Today activities centered around the Governor’s State of the State Address. The house Chamber is the venue of this annual tradition, with the Senate and the members of the Missouri Supreme Court in attendance. The Governor’s cabinet was also present.
State of the State and State of the Judiciary
Today activities centered around the Governor’s State of the State Address. The house Chamber is the venue of this annual tradition, with the Senate and the members of the Missouri Supreme Court in attendance. The Governor’s cabinet was also present. We heard the Governor’s view of the future for Missouri. The Governor laid out his view of how we should proceed as a state in the coming year. The following day, Wednesday, we heard the State of the Judiciary from Chief Justice Mary Russell.
An Emergency in the Rotunda
At the conclusion of the fine presentation by Chief Justice Russell, I was called out of the House chamber to the 3rd floor rotunda for a medical emergency. A young lady was on the floor and not responsive. Dr. Schaaf (State Senator), Dr. Neely (another State Rep) and I and Dave Hinson (State Rep and paramedic) were all in attendance, along with the Missouri State Medical Association Physician of the Day, Dr. Willey. We established an airway, and assessed the situation which was determined to be a seizure. Once she was stable and began awakening, arrangements were made for ambulance transfer to the nearby hospital. On occasion, I am the only physician on the scene when such emergencies occur, but today, there was ample medical care available. After this situation was under control, I moved on to the next item on my calendar which was the convening of the Committee on Health Care Policy.
Legislative Intern Jana St. Eve and Legislative Assistant Joyce Bush
On Wednesday my new intern, Jana St.Eve, joined us for her first day at the Capitol. Jana is pictured on the right along with Joyce Bush, my Legislative Assistant. Jana is a third year student at Mizzou with majors in History and Economics. She is planning to take the Law School Admissions Test soon and anticipates a career as an attorney. I told Jana that I had just listened to the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, Judge Mary Russell speak of her experience as an intern in the Missouri Legislature. Perhaps Jana is a future Supreme Court Justice following in the shoes of a terrific role model like Justice Mary Russell. Joyce continues to serve the people of the 121st district along with me, helping to keep the office running and facilitating my Committee hearings. She assists me with constituent issues, communications, legislative filings and a host of other efforts here at the Capitol. She is recovering nicely from recent surgery.
Dixon Mayor Clark and Councilwoman McPherson
Dixon Mayor Jeffery Clark and Councilwoman Betty McPherson visited the Capitol today and we had a great discussion of issues of the day. We shared a common philosophy about government and local control. I told them that when I first got into politics, I ran on the principle that the Federal Government should not do anything that the State can do better and the State should not do anything that the local people can do better. I continue to believe that as do the great majority of constituents that I come in contact with. I told the Mayor and Councilwoman about my bill to increase from 5 to 10 the number of workers a business has before triggering a requirement by the state for Worker’s Compensation. They favored this concept and other measures that make it less difficult for people to start or expand small businesses. They were very committed to serving the people of the Dixon area and we agreed to collaborate closely going forward.
Congressman Jason Smith
Some of you may recognize U.S. Congressman Jason Smith pictured above with yours truly. Jason hosted a function in Jefferson City this week for the state legislators that fall within the 8th Congressional District that he currently represents after winning the special election when Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson resigned. Jason updated us about his experiences in Washington, D.C. both on an official political level and a personal level. He shared with me a story of a discussion he had recently with Congressman John Conyers, a senior Democrat that serves with Jason on a Committee. They were discussing a civil rights issue and Congressman Conyers mentioned that Rosa Parks formerly served on his Congressional staff. Jason found it quite interesting that he was serving with someone who had such a close relationship with an historic civil rights figure as Rosa Parks. Of course he updated us on the status of a number of bills and political footballs in Washington, D.C. It was apparent to me that the function of government in Jefferson City, even with the challenges we face is a darn sight better than the political environment that currently exists in Washington, D.C. Jason is working hard for us and is staying in touch with the 8th Congressional District very well. His door (and phone) is open to us with concerns and input, and I am grateful for that.
Health Care Policy Committee Hearing
In Health Care Policy this week we finished hearing Rep. Rocky Millers bill HB 1192 dealing with parental notification for a minor seeking an abortion. Again there was emotional testimony. However, all in attendance conducted themselves with reasonable decorum, and I was pleased with that.
We heard HB 1223 sponsored by Rep. Ann Zerr that deals with increasing the asset limit for people qualifying for Medicaid services. This proposal would increase the amount of assets a person can retain in order to qualify for Medicaid from $1,000 to $5,000 for an individual and from $2,000 to $10,000 for a couple. For people with disabilities being able to retain some money in their checking account allows them to purchase equipment to make life easier, or it may allow them to retrofit their dwelling or vehicle to accommodate their disability. This proposal was well received, and no one testified in opposition. We heard testimony from a young man that dove into a pool, suffered a cervical spine fracture, and paralysis. He told of us his struggle to recover and try to live independently and appealed to us to make the changes proposed in HB 1223.
HB 1307 & HB 1313
We also had the opportunity to hear my bill, HB 1307 & HB 1313 Which I and Rep. Kevin Elmer introduced. These bills are identical and both he and I presented the bill and then we heard testimony from a great many people both in favor and against. This bill provides for an increase in the waiting period for an abortion from the current 24 hours to 72 hours. My point of view was that this is a decision with such a profound impact that it deserves thoughtful, sincere, thorough deliberation before actually proceeding. A great deal of information is provided to the woman considering this option. I believe that it takes more than 24 hours to consider all the ramifications, potential risks and complications and impact of the decision to proceed with abortion. I likened this decision to the decision to proceed with surgery. I noted that I often help people make the decision about whether to proceed with a surgery such as a knee replacement. I provide them with information about the procedure, the alternatives, anticipated rehabilitation and recovery and the potential problems. I usually recommend that they take some time to consider this and then let me or my staff know if they would like to proceed. In addition, surgery is generally scheduled for a few weeks in the future so there is additional time for the person to talk with family, do some research and consider all of the information. I told the committee that the decision to have an abortion should be given at least as much importance as the decision to proceed with a knee replacement. One of the Committee members asked me if I intended to put in statute a waiting period before any person could decide to have a medical procedure done. I responded that I favored such a waiting period for every procedure that is going to result in the loss of life of another human being. She had no further questions for me at that point.
Visit with Chancellor Dr. Cheryl Schrader and Erin Elliot of Missouri University of Science and Technology
The Chancellor and the Director of Government Relations Erin Elliot came to the Capitol and we had the chance to sit down and talk about legislative priorities for the coming year. I serve as Vice Chair of the Committee on Higher Education and of course with MS&T located in my district, I have a keen interest in the affairs of the University system. The Chancellor described the accomplishments of the University which were impressive and she spoke of the needs and hopes for the future. We talked about the new developments regarding the mining and explosives disciplines in particular. The Chancellor brought me up to speed with the proposal to build a teaching facility near the entrance to the working, teaching mine located in Rolla. We also talked of the funding for the University System and of the bill pending in the Higher Education Committee that will modify somewhat the method of distribution of funds to our Universities. MS&T has had ample opportunity to have input into that process and it appears that the new proposals will prove to be satisfactory.
Update on the Taxation of Real Estate Transactions
In a previous Capitol Report I indicated that I would be investigating a conflict between a Missouri statute recently put in place that prohibits taxation for real estate transactions and the provision in ObamaCare that taxes certain portions of real estate transactions at 3.8%. I was disappointed to discover that the Supreme Court Ruling lead by Justice John Roberts has apparently firmly entrenched the authority of the federal government to tax such transactions. After conferring with legal experts here in Jefferson City, I have come to the conclusion that pursuing that conflict between state and federal law is not productive time spent. I do however intend to pursue the passage of my bill HB 1314 that resists the over reach of the federal government’s implementation of ObamaCare in Missouri. Stay tuned for that.
Research, Networking, and Searching for Solutions
Under this heading this week, I will try to convey a sense of the work that I have done outside of official committee meetings, floor sessions and official avenues. I have been very active working with the experts in our Legislative Research department, with colleagues in the House, with experts from several departments as well as constituents and other concerned citizens on a variety of initiatives. I will list them here now and in future Capitol Reports I will put some additional “meat on the bones” to add more detail as these proposals develop. Issues that I am working on include:
1. A scholarship program to attract and maintain physicians to rural and urban under-served areas of Missouri
2. Elimination of the sales tax bonding requirement for small upstart businesses.
3. Assuring that our Electronic Medical Records cannot be used as a Gun Registry.
4. Medical liability reform including reinstating a $350,000 cap on pain and suffering awards and what is referred to as “Early Offer” reform and “Requester Pays” discovery rules.
5. Car insurance reform to lower rates.
6. An omnibus bill that will contain a host of health care reforms that I plan to introduce along with Senator Schaaf who will introduce a companion bill in the Senate. The Senator and I have spent a good deal of time working separately and together to draft the various provisions of this bill that will represent common sense, down to earth improvements in our health care.
7. Changes to the Workers Compensation law to exempt more small businesses from this requirement.