Courtesy Resolution to Jana St. Eve
   This week is Jana's second to last week interning for me, and on Wednesday I presented her with a Courtesy Resolution to acknowledge her dedication to the Missouri Legislature. Jana's mother, Sherry visited the capitol to witness Jana's recognition and experience a day in Missouri's Government.

Budget terms for Education and Fulton State Hospital
   Mental Health Care is a priority in Missouri and I support the construction of a new mental health hospital.  We will be taking on debt, but unlike our national debt there is a schedule of repayment and definite terms rather than an ever increasing deficit. Below is an article written by By DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press, that nicely summarizes the approach we have taken for funding of the new state hospital in Fulton.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Renewed concerns about sluggish state revenues led lawmakers to agree Tuesday to use long-term debt to build a new high-security building at the site of the oldest public mental health facility in the western half of the U.S.
   The funding plan for the Fulton State Hospital was one of more than 200 spending items settled Tuesday as House and Senate conferees announced their final version of the 2015 state operating budget.
   The $26.4 billion budget plan boosts funding for public schools and universities, restores dental coverage to Medicaid recipients who lost it a decade ago and provides salary and technology improvements to state workers handling cases of alleged child abuse and neglect.
   The House and Senate each must give final approval to the budget before Friday's constitutional deadline. The spending plan then would go to Gov. Jay Nixon before taking effect July 1.
   Lawmakers based their budget on an assumption that Missouri would end its current fiscal year with 2 percent growth and experience an additional 4.2 percent growth next year. But state revenues declined in April and for the first 10 months of the 2014 fiscal year are up just 0.5 percent over the same period a year ago.
   Legislative budget writers didn't pare back much spending because of the new revenue concerns. But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer cited the revenue uncertainty as a reason lawmakers opted for a 25-year bonding proposed by Nixon instead of a five-year repayment plan backed by House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream.
The building project at the Fulton State Hospital is estimated to cost $211 million. The longer-term bonds will require a roughly $14 million payment in next year's budget instead of a $44 million payment.
   "We are being very cautious, watching revenues right now," said Schaefer, R-Columbia. "The primary goal here is to get Fulton built."
   Stream, R-Kirkwood, said his plan would have saved about $150 million of interest payments. But he acknowledged that the state's revenues were a consideration.
   Among other things, the Fulton State Hospital houses patients with serious mental illnesses who are sent there by courts in connection with crimes. It first opened in 1851 and has been expanded repeatedly since then.
Also under the budget plan announced Tuesday, public school districts would get a $115 million increase on top of their current $3.1 billion in basic state aid. But if revenues meet Nixon's more optimistic projections, schools could get up to a $278 million increase. Either figure is far shy of the $556 million increase that would be needed to fully fund schools under a 2005 state law.
Missouri's public higher education institutions would get a $43 million increase - averaging 5 percent - to be distributed based on whether they have met performance goals. The budget also provides funding increases for Missouri's main financial-needs based scholarship program and expands a separate merit-based scholarship into a forgivable loan program for graduates who remain in Missouri to work.
   The 2015 budget would restore general dental coverage that was eliminated for most adult Medicaid enrollees as part of a sweeping reduction to the program in 2005. The restored benefits would cost $17.8 million in state funds and $30.4 million in federal funds.
    In addition to a 1 percent pay raise for state employees, legislators agreed to provide $2.3 million for merit-based pay raises for employees working with foster children, plus additional money to equip the staff with iPads and wireless Internet access in local offices
Truly Agreed and Finally Passed
SCS HB 1132 - Pregnancy Resource Tax Credit and Food Pantry Tax Credits
   Pregnancy Resource Credits were increased from $500,000 to $2.5 million and Food Pantry Credits were increased form $500,000 to $1.7 million.  As your Representative from the 121st district I have supported tax credits to these important social safety net programs.  In general I am not a big fan of tax credits.  Though I have voted for some, I do not like the general principle of favoring one group over another, thus creating an unlevel playing field, and favoring the segment of the population or segment of businesses that are doing what the government thinks is a good idea.  However, in the case of the Pregnancy Resource Tax Credits and the Food Pantry Tax Credits, I am a strong supporter.

   SCS HCS HB 1631 dealt with air quality standards and the EPA and the President's recently announced air standards.  This bill will allow the State of Missouri to have some additional influence regarding the implementation of clean air standards in our state.  Under the provisions of this bill,   implementation issues related to the ability of individual power plants to comply, considering the age of the equipment and the available technology to improve emissions, would have to be considered.  Yes this is a state's rights issue and an effort by the State of Missouri to push back against the federal over reach in the form of the EPA. The EPA is still intent on overreaching its authority and the State of Missouri may not be able to prevent some of these onerous and costly proposals or shall I say edicts, but we can push back somewhat.  I spoke to the bill sponsor, Rep. Richardson, and he believes that this bill puts us in the best position to react to the EPA’s push, and to protect our citizens from the spike in energy costs that is coming from the President’s continued efforts to pursue clean energy in spite of the fact that much of this technology has not yet been discovered or commercialized.  I recall that when the President was questioned about this while he was campaigning he said of these emission standards that energy rates would “necessarily skyrocket”.  We need to try to make these efforts reality based, and we need to try to protect our citizens who are at the lower end of the income scale since they will be hit the hardest by increased energy bills.  That is also why I sponsored and supported the efforts to continue to support the use of wood fire heating in our state since so many of our citizens depend on that method of heating their homes and businesses.

One Bill, Fifteen Amendments Added
   I thought that this week, I would describe the individual amendments that were put on a typical bill that came to us from the Senate.  I am writing this from my desk in the chamber as I listen to the debate on each amendment.  I saw that this Senate Bill had quite a few amendments filed by members, because the original bill covered a range of topics. In order to put an amendment on a bill, the amendment must be related to the bill and have basically the same subject matter, but that can still lead to some broadly divergent topics. I will attempt to briefly describe these amendments.
HCS for SB 693  Taxation- adjusts provision relating to taxation, fire sprinklers, and sales practices.

1.  Caleb Jones proposed an amendment which prohibits St. Louis City from restricting public financial incentives for fossil fuel electric generation businesses; delays the sales tax exemption for used motor vehicles until Jan 1, 2015; authorizes Sunday sales of motorcycles and other powersport vehicles; and allows attorneys to enter and entry of appearance by fax or mail in courts that require e-filing.
2.  Marshall Library Sales Tax: upon vote of the people, public libraries in Saline County can impose a half cent sales tax for improving their libraries.
3.  Anne Zerr’s amendment increases the wine and grape producer tax credit limit from $180,000 to $200,000 on equipment, and adds purchasing used equipment to the qualifying purchases for the credit. 
4.  Used Mobile Home Sales Tax:  recent Supreme Court decision made mobile home sales subject to sales tax.   For decades before this ruling we did not take mobile home sales tax. This amendment removes the sales tax for mobile homes, restoring it to the way it was prior to the Supreme Court ruling.
5.  Representative White, who is from the Joplin area, proposed an amendment tailored to facilitating disaster relief after a government declared natural disaster.  His amendment allows utility businesses to bring out of state employees to provide disaster relief in a specified area.  These employees may remain in the state up to 60 days without having to register with the Department of Revenue, so they can offer relief quicker.
6.  John Diehl offered an amendment requiring the Assessor of St Louis County to inform citizens in large font of any actions taken which exceed the Assessor’s authority.  Currently the St. Louis County Assessor is requesting information from taxpayers that is protected information. For example, businesses that lease property are being asked to disclose lease terms.  The amendment requires that the Assessor inform the citizen that this is not required by law. Any information collected by the Assessor is kept on file and is subject to the Freedom of Information Act so it can become publicly available info.  This simply requires that the Assessor inform the citizens of the exact situation and that it is not required by law that they provide the requested information.  This was a really good amendment. I spoke on the floor about this bill, and thanked Rep Diehl for protecting the taxpayers and citizens from being bamboozled by an entity of the government.  I pointed out that when such a request comes it is in an official looking envelope and the stationery is embossed and looks official and one might think that one is being audited or being subjected to some disciplinary action, when in fact the Assessor is just trying to get information that he is not entitled to require from the citizen.   It was pointed out that as written it would not apply outside of St Louis County.  I decided not to pursue this for Phelps or Pulaski counties since our Assessors are not currently overstepping their authority and asking for information and representing that it is required by law.
7.  Representative Muntzel’s amendment deals recipients of the Baldridge National Quality Award. It would allow up to a one million dollar tax deduction for any company that receives a Baldridge Award for the first 10 award winners.
8.  Rep. Kevin Austin filed an amendment that exempts part-time employment as defined as less than thirty-five hours per week with a law enforcement agency as related to a Fire Protection District Director. This would allow part-time law enforcement workers to serve as fire protection district directors.
9.  Rep. Caleb Rowden filed Amendment #9, which exempts increases in property or sales taxes imposed by political subdivision from deposit into special allocation funds under tax increment financing (ambulance TIF).
10.  Rep Scharnhorst offered an amendment dealing with water and sanitary sewer issues for local control and a point of order was raised.  The amendment dealt with annexation of property and the bill deals with taxation.  It was contended by Rep Roorda that the amendment went beyond the scope of the underlying bill.  This was taken under consideration, debate ensued, and the chair ruled that the amendment was germane.  If the Chair had ruled in favor of the point of order, the amendment would not have been taken up and considered.
11.  Rep. Rizzo added a technical amendment that corrected language concerning a Community Center in Liberty by lowering the required amount of voters to repeal the community center sales tax to a majority. Previous language required a 2/3 majority for repeal.
12.  Rep Barnes:  Amendment 12 is in regards to a Savings Bond CD in bank and you abandon it, the Bank has to contact you.  If they can’t find you in 5 years it goes to unclaimed property and the State treasurer tries to find you.  If they locate you, you get the money.  If they cannot locate you then the funds revert to general revenue. The Feds do not make any attempt to locate the owner of a Savings Bond that has not been cashed in.  This amendment would require the federal government to allow our State through our Treasurer to attempt to locate Missouri Citizens who have Savings Bonds that have matured. Kansas does this. There are currently $300 million of unclaimed savings bonds in the state of Missouri.
    There was then an Amendment to the Amendment offered by Rep Wanda Brown to create the "tax-me-more" voluntary fund.  If you are against the historic tax cut that we overrode the Governor on last week, then you can donate more money to the state if you want.   Rep. LaFaver who is a liberal Democrat Rep. and Rep. Brown who is a conservative Republican, then had a point counterpoint that degenerated into personal attacks.  There was some mention of grandstanding to get on the Daily Show or in the newspapers and then a mention of a State Rep who was arrested for “smoking dope.”  Points of Order were raised, the Chair admonished each party to keep his or her remarks to the terms of the bill in question, and we moved on, but it was not a nice 10 minutes on the floor and was unnecessary. This passed 102 to 39.
13.  Rep. Flanagan filed the 13th amendment that authorizes tax amnesty for penalties and interest on delinquent state taxes.
14.  The 14th filed by Rep. Rocky Miller: currently, f you are audited beyond the statute of limitations (3 years) which you have to agree to, and it is found that you overpaid, you cannot get that money.  However, you can be required to pay if you owed money. This amendment allows you to file for a refund if the Department of Revenue reviews the return after the statue of limitations has ended.
15.  Rep. Butler filed the last amendment which allows cities to add fines delinquent for a year or more on special tax bills.  This amendment allows city to go after landlords more effectively.  No debate ensued, and it was adopted by voice vote.
   The next motion moved the previous question on the underlying bill which ended any further amendments. 

   The House Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 693, as amended was then passed by a roll call vote 97/40.

   During this time, I was also communicating with the other members of the Conference Committee on SB 716 where several issues are pending that I have worked on a great deal this year.  We are having informal interactions about this bill and will come to decisions about the various components  later today.  It is my hope that my bill to establish a new category of Physicians, Assistant Physicians, will remain as a part of SB 716 and come to the House and Senate Floors for final approval on its way to the Governor.

The March of Dimes and Medical Practice
   The March of Dimes was behind HB 1898 that dealt with perinatal care in the State of Missouri.  You will recall that this is the bill that came to the floor the first time (we call it for perfection), but I was unable to get recognized by the chair to speak on the bill.  It passed the House that day.  When it came up for the second round of debate, (we call this third reading) it could no longer be amended and was just an up or down vote.  That occurred last week, and I spoke against HB 1898.  Some of you heard me speak on this bill and sent me emails related to it.  Although it dealt with medical issues, I was impressed that some found that my stance against more government intervention into our health care also had the potential to lead to more government intervention and bureaucracy regarding our businesses.

   I opposed this measure because it was basically making very substantial changes to the way medicine is practiced and how peer review is done.  It would have basically put a government minder into the peer review process, and it would have converted professional association guidelines into state regulations.  I said on the House floor that ObamaCare brought to the medical profession and the consumers of health care 159 new government agencies and that the Perinatal Advisory Committee would have been the Missouri Legislature's gift to Missouri of the 160th such agency.  HB 1898 was defeated by a roll call vote on third read, something that does not happen very  often and it was an indication of how far off the mark the March of Dimes was in their assessment of how high standards for  maternity and delivery  care should be established and maintained in our state.  I contend that it is not the government that knows best, but that it should be a function of the patient, the patient's family and their doctor first and foremost.  There are already a host of government regulations dealing with hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. For those of you interested in more information on this topic, I wrote a lengthy letter to the March of Dimes in which I pointed out the deficiencies of HB 1898.  The fact that the bill did not come through the Committee on Health Care Policy was responsible for a good deal of the uncorrected problems with this measure.

   Even though this bill dealt with health care, it is also an example of how government intrusion can be slow and incremental, and unless those interested in preserving liberty are watchful, government creep deeper into our everyday lives occurs. 


Budget Highlights
K-12 Education
    1.    $278m increase for the Foundation Formula ($122m GR and $156m Surplus Revenue) which would make the K-12 education budget the largest in in state history.
    2.    $4m for Missouri Preschool Program in unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts.
    3.    $3.5m for reading programs in unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts.
    4.    $1m increase in Parents as Teachers.
    5.    $1m increase for Teach for America.
    6.    $15m increase to transportation funding.
Higher Education
    1.    5% increase to the core at universities and community colleges.
    2.    $6m in equity funding for community colleges.
    3.    Full ride loan forgiveness for Bright Flight recipients who stay and work in Missouri.
    4.    $15m increase for Access Missouri.
    5.    $6.7m increase for A+ Scholarship Program.
Economic Development
    1.    $4.5m for matching funds to Early Stage Business Development Grants.
    2.    $5m increase to MTC.
    3.    $400k to Certified Work Ready Communities.
    4.    $8.5m increase to Tourism.
    5.    $5m to Kansas City contingent upon receipt of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Moving Missouri Forward
    1.    $7.2m in payments to the Biodiesel incentive fund
    2.    1% Cost of Living pay raise for state employees.
    3.    $25/month deferred compensation match for state employees.
    4.    Eliminate the Development Disabilities waitlist.
    5.    Money for an extra day of courier service to the state lab for newborn screening test results.  Also, expands stops to include eight additional birthing hospitals and testing on Saturdays.
    6.    Expand dental coverage to over 300,000 adult Medicaid recipients to cut down on emergency room visits.
    7.    $14m Bond payment for Fulton State Mental Hospital.
Increasing Access to Fresh Foods Through Farmers’ Markets
   Across the state, Missourians take advantage of the freshest foods our agricultural producers have to offer through Missouri’s 140 community farmers’ markets. These markets offer families the unique opportunity to obtain healthy, locally-grown, and affordable foods and farmers of every size a chance to sell their goods.
   To promote these markets in Missouri, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 1435, sponsored by Representative Delus Johnson (R – St. Joseph), to authorize a sales tax exemption for certain farm products, including fruits, vegetables, honey, eggs, and cheese, sold at farmers’ markets. The exemption would only apply to farmers with sales under $25,000 from farmers’ markets.
   This exemption will make it easier for family farms to sell their produce and encourage Missourians to opt for healthy and locally-grown foods. HB 1435 is currently in the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee. Just another step in preserving the Missouri values of self-reliance, healthy living and pro small business.
   The House is also considering Senate Bill 727, sponsored by Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D – University City), which establishes a sales tax exemption for products sold at farmers’ markets and creates a pilot program to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to use their benefits at farmers’ markets. Participants would be able to spend up to ten dollars a week on fresh products like fruit, vegetables, poultry, and honey. By offering Missouri’s most vulnerable families access to locally-grown produce, we can improve the health of our communities. Even though this bill only authorizes a limited pilot, if the program is successful, the benefits of fresh foods could eventually become available to families in need throughout the state.
   A pilot program allowing SNAP benefits to be used in farmers’ markets is also included in House Bill 1861, sponsored by Representative Wanda Brown (R – Lincoln), which is currently in the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee.
   Promoting farmers’ markets in our communities benefits our farmers and families by giving Missourians a viable way to buy and sell local foods. There can be no doubt about the economic and health benefits of fresh Missouri-grown produce, and I am confident that these bills will allow more families to take advantage of these benefits.

House Promotes Responsible Spending and Budgeting with HB 2077
   Like families and businesses in every corner of Missouri, your state legislature is tasked with developing a balanced budget that meets peoples’ needs without spending recklessly. Any responsible budget begins with an accurate assessment of how much money a household, company, or state will have available to spend.
   For the General Assembly, the amount of revenue the state is expected to have is called the Consensus Revenue Estimate. Generally the House, Senate, and Governor agree on a number that both branches of government use to craft their budgets. This year, however, the Governor’s office demanded an estimate based on unrealistic growth estimates.
   The legislature chose to build a budget based on more reasonable revenue projections. This meant we could not offer every government program a substantial increase, but it is more important that the state live within its means by not overestimating revenues.
   In addition to passing a balanced budget, the House approved House Bill 2077, sponsored by Representative Rick Stream (R – Kirkwood), to create a Surplus Revenue Fund in case Missouri’s growth exceeds expectations. If Missouri’s general revenue collections are greater than $16.834 billion, the remaining funds would be placed in the Surplus Revenue Fund. This money would be allocated to the K-12 education foundation formula, performance funding for higher education institutions, state parks, and capital improvement projects.
   During Governor Nixon’s scare tactic campaign against Senate Bill 509, which will cut taxes for Missouri families and businesses, he accused the legislature of defunding Missouri’s schools. Contrary to the Governor’s attacks, the House appropriated the largest education budget in the history of the state, and the Surplus Revenue Fund demonstrates our continued commitment to funding education. Strong schools are a cornerstone of a strong economy, and I support providing students and teachers in every zip code with the resources they need to succeed.
   The House and Senate truly agreed and finally passed the budget bills this week, fulfilling our most important responsibility to the people. HB 2077 is an essential piece of this year’s budget because it ensures that our state lives within its means while securing funds for the programs that will build Missouri’s future.

Leveling the Playing Field for Businesses, HB 2118
   Fair competition between businesses is the foundation of our free market system. While the government should not obtrusively regulate any industry, it does have the responsibility to level the playing field to give every company an equal chance at success.
   Unfortunately, Missouri’s current system of licensing electrical contractors disadvantages independent contractors. If these contractors want to perform work in multiple municipalities, they often have to obtain a different license for each locality. Considering the close geographic relationship of Columbia to Jefferson City, Poplar Bluff to Cape and even Joplin and Springfield, this can be a tremendous regulatory burden. Union contractors, however, control the licensing boards, giving them an unfair advantage over their independent counterparts.
   House Bill 2118, sponsored by Representative Stanley Cox (R – Sedalia), establishes the Missouri Electrical Industry Licensing Board within the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions, and Professional Registration to regulate and license electrical contractors. Any electrical contractor in a political subdivision that does not require a local license would not need a statewide license. Political subdivisions could still establish their own licenses but would have to recognize the statewide license.
   Applicants for a statewide license would need to be at least 21 years old, provide proof of insurance, pass a nationally-accredited examination, and have verifiable practical work experience.
   Workers should not have to fulfill additional burdensome requirements simply because they are not part of a particular organization. I support HB 2118 to preserve local control while giving all electrical contractors a fair shot at finding work and supporting their families.

Upholding Missourians’ Second Amendment Rights
   With the federal government bent on limiting the scope of Americans’ Second Amendment freedoms, it is up to states to push back against this overreach and defend citizens’ rights to protect themselves and their families.
   To solidify the right to bear arms in Missouri’s Constitution, both Chambers passed Senate Joint Resolution 36 this week. This proposed constitutional amendment would, upon voter approval, specify that a citizen has the right to bear arms, ammunition, and accessories in defense of their family, in addition to the current rights in defense of home, person, and property. SJR 36 would also remove language stating that the right to bear arms does not justify concealed weapons.
   If this amendment is passed, the Missouri Constitution would require that restrictions on Second Amendment rights be subject to strict scrutiny, which is the most stringent test applied by the courts. To pass strict scrutiny, laws have to be narrowly tailored, justified by a compelling public interest, and the least restrictive way to achieve a certain aim.
   Limiting the Second Amendment will not stop the illegal sale of guns or prevent criminals from perpetrating violence. It just ensures that only criminals have access to firearms.  Shoring up law-abiding citizens’ rights is the only way to keep our communities safe.
   Additionally, Senate Bill 613, sponsored by Senator Brian Nieves (R – Washington), and House Bill 1439, sponsored by Representative Doug Funderburk (R – St. Peters), create the Second Amendment Preservation Act. These bills declare any federal laws that infringe on Missourians’ right to bear arms void in our state because such laws exceed the scope of Washington D.C’s lawful authority.
   The Second Amendment Preservation Act lowers the concealed carry permit age to 19, waives the concealed carry permit fee for disabled veterans, and allows school districts to designate school protection officers. School protection officers would be teachers or administrators allowed to carry a concealed firearm or self-defense spray. In order to carry a firearm, an individual would have to prove that they have a valid concealed carry endorsement and undergo a training course.
   Children are our state’s most precious resource, and they deserve adequate protection from intruders while they are in the classroom. We would be naïve to believe that someone intent on harming our children would be stopped by intercom announcements and classroom safety drills alone. Allowing a trusted adult to possess the means to defend our students is a necessary component of school safety.
   The federal government has chosen to neglect its duty to protect the Constitutional freedoms of Missourians, but your state General Assembly remains committed to defending law-abiding citizens’ ability to protect themselves and their loved ones.