Thursday, May 20, 2010

Legislative session ends; Brown's wrap-up report

By Dan Brown
149th District
State Representative

Last week, the final gavel fell on the 2nd Regular Session of the 95th General Assembly. This session was long and hard, but I feel that we took several positive and necessary steps to make Missouri a better place to live and work for us all.
Although we dealt with many issues these last five months, there is no doubt that Missouri’s budget crisis took center stage. The terrible economic climate we’ve all been facing in our homes and businesses has been just as unforgiving to the State of Missouri’s revenues. The budget Governor Nixon submitted to the General Assembly in January was over $500 million out of balance by late March as revenue estimates continued to fall. We were forced to meet this challenge head on. That’s why members of the House Appropriation Sub-Committees, which I serve on, and the House Budget Committee under the leadership of Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) cut over $250 million from the governor’s proposal. This drastic action was followed by that of the Senate Appropriations Committee, under the direction of Senator Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), which cut the rest of the shortfall. These decisions were not easy, but the Republican majorities of both chambers held firm to their pledge not to raise taxes on the millions of Missourians struggling through this economy as well.
One of the bright spots in this difficult process was our ability to maintain 98 percent of our current funding of Missouri’s public schools and 95 percent of our Public Universities. Public schools may not be as big a part of life in some districts as it is here in the 149th, but we have a duty to the children of this State to provide a quality education, and it’s a charge I take seriously. That’s why I and like-minded colleagues fought tooth and nail, both on the floor and behind closed doors, for every dollar due our public schools and institutions. Another bittersweet victory was won on the front of the Career Ladder pay for our teachers. Career Ladder pays our teachers extra for putting in extra work to benefit our students. We were able to secure the funding for this year’s work, most of which had already been completed, but next year is in question and the battle will have to be fought again. Also, we were able to maintain a strong level of funding for the Community Partnership Program, which provides an array of great services to those in need right here in the 149th.
Outside of the budget, the legislature took positive steps to protect the unborn with Senate Bill 793, which will provide the women of Missouri with more information on the choices and procedures available to them. Also, the General Assembly sent clear messages on where the majority of Missourians stand on the most pressing federal issues of the day. We voted on and delivered messages to our congressional delegation and Governor Nixon, expressing opposition to the new federal health care mandates, other unfunded mandates, Cap-and-Trade, and an over-reach of the constitution by the federal government.
Two of the bills I drafted and sponsored, House Bills 2147 and 1662 were also Truly Agreed and Finally Passed. HB 2147 provides the children of recent active duty military retiree’s access to Missouri’s A+ Schools Scholarship Program, which is a continuation of our long-term goal of making Missouri the most military/veteran friendly State in the Union. HB 1662 takes a step to protect our food supply by allowing agricultural animals found carrying a toxin to be quarantined.
One thing we addressed this session that has left me with mixed emotions is ethics reform. The wrong doing of bad actors in our government in recent years has led many Missourians to question our public servants and system, and rightly so. In the House, we drafted and passed the most sweeping ethics and government reform of any legislative body in this nation. It dealt with campaign finance, transparency, “pay-to-play” politics, voter fraud, and government accountability. Unfortunately, the Senate refused to adopt many of the key provisions in the House version. However, the version that passed both bodies will make Missouri government more accountable to its stockholders, you the people.
Unfortunately, this was not the only place the legislature fell short. Although the House passed the Economic Development and Quality Jobs Act in the middle of the session, the Senate remained silent on jobs and economic development. This could have provided Missouri a “leg up” in attracting new and emerging businesses, such as data storage; and keeping us competitive in keeping and attracting traditional job opportunities , such as manufacturing. With Missouri’s unemployment perilously high, I find this unacceptable. If I am fortunate enough to return to the General Assembly, I will make these things a top priority.
It has been a pleasure to serve you in the Missouri House of Representatives. As always I welcome your thoughts and suggestions, so please feel free to contact me at 573-751-5713 or by email at dan.brown@house.mo.gov.

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