Well, we had a fun filled, action packed week.
Well, we had a fun filled, action packed week. Maybe not so much “fun filled”. Our first duty as a Legislature is to pass a budget. We are also responsible for balancing the budget. Unlike the Federal Budget, we must provide the people of Missouri a budget that does not spend money that we do not have. We must also act responsibly by funding the things that matter most such as education and social services before we spend taxpayer money on other things. I’m proud to say that although the Missouri Constitution only calls for us to spend 25% of the General Revenue on education, we allocated nearly 34%. We take education seriously in the General Assembly and that is one reason the Senate required the Department of Education to send the Director to each of the 34 Senate Districts this summer for public meetings before we consider the Common Core proposal next year. I personally applaud the Senate for not jumping into something before they investigate it fully. We did get a budget passed and it puts the priorities of Missourians first. It contains the largest level of funding for K-12 education in the history of the state including a 66 million dollar increase in the funding formula, a $2.4 million increase for Bright Flight scholarships, $2 million for teaching programs in urban areas, $4.2 million for the Arts Council, $8.9 million for the developmentally disabled, $10 million for expansion of Med School at MU in cooperation with Springfield hospitals, $25 million increase for universities, just to name a few things. The House and Senate have fulfilled their duty, now we must hope the Governor doesn’t cut money out of programs for his withholds.
The Governor’s 2013 State of the State address included his priority ending the Circuit Breaker Property Tax which applies to renters. He proposed his budget based on that elimination and in order for us to balance the budget, we had to include his proposal. The Governor’s office authored and supplied the language they wanted included in the bill and his chief of staff testified in the committee hearing. We were then lobbied by the Governor’s staff to pass this bill in both houses. Even with this elimination of tax credit, the state’s commitment to providing assistance to seniors and the disabled will not be diminished. The funds generated by the elimination of these credits will be used for the First Steps program for developmentally disabled children, Early Childhood special education, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and Blind Pension Medical Benefits.
The fiasco of DOR transfer of personal information seems to have taken on a new life. After discovery of a letter from Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano to our Governor thanking him for participating in the REAL ID program, the Senate demanded that procedures be changed and answers given for the unlawful actions. We are rightfully and justly interceding for the people of the state by withholding a portion of the funding for the Department of Revenue until we are able to get some straight answers.
The House also passed Senate Bill 116. This bill requires the Secretary of State to establish a system whereby overseas voters can request registration materials and military-overseas ballots online. Registration and voting for Missouri residents will be fair and simple with this system in place. This will make it easier for all military personnel to have their voices heard by the country they so valiantly serve.
We are now down to the last week of regular session. There will be a rush to finish up some of the House and Senate bills that are in the conference process. When the House version and the Senate version of new legislation differ, they are assigned to a conference committee to attempt to resolve the differences.
Naturally, both bodies want their version to prevail. The bill to resolve the insolvent second injury fund has fallen victim to this process. I sure hope we can get this thing fixed as there are a lot of people waiting for their settlements. We are forming interim committees to study the Medicaid expansion and to work on education and tort reform issues. Interim committees do an awful lot of the legwork for regular committees as there is more time to devote to specific issues.
In the”Food For Thought” section this week, If you have to show identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book, BUT NOT to vote on who runs the government.... you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots. More next week, until then I am, and remain in your service.
Bill Lant represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Mo. House of Representatives. Contact him locally at 437-8223 or at his Jefferson City office at (573) 751-9801 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.