Eminent Domain and Private Utilities (HB 1027)
Following the failure to adopt HB 1027 by the Energy and Environment Committee, I’m sure some feel the issue has been settled. But it has not. After visiting with committee members, I learned that some believe the issue should be decided by the Public Service Commission. To me, this issue is bigger than the Public Service Commission and it is not just about Clean Line. The real issue is answering the question: should any private utility company have the right to eminent domain in Missouri without meeting the guidelines established for the utility companies that serve Missouri citizens?
The next step will be to meet with all parties involved who were in support of HB 1027. We will review the situation, follow the Public Service Commission’s hearings very closely, and develop a strategy. From a legislative standpoint, this will include filing a new bill next session if necessary. Again, the goal is to protect Missourians’ private property rights. Together we can reach a solution that is satisfactory to everyone involved.
Thanks to all the folks in Ralls County, Monroe County, and across the state who travelled to Jefferson City to testify in favor of HB 1027. I certainly appreciate the support of Block Grain Belt Express Missouri, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Landowners Alliance, Show Me Missouri Landowners, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, and the Missouri Dairy Association. I look forward to continue working with all of you on this issue that has tremendous impact on all Missouri citizens and their rights.
As the members of the House completed the third to last week of the 2015 legislative session, bill activity hit a fever pitch with more than 50 pieces of legislation moving through the chamber. To date, the House has given final approval to more than 250 House bills and sent them to the Senate. In comparison, the Senate has approved nearly 130 Senate bills and sent them to the House. Of all the bills moving back and forth between the two chambers, more than 30 have made it out of the General Assembly and to the governor’s office.
House Moves to Better Prepare Students for Success in College (SB 172)
The House gave approval this week to a wide-ranging education bill that includes a provision to better prepare Missouri high school students for success in college.
The bill would require school districts to develop a policy and implement a system for identifying students in their ninth grade year who are at risk of not being ready for college-level work or for entry-level career positions. Students would be provided with academic and career counseling prior to graduation to ensure they are able to graduate prepared and on time.
In addition, the state education department would recognize school districts that develop individualized personal plans of study to meet the needs of seventh grade students. Each plan would include the requirements for graduation, the student’s career or postsecondary goals, coursework related to the goals, and career-related experiences.
Supporters said the provision addresses the need for remediation in Missouri. They noted that 38.7 percent of high school graduates need a remedial course in English or Mathematics during their freshman year in college. The bill will help the state to implement steps to ensure that students graduate from high school on time and ready.
House Members Act to Let Voters to Decide the Fate of Red Light Cameras (HB 207)
The House sent legislation to the Senate this week that would allow Missouri voters to decide whether to ban red light cameras. The legislation, which received strong bipartisan support, would put a question before voters asking if Missouri law should be changed to prevent local governments and state agencies from utilizing automated traffic enforcement.
Supporters of the idea say red light cameras are used as revenue generators and do little to improve safety at the intersections where they are deployed. Opponents contest that claim and say the cameras do improve safety and reduce traffic accidents.
If approved by the Senate, the bill will go before voters in 2016. The Missouri Supreme Court is currently considering multiple cases challenging both red light and speed enforcement cameras.
Governor Signs Supplemental Appropriations Bill (HB 14)
One piece of legislation signed by the governor this week authorizes approximately $250 million in supplemental spending for the current budget. The bill was approved a few weeks ago by the House with bipartisan support and provides necessary funding for education and programs that assist some of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens.
Some of the funding items contained in the bill include:
– More than $7 million for public education, primarily for early childhood special education and the school district trust fund;
– More than $11 million in funding for services for abused and neglected children who are in protective custody of the state through the foster care system;
– More than $4 million for staff providing direct care services for Missourians receiving treatment at Department of Mental Health facilities,
– More than $41 million for In-Home Services for seniors and Missourians with disabilities through the Department of Health and Senior Services, and
– More than $5 million for programs assisting the blind through the Department of Social Services.
As the legislature looks ahead to the final two weeks of session, the number of bills sent to the governor will increase dramatically as House bills come back from the Senate and conference committees are held. Already, the governor has signed bills to revitalize the state’s dairy industry; attract new data center facilities and jobs; and generate new revenue by providing a period of tax amnesty to delinquent taxpayers. In the coming weeks, he will have the opportunity to sign, or veto, many more pieces of legislation including the state operating budget, unemployment reform, welfare reform and medical malpractice reform, as well as many other bills that will cross the legislative finish line before session ends on May 15.
I appreciate all the support I’ve received from residents of the 40th District. As always, feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have.