-Term Care Residents Advances

Today the Senate gave a first-round passing vote to a bill that would gradually increase the monthly personal needs allowance the state currently gives to residents of long-term care facilities.

SB 538, sponsored by Sen. Norma Champion (R-Springfield), would increase—beginning in 2010—the current $30 per year by no more than $5 annually until the amount reaches $50 per year. After that, the allowance would only increase through annual appropriation.

Another Senate vote sends the bill to the House.

'Green' Sales Tax Holiday Offers Tax Break with Purchase of Energy-Saving Appliances

Missourians will soon be able to take advantage of a sales tax holiday with the purchase of qualified Energy Star home appliances as a result of a Senate bill the General Assembly passed last year.Senate Bill 1181 (2008), sponsored by Sen. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington), created the Show-Me Green Sales Tax Holiday, which runs April 19–25 in conjunction with the celebration of Earth Day this month.During that week, the purchase of a qualified Energy Star-rated home appliance, up to the first $1,500 on each appliance, will be exempt from state sales tax, amounting to a savings of at least 4.225 percent. Local government entities have the option of participating in the holiday, and according to the Missouri Department of Revenue, nine counties, 57 cities and eight special districts have opted to offer the tax savings to consumers. In some areas, this amounts to a savings of nearly 8 percent.Energy Star-certified appliances that qualify for the sales tax exemption include:Clothes…

Bill Protecting Men from False Paternity Moves Forward

Today the Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 141, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis), which protects men from false paternity. The bill has now moved to the House.

A presumed father would be able to challenge paternity if new evidence exists—such as a DNA test—that did not when paternity was originally assigned.

If a DNA test reveals the man is not the father, the court is required to relieve him of responsibility and set aside the previous judgment of paternity and his child support commitment. The court must also eliminate remaining child support payments, expunge any criminal non-support records, and order the Department of Health and Senior Services to modify the child’s birth certificate.

Data Breach Notification Bill Earns First-Round Senate Vote

In an attempt to protect consumers from identity theft and other financial harm, the Senate gave initial approval to a bill today that would require businesses that own or lease personal information about Missourians to divulge when the security of that data has been breached.

When notifying consumers of the security breach, companies must include certain info, such as the type of personal information compromised, the steps being taken to protect consumers from further breaches, and advice and contact information.

The bill is Senate Bill 207, sponsored by Sen. Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville). Another vote sends it to the House for approval.

CWIP Repeal Passed by Senate Committee

One of the most anticipated—and controversial—bills of the session, SB 228, made headway today after it was passed 6-4 by the Senate Commerce Committee. It now moves to the Senate floor for debate.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City), changes the state's current construction work in progress law (CWIP), which bans investor-owned utilities from passing on the expenses of building a power plant to their customers before it goes online.

SB 228 would allow utilities to recover the financing costs through increases in customer rates prior to plant start-up. Eligible power plants include nuclear facilities, such as the proposed second nuclear plant in Callaway County.

Retroactive Sex Offender Laws Get First Senate Nod

One of the first orders of business for the Senate this week was to give a first-round passing vote to SJR 3, sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau).

This resolution would put a constitutional amendment to the voters, that if passed, would create an exemption to the current constitutional ban on retroactive laws. The purpose of the exemption is to allow sex offender laws—such at the sex offender registry—to apply retroactively. This means any person convicted of a sex crime prior to 1995, when the registry was enacted, would now be required to register with the state.

Another Senate vote sends SJR 3 to the House.

Senate Gives Initial Approval to Education Bill

Lots of key issues were discussed in the Senate this week, including the economy and jobs, tax credits, abortion, crime—and education.

An omnibus education bill with a whopping 30+ amendments received a first-round Senate vote of approval in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) is the sponsor of SB 291, which among other things, allows schools to offer virtual courses; institutes teacher performance standards; and ensures that all the revenue from the casino loss limits repeal passed last November by voters goes to Missouri schools.

The bill needs another Senate vote before it moves to the House for consideration.

Senate Says "No" to Texting While Driving

The Senate today gave SB 130, sponsored by Sen. Ryan McKenna (D-Crystal City), a final vote of approval, sending it to the other side of the Capitol for the House to debate.

If passed, texting while driving on Missouri highways—including reading, sending or writing text messages—could mean an infraction and a moving violation on the offending texter's driving record.

Long-Term Care Facilities and Safety

Missouri's long-term care facilities may soon see increased safety standards after the Senate gave a first-round passing vote to SB 89 today. It needs one more Senate vote before it can go to the House for approval.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), requires sprinkler systems to be installed in recently updated facilities to help with fire safety. Also, any person hired by the state to inspect these facilities cannot have been employed by one within the past two years.

Major Supplemental Budget Bill Passed by Legislature

Today the Missouri House agreed with the changes the Senate made to HB 14 before last week's break, approving the more than $312 million supplemental spending bill for the remainder of the 2009 fiscal year. The bill fills in budget gaps for various state programs and services, including education and health care, through June 30, 2009. HB 14 now moves to the governor's desk for his signature.

Expect the Senate to take up the 13 FY 2010 budget bills in the coming weeks.

Back from Mid-Session Break

The Senate is back in full force after standing adjourned last week for mid-session break. Rather than easing back into their legislative work, senators debated SB 264, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), for more than five hours last night. The controversial bill makes it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion. It also expands the current informed consent laws, requiring pregnant women considering an abortion to receive new info detailing the risks of the procedure AND the physiological characteristics of an unborn child at different stages. After the lengthy debate, SB 264 was placed on hold.

Senate Adjouns for Mid-Session Recess

The Missouri Senate today adjourned for its mid-session recess. As of adjournment, the Missouri Senate has given final approval to 57 bills that have now moved to the House for similar consideration. One bill, SB 313, has been passed by both the Senate and House and has been sent to the governor’s desk. Of the 576 Senate bills introduced this legislative session, 140 have been passed by their respective Senate committees.One House bill, HB 14 (a supplemental budget bill), has received a second passing vote from the Senate. It now returns to the House for its approval. None of the 18 Senate Joint Resolutions have made it entirely through the legislative process yet. The Missouri Senate will resume its legislative work on March 23 at 4 p.m.

Senate Gives Initial Approval to its Version of Major Supplemental Budget Bill

The Missouri Senate today gave initial approval to its version of the first budget bill of the session, a supplemental appropriations measure that fills in budget gaps for the current 2009 fiscal year, which ends in June. The Senate must give another passing vote to House Bill 14 before it moves back to the House for its approval. Each year the General Assembly considers funding needs that arise during the middle of the budget year and makes adjustments accordingly through an all-encompassing supplemental budget bill. The measure allocates additional funding to various state departments, agencies and programs for fiscal year 2009.House Bill 14 provides more than $312 million in additional funding to the state. Among other things, the measure supplements funding for the state’s foundation formula for public K–12 schools, MO HealthNet services and workers’ compensation claims. The Missouri Senate will soon begin debating the budget bills for fiscal year 2010, which begins in…

Senate Bill 313 Becomes First Measure Sent to Governor’s Desk

Today Senate Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) signed off on Senate Bill 313, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) and co-sponsored by Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), effectively sending it to the governor’s desk. The bipartisan legislation is designed to help lawmakers and government officials track the more than $4 billion Missouri is expected to receive from the $787 billion federal economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last month. It creates two separate funds, the Federal Budget Stabilization Fund and the Federal Stimulus Fund, within the state treasury to receive and retain money provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.The measure, passed on Monday (3/9) by the House with an amendment, was returned to the Senate for approval. The Senate voted today to pass SB 313 with the House’s changes. Because the legislation was passed with an emergency clause, it becomes effective upon receiving the governor’s sign…

Senate Passes Several Resolutions

The Missouri Senate today gave its approval to four Senate Concurrent Resolutions. They now move to the House for similar consideration. The resolutions include:SCR 2, sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), which recognizes October 3rd of each year as Science Day.SCR 5, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), which urges Congress to deny any request that would permit a study of the Missouri River's congressionally authorized purposes. States upstream of the Missouri River have requested that the United States Army Corps of Engineers conduct a study to reexamine the authorized purposes of the Missouri River reservoir system. SCR 8, sponsored by Sen. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence), which urges Congress to support the continuation of horse processing in the United States. Proponents of the resolution say that thousands of unwanted horses are exposed to potential neglect and abandonment each year, and rescue facilities do not have the resources to feed and s…

Drunken Driving Awareness Program Sees First Passing Vote from Senate

The Missouri Senate today gave a bill that establishes a statewide drunken driving risk reduction awareness program a first-round vote of approval. Senate Bill 93, sponsored by Sen. Tim Green (D-St. Louis), now moves to the House for similar consideration. The program established under SB 93 would provide for the placement of signs at or near the scene of a drunken driving accident. Any person may apply to the Missouri Department of Transportation to sponsor a drunken driving victim memorial sign in memory of an immediate family member who died as a result of a motor vehicle accident caused by a person who was driving while intoxicated. Upon the request of an immediate family member of the deceased victim, MoDOT would place a sign at the appropriate location. The department would charge the sponsoring party a fee to cover the cost of designing, constructing, placing and maintaining the sign. Signs would remain in place for a period of 10 years, after which, the signs may …

Resolution Creating Blue Ribbon Panel on Economy Passes Committee

Today the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 14, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale). The resolution is now eligible to be taken up for debate by the full Senate.SCR 14 creates the Blue Ribbon Panel On Job Retention And Economic Growth, which would advise and make recommendations to the governor, General Assembly and state agencies on matters concerning the social and economic effects of the loss of any major corporate presence and other businesses within the state. The panel must develop a comprehensive statewide plan for job retention and economic growth and issue preliminary recommendations for legislative action by February 1, 2010. The panel is charged with several tasks, including:Determining the impact out-of-state business relocation and job loss has upon charitable giving, the social well-being of affected areas and the state and local economy.Studying the impact current stat…

Deadline Passes to Introduce New Bills

Lawmakers scrambled today to get their priority legislation introduced on the floor before today’s filing deadline. The constitutional deadline is March 1, but since it falls on a Sunday this year, lawmakers were required to submit their legislation on Feb. 26. Upon adjournment, more than 600 Senate bills had been filed for consideration this session. With all of the bills now introduced, legislation will continue to be referred to and then heard by committees. If passed by its committee, a Senate bill is eligible to be taken up for debate by the full Senate. After receiving two passing Senate votes, a bill then moves to the House of Representatives for similar consideration. If further amendments to the bill are made in the House, the changes must be submitted to the Senate for approval. If the House-revised version of the bill is not approved by the Senate, a conference committee comprised of members from both chambers meets to work out the differences. After the commit…

Senate Votes to Change MoDOT Design-Build Project Caps

The Missouri Senate today gave final approval to Senate Bill 128, a bill that changes the requirements for MoDOT’s design-build projects. The measure now moves to the House for similar consideration.

Senate Bill 128, sponsored by Sen. Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville), modifies the current three-project cap on design-build transportation projects. Instead of restricting these projects to a certain number, SB 128 requires that the number of highway design-build project contracts not exceed 3 percent of the total number of all approved state highway system projects in any given fiscal year.

Design-build projects involve a single entity being responsible for the design and construction elements of a project. Oftentimes with a design-build method, projects can be completed at a faster pace.

The purpose of the measure is to allow MoDOT to enter into more design-build contracts, as the department begins construction on several projects funded as a result of the $787 billion federal ec…

Senate Gives First-Round Approval to HPV Vaccination Bill

The Missouri Senate today gave initial approval to Senate Bill 104, legislation that provides information about the human papilloma virus (HPV) and an opportunity for students to receive the HPV vaccine. The bill must receive one more Senate vote before it can move to the House for similar consideration. Senate Bill 104 , sponsored by Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City), is similar to bills the senator has sponsored for the last two years. The measure provides the opportunity for female students enrolling in sixth grade in public schools to be immunized for HPV, which has been linked to cervical cancer. Students may receive the immunization at the option of a parent or guardian. The legislation requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to mail relevant information to the parents or guardians of female students entering the sixth grade regarding the connection between HPV and cervical cancer, the risk factors for HPV and the availability of the HPV vaccination. E…

First Senate Bills Receive Final Approval from Upper Chamber

The Missouri Senate today (2/19) approved five bills that are the first to obtain a final passing vote this session. These bills now move to the House of Representatives for similar consideration. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City), was among those to receive a final passing Senate vote today. This legislation establishes licensing requirements for pre-need funeral contract sellers, providers and seller agents. It also adds requirements to the pre-need funeral contracts themselves, which allow individuals to pay for funeral and burial expenses prior to death. Also receiving final passage from the Senate was SB 26, sponsored by Sen. Luann Ridgeway (R-Smithville). This measure prohibits the use and possession of alcoholic beverage vaporizers in Missouri, which are devices that allow alcohol to be inhaled and directly enter the bloodstream. Senate Bill 36, sponsored by Sen. Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon), was also given a passing vote by the Senate…

Senate Health Committee Passes Several Measures

The Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee passed several pieces of health-related legislation today (2/17) during its committee meeting.Senate Bill 61 , sponsored by Sen. Yvonne Wilson (D-Kansas City), received a passing vote by the committee. The bill creates a trust fund and commission for youth smoking prevention. A bill prohibiting inspectors from surveying a long-term care facility at which they were employed in the past five years was also passed by the committee. Senate Bill 89 , sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), requires disclosure statements by newly hired and currently employed inspectors regarding their past employment in long-term care facilities and that of family members and close friends in such facilities.Also passed was SB 104 , sponsored by Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City). Similar to a bill the senator sponsored last year, the measure provides information and the opportunity for female students enrolling in sixth grade i…

Senate Gives First-Round Approval to Child Rape Bill

The Missouri Senate today gave initial approval to Senate Bill 36, a bill that invokes a true life sentence for child rapists. The legislation is the first Senate bill of the 2009 session to be put to a vote by the full body. Senate Bill 36, sponsored by Sen. Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon), puts in place a true life sentence for those who forcibly rape or sodomize a child 11 years of age and younger. Currently, the penalty for this crime is life imprisonment without eligibility for probation or parole until the offender has served at least 30 years of the sentence. Sen. Goodman’s legislation removes the possibility of probation, parole or conditional release. A second passing Senate vote moves SB 36 to the House for consideration.

Quality Rating System for Child Care Facilities Clears Committee

Missouri may soon have a quality rating system for child care facilities after Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Senate Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), was passed by the Senate Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee today (2/10). The legislation creates a quality rating system for all early childhood learning centers operating in the state, providing parents with a quantifiable method for choosing the child care facility best suited for their child. Families would be able to compare facilities based on the ratings and the facilities would be held accountable through their assigned rating for any funding they may receive from the state.Licensing of an early childhood learning center would be the baseline rating, while the highest rating would include accreditation. The rating each child care facility is assigned would also be used to determine the amount of reimbursement a facility receives for child care subsidies, if approved by the General Assembly. The …

Senate Debate on Laptops Short Circuits

The Missouri Senate took up Senate Resolution 141 yesterday afternoon (2/2), which would allow the use of laptops on the Senate floor under certain circumstances. However, after lengthy debate, the resolution did not come to a vote.Laptops would be allowed in the Senate chamber for the senators’ use under SR 141, provided that senators engaged in debate close their laptops completely for the duration of said debate. While discussing the resolution, opponents contended that laptops are an unwelcome distraction on the Senate floor. Proponents argued that consenting to laptops would allow more lawmakers to be present in the chamber at any given time. Senate Resolution 141 is not expected to be brought to the floor for a vote again this year.

New Senate Committee to Oversee Expected Federal Stimulus Funds

Senate Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) yesterday (1/26) appointed lawmakers to the newly created Senate Select Committee on Oversight of Federal Stimulus , which is charged with studying and analyzing strategies for securing the maximum amount of federal dollars for Missouri that will likely come from the anticipated federal economic stimulus plan. Sen. Shields named Sen. Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville) as chair and Sen. Rita Heard Days (D-St. Louis) as vice-chair. The committee has invited the governor, lieutenant governor and all members of Missouri’s Congressional delegation to speak before the committee to share information and strategies for securing a share of the economic stimulus package for Missouri. The committee was created so the Legislature can act quickly, if necessary, to modify and adopt state laws so as not to impede the state’s ability to receive a portion of the stimulus funds. States that show the ability to invest in and compl…

Senate Committee Appointments Begin

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) has begun filling the various standing Senate committees, including today announcing his appointments to the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee and the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee.

The Senate Rules Committee considers any issues that may arise relating to the governing rules of the Senate, as well as ensures that each bill and amendment is properly drafted and printed. Appointed to the committee are Chairman Sen. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington), Vice-Chairman Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), Sen. Norma Champion (R-Springfield), Sen. Shields, Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis) and Sen. Timothy Green (D-St. Louis)

The Gubernatorial Appointments Committee considers the nomination of constituents for appointment by the governor to state boards and commissions. Sitting on the committee are Chairman Sen. Shields, Vice-Chairman Sen. Engler, Sen. Champion, Sen. Dan Clemens (R-Marshfield), Sen. Jason Cro…

Missouri Senators Attend Educational Seminars

JEFFERSON CITY — Today Missouri senators attended the first of several seminars in the coming weeks designed to give them additional knowledge on many of the issues they will be tackling throughout the 2009 legislative session.

Senate Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) scheduled these seminars to help give the senators a solid grasp on the issues so the General Assembly can get an early start on crafting legislation this year. Experts in each subject area will be on hand to present information and answer questions.

Today’s seminar focused on the current and future energy policies for the state, with special attention given to alternative and renewable energy efforts. Representatives from utility companies and energy producers were in attendance.

Tomorrow (1/14) legislators will hear presentations that focus on life sciences and health insurance. The first will touch on how Missouri can remain viable in the life sciences industry and emerge as a leader in science and technology and t…