At 10 a.m. Monday, we met in Jefferson City to hear Speaker Tim Jones and the leadership team go over the legislative priorities for the next two years.
The first priority will be to deal with the proposals for Medicaid changes. We have to establish a state insurance exchange almost as soon as we start session or the Federal government will do it for us. The problem with their method is that it will add more than 300,000 people to the state Medicaid roles the first year. The feds say that they will pay the additional cost for the first three years, but with the economy in the shape that it's in, I'm betting that they soon withdraw that deal and expect the state to pick up the additional costs. If we were forced to do this, we have nowhere to get the additional money except for the education funds. I don't know about you, but from the look of things, I think we need to do everything we can to assure our children as good an education as possible! We also discussed plans to help the St. Louis schools and to ensure that schools are led by local control. Parental involvement should be highly encouraged to help schools achieve the best results. We have kept education funding level for the past four years of economic distress and we plan to do so again this year!
Under the heading of energy, we must work toward more sensible regulations. When red tape starts getting in the way of new developments that will benefit everyone in the state, we have to find ways to relieve the pressure. We also have to protect access to existing natural resources like coal. Remember, 85 percent of our electricity in Missouri is derived from coal plants. We have the cleanest burning facilities in the world and it would be foolish of us not to do everything we can to protect this irreplaceable source of energy.
Medical malpractice is high on the list of priorities next year also. Our Supreme Court struck down the 2008 law restricting the amount that could be awarded for medical malpractice. The Kansas Supreme Court upheld their limit of $250,000 and our limit of $350,000 was thrown out. The result is, doctors who are now having to pay five and six times as much for their insurance are moving their practices to more friendly states. This can't be a good thing for anyone except the trial lawyers. I recently heard a quote from one of the current administration's "czars" that said "the facts, although interesting, are irrelevant." This seems to be the case in the governor's office also. Last year, we had several good pieces of legislation that would have enhanced our position in competing for new industry that were vetoed immediately by the governor. It is my hope that we can work with the governor this year to pass legislation that will benefit everyone in the state.
Page 2 of 2 - Sometimes election years can make it hard to pass even "good sense" laws. We also need to focus our energy on finding a way to repair and rebuild our infrastructure. We can only put off for so long making the improvements that are becoming increasingly necessary to our roads and bridges. One thing that is in our favor is the AAA bond rating that we enjoy in Missouri thanks to the foresight of past legislators. When the time is right to make the improvements, we will be able to do so.
There has also been several inquiries into initiative petition reform. The thought is that it is much too easy for well funded outsiders to influence Missouri laws by placing issues on our ballot. When we are inundated with advertising that misleads and misinforms the electorate, we sometimes end up with bad laws that are really hard to reverse. I think there will be some attempt to revise our laws relating to this process this session. I, for one, welcome the chance to hear the arguments for and against.
Jane and I wish every one of you a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year. Until next time, I am and remain, in your service.
Bill Lant represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Missouri House of Representatives. Contact him locally at 437-8223 or at his Jefferson City office at (573) 751-9801 or email him at email@example.com.