Thursday, March 19, 2009

Important legislation passes

By Dan Brown
State Representative, District 149

They say time flies, and the last few weeks have flown faster than you could ever imagine. With the first nine weeks passed, we are now half way through the legislative session. However, we still have a great deal of work ahead of us as our legislative agenda is filled with a wide range of topics geared toward making Missouri an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

We started this session at a record setting pace. On opening day, we elected Representative Ron Richard from Joplin to serve as Speaker of the House. Five days later, we adopted the House Rules and named members to all fifty House committees. Speaker Richard and the other members of our leadership team provided the guidance needed to move quickly through some of our most pressing legislation.

Once we completed organizational duties, our first action this session was to reject the recommendations of the Missouri Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials. In its 2008 Report, the commission recommended a cost of living increase for all elected officials and an additional $1500 increase for associate circuit judges. We are not raising our salaries while so many Missourians have lost their jobs and are unable to provide for their families. That is why rejecting pay raises passed with over a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate.

The first piece of legislation we passed this year is imperative to improving our business climate and getting Missourians back to work. In the first week of February, we passed a bill expanding our highly-successful Quality Jobs Program. The program has been a resounding success since its creation in 2005 and is responsible for creating jobs that pay well and provide health insurance benefits. This bill removes the cap on tax credits which can be offered to companies creating these jobs. This will allow more projects to be approved. In addition, the bill emphasizes the growth of small businesses, start-up companies, and the research and development community. It also provides tax credits to offset expenses related to scientific development in fields such as agricultural biotechnology and prescription pharmaceuticals. Our top priority is job creation, and these efforts will help out-of-work Missourians get back on their feet. Although we were able to work together and pass this bill within the first month of session, the bill has stalled in the Senate.

We have also passed two bills related to the education of our children. The first bill, known as the Teacher Protection Act, gives teachers the ability to maintain order as long as they follow established school policy. It also exempts unqualified employees who refuse to administer medication or medical services from disciplinary action. Most importantly, the bill will allow school employees to focus on teaching without worrying about litigation.

The second education-related bill we passed gives school districts the option to establish a four-day school week upon a majority vote of the school board. The number of required hours in a school year remains at 1,044, but the number of days would be 142 rather than 174. Allowing a four-day school week helps school districts counteract the budget cuts many schools are facing. A four-day school week decreases spending on overhead costs such as heating and transportation, leaving more funds available for educational essentials.

Another important piece of legislation changes the laws regarding the consent requirements for obtaining an abortion. This bill provides women with clear and detailed information regarding the abortion procedure. A doctor must provide information to the woman 24 hours before the procedure including the opportunity to see an ultrasound and hear the baby’s heartbeat. The bill also makes it a crime to force a woman to have an abortion. It’s important to point out that coercion isn’t something as simple as a conversation. We do not want to stop discussion on this highly important issue. Instead, our bill would simply say that individuals who threaten or force a woman into committing an abortion would be guilty of a felony.

Although we have passed several important pieces of legislation so far this session, we still have a lot of work left to do. When we return from spring break, we will continue working to make Missouri an even better place to live, work and raise a family. We will finalize a fiscally responsible State budget and continue to work and pass legislation to turn the State’s economy around as quickly as possible.

This past week we celebrated Rolla Day at the Capitol. The City of Rolla was well represented and showcased. Many colleagues visited the Third Floor Rotunda with the Rolla presenters and reported great comments to me. Thanks to everyone that stopped by to say Hello and offer advice.

As always, I appreciate your emails. Remember, this is your State government. Help me keep it that way by keeping me informed. Please feel free to contact me at 573-751-5713 or by email at dan.brown@house.mo.gov

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