Realtors assembled in Jefferson City this week, and it just so happened that they picked the day that the governor delivers his State of the State address for their annual function.
This Capitol Report will give you an account of what is transpiring in your State Capitol, from the perspective of a citizen legislator. I try to give you a feel for the process and the substance of what is being talked about with an "Inside Baseball" approach
Realtors from Pulaski and Phelps Counties
Realtors assembled in Jefferson City this week, and it just so happened that they picked the day that the governor delivers his State of the State address for their annual function. We were able to sit down and discuss the issues potentially affecting their profession in one of the hearing rooms at the capitol, prior to the State of the State address. Some of you may be aware that last year the Legislature passed a bill that limits the percentage of revenue that a municipality can gain from traffic tickets. For St. Louis County the amount was 12.5%. There were some municipalities that were really using traffic violations as a significant source of revenue rather than enforcement based on safety concerns.
The following paragraph is quoted from literature that the realtors from Phelps County and Pulaski County provided me from "Missouri Realtors."
“The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, filed suit in federal court in St. Louis to stop the city of Pagedale from "incessantly ticketing residents for things such as high grass, miss matched curtains....." In an article in the Post-Dispatch on November 4, 2015 the paper reported that the city had "focused its enforcement efforts on the type of code violations not regulated by the municipal court reform measure passed to rain in abusive ticketing....” Senate Bill 572 would help ensure that municipalities focus their efforts on more constructive means of code enforcement.
House Bill 1970 will address the problem that landlords face from time to time which represents quite a financial loss. It appears that when a renter fails to pay their municipal utility bill, and skips out, the property owner, that is the landlord, can be forced to pay the bill. The landlord does not consume the electricity, but ends up having to foot the bill, often in addition to losing out on rent payments that were owed. A fellow Republican colleague, Representative Sonia Anderson, has introduced House Bill 1970 which simply prohibits any city, town or village that provides utility services from holding the owner of the premises liable for payment of the occupant’s delinquent bill. This only seems fair to me, and I told our realtors that I would support House Bill 1970 and assist in its passage.
Pediatricians Visiting with Me
A number of physicians, members of the Missouri chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics came to the capitol and visited with me this week regarding several medical issues. I let them know that we really appreciated the fact that they took out time from their busy medical practices to come in at their expertise and knowledge in the field of medicine to the legislative efforts currently underway. I also informed them of important committee hearings coming up that will deal with topics that they face in their medical practice frequently.
Governor Nixon's final State of the State address
I sat in the chamber Wednesday night at 7 PM, to listen to Governor Nixon deliver his final state of the Union address to a joint session of the Legislature. Members of the Supreme Court were also in attendance, and the governors cabinet members attended as well. The governor highlighted some of the accomplishments that he was most proud of, and also outlined his recommendations for how we could improve the state going forward. Some of what he had to say was a bit partisan, but I don't begrudge him that. I expected him to highlight those actions that he was able to carry out, and the recommendations that he had for us going forward were welcomed by the Minority party, and those who believe that the solution to most things comes in the form of government regulations and requirements. For instance, he admonished us to expand Medicaid, and thereby run up the federal debt even more than the 19 trillion that currently exists. He also admonished us to pass a prescription drug monitoring program, which I have opposed in recent years because it subjects all of Missourians, including law-abiding folks just trying to live their lives, to surveillance by their state government regarding the medications they take for health problems.
I did find some of the Governor’s words to ring true, and I took them to heart. He said, "Politics is a horse race, but public service is about making life better for people you don't know, and probably won't ever meet." I agree with him there, but I would take the approach that rather than imposing government regulations and monitoring, higher taxes, and more intrusion of government into people’s lives, the way you make their lives better is to stay out of their lives, do as little as possible, and allow the free market and liberty loving citizens to enjoy their lives and reap the benefit of their hard work. So, this is another case where two people can agree on a basic premise, but disagree on how to accomplish it.
The governor also said, "Politics is still great, it is a contest of ideas and how to put them in action.” I want the constituents of the 121st district to know that in the constant contest of ideas that transpire here in the Capitol, I will be on the side of limited government, low taxes, removal of burdensome regulations, and prevention of government intrusion into our lives, and I will be on the side of the Constitution.
he Committee on Health and Mental Health Policy
In the Committee on Health and Mental Health Policy, of which I am the chairman, this week we heard four bills. The first dealt with inspection of hotels, and it was boring, so I'm not going to take up much space here. The second bill we took up, was a bill that I sponsored this year, the "Show Me Compassionate Medical Education Act." For those of you that followed this capitol report last year, you know that this has been a priority item for me for a couple of years now. This bill will seek to reduce the prevalence of depression and suicide among medical students in Missouri's medical schools. On Tuesday night, we had powerful and compelling testimony from Michele and John Dietl, whose son Kevin, died by suicide last year, just a short time before he would've graduated from the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. We heard a bill from Representative Diane Franklin that will provide for collection of data regarding the workforce in healthcare professions within our state. I believe it would be quite important for us to have good data on the availability of healthcare providers throughout our state. The final bill we heard dealt with the overuse of prescription narcotics. This problem continues to be a significant challenge in most communities across our state. Representative Kathy Swan introduced this bill with the hope of reducing the abuse of narcotic medications.
Voter Photo ID
We passed a bill out of the house this week that would require a photo ID at the time of voting. While there was lengthy debate regarding this issue, as there is every year when we debate this issue, I believe the issue is straightforward. Voting in our democracy is a precious right, and we should be sure that everyone that exercises the right to vote is doing so legally, casting only one vote, and that the individual is who he or she says she is. Before you fly on an airplane, you must show a photo ID. I don't believe that showing a utility bill is sufficient proof that you are who you say you are, and that you are entitled to vote-- you should have an ID that has your picture on it.
"Lights Out", by Ted Koppel
I’m reading a book now that was given to me by a friend for Christmas. You will recognize the author as a previous news anchor. He describes the risk to our country of a terrorist attack on our electrical grid. I'm just about finished with it now, and I have read about this threat in the past, but after reading this book, I’m convinced that we have a very serious vulnerability in our electrical grid. Some of the transformers that are an integral part of the grid are four or five decades old, and weigh 400,000 to 600,000 pounds. Mr. Koppel points out that when these transformers were installed decades ago, many of them were brought in on railcars, and it's been so long ago that the railroad tracks to that location don't even exist anymore. When some of these transformers are moved over a roadway, it takes a special transport vehicle with 190 wheels to move it. In addition, replacement transformers are not readily available. He points out that they are not even manufactured in the United States, and that procuring some replacement could take six months or a year. Koppel warns that if the electrical grid were hacked either by a foreign power, or a terrorist group, or if components of the grid were physically attacked, we could be without electricity, not just for days or even weeks, but months. It's very interesting reading if you have the time or inclination.
Depression, Mental Health, and Suicide – What can we do?
That's the question that representative Monticello and I are seeking answers to. We continued our interchange this week, and held a meeting with representatives from our Department of Mental Health. We are assessing the programs and services currently in place, which are substantial, and looking for opportunities for improvement. Our state is leading the way in one area, with the usage of Mental Health Liaisons. These are individuals with special training that act to assist law-enforcement and the judicial system with the proper triage of individuals suffering from mental health issues. There are also programs in place in 67 of our hospital emergency rooms where those with special training in behavioral health help emergency room staff evaluate, manage, and triage individuals arriving in the emergency room with mental health issues. Our new state hospital in Fulton is under construction, and we look forward to the improvements in mental health care in our state that will occur when this new state-of-the-art facility comes on board.
I also filed a bill today that will make psychiatrists eligible for incentive loans and tuition reimbursement to attract them to practice in our state, the same way in which we do for other primary care physicians. We're not really devoting much general revenue funding to this effort, but we should certainly include mental health providers among those who we are trying to attract to come and practice in our state.
Last year, I worked hard to craft a bill that would pave the way for further use of telemedicine in the delivery of healthcare in our state. The use of this technology, which allows a patient to undergo evaluation by a specialist located in one of our major centers while remaining near his or her home, is a big advance in the delivery of healthcare in our nation. In order to take full advantage of this, we need to establish a payment mechanism for our Medicaid system to allow us to improve access to care, and reduce the expenditure of funds for nonemergent medical transportation by our Medicaid program. We spend over $37 million per year for transporting patients to and from their medical appointments, sometimes involving great distances. The use of telemedicine can reduce travel time, increase convenience, and save costs while, at the same time, maintaining high quality patient care. I'm working on a bill with other legislators, and will likely be developing a separate piece of legislation to establish some guidelines to protect consumers and patients, while taking full advantage of this new technology that is changing the way healthcare is accessed.
The Conservative Caucus
I belong to a caucus which is a subset of the Republican members here in Jefferson City called the "conservative caucus". What we have in common is that we are – – – well, conservative! We meet to discuss issues of the day and solutions that are consistent with conservative values and the Constitution. This week during our meeting, (which we generally have at Perkins pancake house) we had a visit from Republican governor candidate John Bruner.
To contact Representative Keith Frederick, email Keith.Frederick@house.mo.gov
or call (573) 751-3834