Thursday, February 26, 2009

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 committee agrees on a final version of the bill, it is first submitted to the Senate for approval. If passed, it goes to the House once more. A final passing vote declares the bill “truly agreed and finally passed,” and it is sent to the governor’s desk for his signature.

To read more about the legislative process, visit www.senate.mo.gov/bill-law.htm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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 economic stimulus bill signed into law by the president on Feb. 17, 2009.

The Senate also voted to attach an emergency clause to SB 128, which if it stands, allows the legislation to take effect immediately upon receiving the governor’s signature after being passed by the General Assembly.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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.

Each mailing would request that the parents or guardians of the student voluntarily furnish a written statement to the department, no later than 20 days after the first day of school, stating that they have received the information and that the student has received the immunization or the parents have decided not to have the student immunized.

If a parent or guardian chooses to have the female student immunized for the HPV infection but is unable to pay, the student, if funding is available, would be immunized at public expense at the county, district or city public health center with the costs of immunization paid through the MO HealthNet program, private insurance or in a manner to be determined by the department.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

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. The bill removes the possibility for parole, probation or conditional release for those who forcibly rape or sodomize a child under the age 12. Under current law, a person who commits this crime may be eligible for release after serving at least 30 years of the sentence.

Another provision of SB 36 prohibits any person convicted of certain felony sexual offenses against a victim under the age of 17 from being allowed to participate in the 120-day "shock incarceration program" in the Department of Corrections and being granted probation upon completion.

Also passed by the Senate was SB 313, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin). The bill creates two separate funds within the state treasury to receive and retain funds provided under the federal economic stimulus bill passed by Congress last Friday, Feb. 13, and signed by the president on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

Finally, SB 100 received a final passing vote. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), requires shippers of radioactive waste in and through Missouri to be subjected to statutory fees in an effort to prevent Missouri from being the most common route for the shipment of nuclear waste.

Currently, Missouri charges no fee for the transport of radioactive waste products, which is seen by some shippers as an incentive to move their trucks and trains through the state.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently mandated that by 2010, all repositories for nuclear waste be moved to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, designating I-70 and I-80 as preferred routes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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 in public schools to be immunized for the human papilloma virus, which has been linked to cervical cancer.

Senate Bill 144 , sponsored by Sen. Robin Wright-Jones (D-St. Louis), also received a passing vote. The bill establishes a prostate cancer pilot program to provide screening, referral services, treatment and outreach to certain Missouri men.

Legislation that organizes the state’s regional autism projects was also passed by the committee. Senate Bill 157 , sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale), would place these projects within the Department of Mental Health’s Division of Developmental Disabilities.

Finally, SB 176 , sponsored by Sen. Stouffer, received a passing vote by the Senate Health Committee. The bill establishes an Alzheimer's State Plan Task Force in Missouri.

Now that the above bills have been passed by their committee, they are all eligible to be taken up for discussion on the Senate floor.

 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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 ratings would be available online for the public by January 2011.

Senate Bill 4 will likely be brought before the full Senate for consideration in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

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.