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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HJR 7 English as the Language of Official Proceedings

On Feb. 27 the house passed HJR 7 which would make English the language of all official proceedings in Missouri. If passed by the Senate the measure would go to a vote of the people in November of 2008. I voted against the resolution because it isn't necessary. It has not caused a problem to date and I don't see it causing a problem in the future. Proponents of the measure said the issue is urgent and must be addressed with this constitutional amendment, yet when amendments were offered to move up the date on which the issue would go to the voters the amendments were voted down.
We clearly have a situation here where certain political parties want an issue on the ballot that will draw out their supporters in the November 08 elections.
This Resolution may also run into some problems with the courts. The Hancock Amendment prevents the State Government from imposing unfunded mandates on local governments. Currently many documents are submitted to the courts in a foreign language. Some examples are marriage licenses, birth certificates and adoption papers. Currently these documents do not need to be translated but with the passage of this constitutional amendment they would be, which would cost the local courts money and be an unfunded mandate.

Update: Firefighters Residency Bill

On Feb. 27th the Local Government Committee voted down the bill that would have allowed City Firefighters to move out of the City by a vote of 8-3. On an interesting note 5 Republicans joined three of the Democrats on the Committee in voting "no". The bill is currently dead but could and probably will be resurrected in the form of an amendment on the House Floor. Many of the Committee members had nothing to gain and lots to lose by there "no" vote. They should be commended for recognizing the importance of the City's charter and doing the right thing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Upcoming Legislation to be Debated on the House Floor

HCS HB 636, 308 & 173 – Authorizes an income tax credit for military retirement benefits.

HB 269 – Prohibits the admission of unlawfully present aliens to public institutions of higher education.

HB 808 – Establishes the Betty L. Thompson Scholarship Program. Some call it a tax credit program, others call it a form of vouchers.

HCS HB 369 – Establishes the Fairness in Public Construction Act to fulfill the state's objectives by promoting economical, nondiscriminatory, and efficient expenditures for publicly funded construction projects.

Rep. Daus Co-Sponsors The Easy Connection Act (HB 869)

The Easy Connection Act allows Missourians to install a small renewable energy system -- typically a wind turbine or solar panel -- in a safe, quick, and cost effective manner.
The usage of renewable energy provides many economic and social benefits including energy independence, electricity reliability, and local job creation -- without the negative public health and environmental impacts that result from the burning of fossil fuels.
The Easy Connection Act enables the installation and operation of small renewable energy systems by establishing the following procedures:

1) Simple Interconnection
Currently, the procedures for connecting small renewable energy systems to the electric grid in Missouri are time consuming, unclear, and costly. As a result, many Missourians choose not to interconnect or connect illegally to avoid the hassle. This bill establishes simple interconnection procedures to allow Missourians to connect a small renewable energy system in a quick, safe, and reliable manner.

2) True Net Metering (One-for-One Electricity Measurement)
Current Missouri law involves a cumbersome and ineffective “dual metering” policy. Dual metering states that if a renewable electricity system produces more energy than is used by the household or business, the excess energy is sent back to the grid and is “bought” back at about 20% of the retail rate.

The Easy Connection Act establishes a more equitable policy called “true net metering.” True net metering, already used in 40 states and Washington D.C., calls for an owner of the renewable energy system to be credited at a one-to-one rate for the clean, renewable electricity contributed to the grid.
Current information about the Easy Connection Act is available on the internet at www.RenewMo.org

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Some Issues That Will Be Debated the Week of the 19th

Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment prohibits the Missouri Supreme Court or any inferior court of the state from instructing or ordering the state or any county, city,or political subdivision to levy or increase taxes. The amendment also prohibits any Missouri court from instructing or ordering the state or any county, city, or political subdivision on how to spend, allocate, or budget fiscal resources in a manner inconsistent with duly enacted and effective legislation; however, the judiciary system retains the inherent authority to compel reasonable funding of judicial operations.

Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment makes English the language for all official proceedings in Missouri.

HB 189
Use of deadly force

Thursday, February 15, 2007


A consulting firm hired by the Missouri Higher Loan Authority to evaluate the governor’s proposed sale of agency assets to fund campus construction projects now says its earlier conclusion that the deal wouldn’t harm MOHELA’s financial viability “may no longer be valid.” In an e-mail to MOHELA officials dated Feb. 13, Seamus O’Neill of Liscarnan Solutions urged the agency to “not to take any further financial actions related to” the proposed sale at this time. Supporters of the sale used last year’s Liscarnan report to attempt to refute claims that the sale would threaten MOHELA’s ability to continue providing low-cost student loans. The original report, however, was widely panned by sale critics, who said it didn’t address many important questions related to the proposed sale.

Ticket To Work

On Feb. 15, the House of Representatives approved a bill to restore Medicaid coverage to approximately 4,000 disabled workers whose health care coverage was eliminated by Gov. Matt Blunt and Republican lawmakers in 2005. The bill partially revives the Ticket to Work program, which allowed disabled workers with modest incomes to continue to qualify for state-funded health care. After the program was eliminated, many affected workers had to chose between keeping their jobs and keeping their health care benefits.

SLPS and the State Take Over

I've just been informed that the State Board of Education has voted 5-2 to take over the St. Louis City School Board. I would estimate there are approximately 70 people on the side gallery here in the chamber. They came to Jefferson City to show their support for the elected School Board.
At http://www.pubdef.net/ there is a report that a lawsuit is expected.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Oak Hill Elementary

On Friday I visited another school in the 67th District. Oak Hill Elementary is located on Morgan Ford just south of Chippewa. Once again I was very impressed with the school. I think what caught my eye the most was the amount of diversity represented in the School. I was told that the school was the most ethnically diverse in the entire state. From what I could see the students worked well with one another and were ready to learn. The staff at the school has many challenges with so many students from so many different backgrounds but let me just say that when I saw these children learning together and forming friendships it helped reinforce why I love City Living.

The seventh grade class asked some great questions about my job in Jefferson City and I hope they are able to make it to the Capital this year for a visit.

Residency for St. Louis Firefighters

Today in the local Government Committee we heard Rep. St Onge's bill regarding the residency requirement for St. Louis Firefighters and related agencies. The proponents of the bill focused most of there testimony on the struggling school district and how they are not able to provide their children with a quality education and therefore must leave the city limits.

I understand the argument but I don't agree with it. City employees have a residency requirement. It is a condition of employment under the City Charter. Until the Citizens of St. Louis vote to change the charter requiring residency, I support the measure.

When I asked how many times the firefighters had taken their concerns to neighborhood groups to build support for their issue I was told "never". When I suggested that this should be resolved on a local level and not at the state level (by people who sometimes live over 5 hours from St. Louis) I was told that firefighters with children can no longer wait. For more on the Bill go to the following link: http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb325.htm

Mandatory Seat Belt Bill

Today the Transportation Committee heard the "mandatory seat belt" bill. The rare step was taken to vote the bill out of committee the same day we heard testimony on the bill. There was only one "no" vote on the bill. The bill will now make it to the House floor for further debate. The bill can be found here: http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb90.htm

Friday, February 9, 2007

MOHELA update

On Feb.7, the Senate Education Committee voted 6-4 along party lines to strip six projects from the list of those to be governor’s proposed sale of Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority assets. Among the rejected projects is the crown jewel of the governor’s plan -- the new life sciences building at the University of Missouri Columbia. The other removed projects are a research facility at Harris-Stowe State University, an emerging technologies center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, business incubators and the UM campuses in Columbia and Kansas City and a health science center in Kansas City. The projects ostensibly were removed to mollify opponents of stem cell research. The rejected projects are all in districts represented by Democrats. Projects in Republican districts were unaffected.

State of Transportation Address

On Feb. 7, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn told lawmakers the agency’s road construction budget will soon “drop off a cliff.” MoDOT is spending $1.3 billion this year on construction. The amount will shrink to $569 million in 2010, when the agency will have to shift a large portion of its revenue to pay off bonds it issued in recent years to provide up-front money for projects. During a speech before a joint session of the General Assembly, Rahn asked lawmakers to consider providing MoDOT more funding, though he offered no suggestions as to how.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Legislator Removed from Chairmanship

JETTON/LIPKE: On Feb. 5, House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, held a news conference in Cape Girardeau to explain his removal of state Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, as chairman of the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. According to the Southeast Missourian, Jetton stripped Lipke of his chairmanship as punishment for a provision of Jessica’s Law, a measure the General Assembly passed last year to impose tougher penalties on sex offenders. The disputed provision repealed the statute that made consensual same-sex sex a crime. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional in 2003. Jetton accused Lipke of acting “in a very deceitful way” in repealing the provision and said Republican House members “no longer trusted him.” Lipke noted the repeal was contained in nearly every version of the bill. He said summaries he provided lawmakers, prosecutors and judges clearly referenced the repeal. Law enforcement groups have expressed disappointed in Jetton’s decision to oust Lipke as committee chairman.

I for one commend Rep. Lipke on his decision to repeal the statute. The statute was no longer enforceable and could have caused the entire bill to be thrown out by the courts had it not been removed. Anyone who read the bill could have seen what he was doing. Not only do I still trust Rep. Lipke, I have even more respect for him than I did in the past (and I respected him quite a bit).

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Real ID

Yesterday I joined Rep. Jim Guest in the House Lounge for a press conference regarding HCR 20. HCR 20 is a resolution that rejects the implementation of the Real ID act in the State of Missouri. I have concerns about the Real ID act. I don't like the fact that the federal government on one hand encourages us to live our lives as normally as possible without fear of terrorism but at the same time they mandate that we all start carrying mandated ID cards in order to perform daily activities. The resolution does a good job of explaining what the Real Id is and some of our objections to it, you can view the resolution at the following link: http://snipurl.com/19pc3
To date, two other states have taken legislative action to stop the implementation of the Real ID act and 37 other states have legislation pending.
On a side note the picture clearly indicates what my wife has been telling me for several weeks: I need a hair cut.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Daus gets over 100 co-signers for legislation

Last week I filed a bill that will change the way you get your driver's license renewed. In 2005 the legislature granted the Department of Revenue the ability to create their own department rules for granting and renewing driver licenses in the State of Missouri. This was done so that the state could easily follow any guidelines the Federal Homeland Security Agency set forth in the Real Id Act. To date, the Homeland Security Agency has not set forth what standards states must meet in order to comply with the Real ID Act even though the Real ID Act is to be implemented in 2008.

The Department of Revenue in order to begin preparing the State for the Real Id Act began to implement rule changes they "thought" might be included in the Real Id Act guidelines. One of the rules changes was requiring all first time applicants and those applying for a renewal of their driver's license to present an official state birth certificate (in order to prove lawful presence). For many Missourians this became an almost impossible task to complete for various reasons.

The last time I checked, Missouri and New Jersey were the only two states that required applicants wishing to renew their license to present a birth certificate. I am happy to report that over 100 of my fellow legislators from both sides of the aisle have signed onto this bill.

Last year I offered a similar amendment on a transportation bill and received 154 votes. The amendment was eventually stripped off when it went to a conference committee thanks to some strong lobbying by the Department of Revenue and due to the fact that the handler of the bill opposed my amendment but only got three other legislators to join him (that's called political payback). I have requested the bill be sent to the special committee on Homeland Security where 5 of the 8 members have co-signed the legislation.

For more information on the bill please see the following link: http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb622.htm

Monday, February 5, 2007

House Democrats propose preschool program

House Democrats on Monday announced legislation to establish a pilot public preschool program for 4-year-olds serving 5,000 children in a mix of rural, urban and suburban school districts.

Under legislation sponsored by state Reps. Clint Zweifel, D-Florissant, and Margaret Donnelly, D-St. Louis, any school district with a minimum of 30 percent of its students eligible for the free or reduced lunch program could apply for state grants to establish comprehensive preschool programs. Grants would be awarded based on need and a district’s ability to successfully implement a preschool program.

“The foundation for academic success is laid before a child begins kindergarten,” Zweifel said. “Providing more children, especially those from poorer areas, with the opportunity to attend preschool will improve their chances of achieving academic excellence.”

All students in a participating district would be eligible for the preschool program regardless of their family’s income. Districts, however, would be allowed to charge parents according to a sliding scale based on family income. Students whose family’s income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level would attend for free.

“One way to build stronger public schools is to provide younger children with the tools to succeed,” Donnelly said. “This program is the first step toward universal preschool education in Missouri.”

School visit

On January 19th I was invited to stop by Kennard Classical Junior Academy. I was very impressed with the school, the faculty and the students. I met with their Student Council and the members of their Leadership Club. They asked very good questions and I am proud to say that the school is an asset to the 67th District and the City of St. Louis. In the next few weeks I will be stopping by Oak Hill Elementary.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Death Penalty

Legislation proposed by Gov. Blunt to make the death penalty mandatory for convicted cop killers is unconstitutional under longstanding U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The court ruled in 1976 that laws requiring the death penalty and taking away any discretion by courts or juries to impose lesser sentences violates defendants’ 8th Amendment protections. The high court reaffirmed that ruling in 1986. In a Jan. 26 story by The Associated Press, several legal experts and constitutional scholars said the governor plan, if enacted into law, is virtually guaranteed of being overturned.


Gov. Matt Blunt’s proposal to rename Missouri’s Medicaid program as MO HealthNet and make other changes to the system would result in only about 10,000 additional people receiving health care coverage, the governor told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a Jan. 26 story. Since Blunt took office in 2005 and signed legislation making it harder to qualify for Medicaid, there are 177,000 fewer people enrolled in the program.