Saturday, April 19th, 2014
Keeping E-Cigarettes Away from Children
This week the House gave bipartisan support to my bill, HB 1690, that bans the sale of e-cigarettes and nicotine vaporizers to children. As these products are relatively new, they are currently unregulated and are legally available to kids in Missouri. While they are a great tool to help quit smoking, studies have shown that children who start using e-cigarettes may be more likely to start smoking actual cigarettes. After passing the House by a wide margin, the bill now goes to the Senate which also passed similar legislation this week.
Ethics Reform Moves Forward in the House
I’m also pleased to report that my ethics legislation, HB 1258, has been rolled into a larger ethics bill that will be heard in the House. Drawing on ideas from my bill and bills introduced by Rep. Caleb Jones (R-Columbia) and Rep. Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City), House Committee Substitute for HBs 1258 & 1267 will strengthen our ethics laws and bring more transparency to state government.
In addition to capping lobbyist gifts and requiring legislators to take ethics training, this ethics bill tackles two very timely issues; the first being executive appointments as a form of bribery. After Republicans won historic veto-proof majorities in 2012, the Governor has attempted to influence the makeup of the legislature and the outcome of votes by offering appointments to Republican legislators. The appointment process should be used to fill vacancies with qualified public servants–not as a tool to bribe legislators. This bill would make it a crime to offer or discuss an appointment in exchange for a vote.
The second major issue this bill addresses is off-site committee dinners and meetings. Under the current ethics rules, gifts and meals given to all members of a particular committee get placed on an ethics report separate from individual lawmakers’ reports. This bill requires that all committee expenses outside the Capitol building be reported individually. Changing this rule will give Missourians a more accurate picture of what special interests their legislators come in contact with. The change will also, hopefully, give legislators pause before they choose to have public committee hearings at fine dining restaurants far away from Jefferson City.
These changes only represent a piece of the overall bill. HCS HBs 1258 & 1267 also bans legislators from soliciting lobbying jobs or clients while in office, strengthens rules regarding travel gifts, and improves the financial disclosure process for political appointees. The passage of this bill will be a victory for Missourians and will make state government more transparent and accountable.
Modernizing Missouri’s Criminal Code
Missouri’s criminal code has largely remained unchanged since 1979. To put that in perspective, nearly 9,000 people in the 44th District, me included, hadn’t even born the last time the code saw major updates or improvements! 35 years of inaction have led to a criminal code that is disorganized, contradictory, and requires regular intervention and interpretation by the courts just to make sense of it all.
After five years of collaboration, vetting, and bipartisan negotiation, the House has passed HB 1371. This nearly 1000 page overhaul appropriately organizes the criminal code and makes the law less ambiguous, more gender neutral, and more adaptable to law-enforcement needs in the 21st century. Among its major provisions, the update creates a new felony class to address gaps in the current code; gaps, for example, that allow the charge of manslaughter to carry the same penalty as forgery. I support this needed overhaul and was glad to see it pass the House with strong bipartisan support; 130-24.
Investing in Transportation Infrastructure
This week the House gave bipartisan support to HJR 68—a resolution that would allow Missourians to choose whether or not to collect a 1% sales tax to dramatically improve our highways and transportation infrastructure. Upon voter approval, the tax would last 10 years and would not apply to groceries. The sales tax is estimated to raise over $8 billion and will fill a looming gap in transportation funding. MoDOT estimates that by 2017, their existing budget will no longer be enough to even maintain—not improve—to maintain our road system.
As someone who regularly drives on our highways and enjoys the benefits those roads bring to our economy, I spoke in favor of this bill on the House floor. If this resolution makes it through the Senate, Missourians will have the opportunity to choose whether or not this is an investment they want to make at this time.
Friday, March 28th, 2014
We are now past the halfway point of the legislative session. This week the House finalized the state’s 2015 spending. While House and Senate budget writers are at odds with the Governor over how much money the state will actually collect this year, my colleagues and I are working in good faith to make sizable investments using a two tiered approach.
The proposed plan would allocate over $8 billion from state taxes based on a prediction of 4.2% growth. If the state collects additional money, as the Governor thinks it will, those extra funds will be allocated towards the end of the year.
** Ensuring Economic Success by…
…Investing in Education
The most important commitment the budget committee has made this year is record funding for public education. Under the House proposal public schools will see a $122 million increase in funding and an additional $156 million if revenue collections exceed our expectations. This represents the largest increase in funding in state history. I have said over and over that our state’s economic future is tied directly to the education we provide our kids; I was proud to play an important role in securing this increase through my work on the Budget Committee. Years of record investments are bringing us closer than ever to fully funding Missouri’s foundation formula.
Our budget also includes increases for higher education. The Budget Chairman originally planned to raise performance-based funding by 2%; given its significance to our local community and our economy I felt this was an inadequate amount. Through the markup process, I successfully amended the budget to provide an additional 1%, or $10 million, for the University of Missouri and other two and four year institutions around the state.
On a related note, we approved money to offer loan forgiveness to Bright Flight students who choose to live and work in Missouri after graduation. Our public colleges and universities drive economic growth, engage in breakthrough scientific research, and prepare students for a lifetime of opportunity in a globally competitive workforce—this is a worthy investment and is key to our future economic success.
…Investing in Small Businesses
The House successfully passed the Angel Investment Act (HBs 1310 and 1236) which encourages individuals to provide seed-capital to innovative business start-ups. As a small business owner, I recognize that building a new business from the ground up often requires significant capital investments and huge sacrifices. This bill will spur investment in those new businesses, improving their chances of success, and make Missouri more economically competitive.
I also have an economic development bill moving through the legislative process. HB 2043 would allow public colleges and universities to make vacant campus space available to innovative business start-ups. Those companies that meet the qualifications, and their employees, would be entitled to tax incentives and would benefit from direct access to institutional resources. Likewise, institutions would benefit from filling unused space and their students would benefit from direct access to real-world business operations, research and development, and rising entrepreneurs.
…Investing in Health Care
House Republicans have also approved substantial Medicaid reforms that will improve services, control or reduce costs, and prevent abuse of this important safety net. Our plan will add additional services to Medicaid including preventative dental care for the aged, blind, disabled, and families on TANF; as well coverage for more complex rehab therapies—reducing long-term medical costs and improving patients’ quality of life. New funding will provide $100 million to fund allergy and asthma treatment; helping children control their symptoms and reduce costly emergency room visits. We will also spend $500,000 to create a pilot program to deliver coordinated care for foster children; reducing overall costs and ensuring better health outcomes. Finally my colleagues and I are looking to increase funding to other vital services including Meals on Wheels, Mental Health First Aid, sexual and domestic violence grants, and child advocacy centers.
In addition to improving Medicaid, House Republicans are looking to rebuild the cornerstone of Missouri’s mental health safety net; the Fulton State Hospital. Opened in 1851, the facility has fallen into a dangerous state of disrepair. While the Governor has proposed issuing $200 million in bonds and paying the cost back over 25 years, our plan is to pay the bonds back within five years; saving taxpayers $120 million in interest over the life of the project. A new facility will provide a safe, state-of-the-art treatment environment; improving outcomes for patients and reducing high employee turnover.
…Investing in You
Once again my colleagues and I passed tax cuts that will spur increased economic growth around our great state. HBs 1253 and 1297 reduce taxes on businesses and individuals. These modest cuts are phased in over multiple years and require revenue growth for them to take effect. The bottom line is if the state doesn’t see the growth we believe it will, then the tax cuts will be put on hold.
Our ultimate goal is to create a climate of growth and opportunity in Missouri. House Republicans are working with the money we have now to make the most effective and fiscally responsible investments that we can. Our targeted investments in our schools, in small businesses, in health care, and in your families will ensure Missouri will be a vibrant place to live and work for years to come.
Monday, March 17th, 2014
Sunday, March 2nd, 2014
Boosting Job Growth & Innovation
This week I sponsored two pieces of legislation to address job growth and innovation. The first bill, HB 2042, would require public schools to count computer science classes as math credits, rather than as electives. Computer science, specifically writing computer code, requires mathematical reasoning to design and implement computer algorithms. I have read of 17 other states trying this approach and I believe this is an excellent way to encourage more students to explore computer science. As a state, we often talk about creating a skilled, high-tech workforce—this is a small, but effective step we can take to make Missouri more competitive in the information economy.
The second bill I filed this week was HB 2043. This bill, known as the Education Innovation Investment Act (EIIA), will stimulate job growth and business development at public colleges and universities. Under the EIIA, public institutions may contract with new (non-retail) business startups to occupy vacant land or facilities on campus. To further encourage growth, for their first five years of operation, qualifying businesses may subtract 50% of their adjusted federal income when calculating their Missouri adjusted gross. Likewise, qualifying employees at those businesses may subtract $10,000 of their federal income when calculating their Missouri adjusted gross income for their first five years of employment.
The EIIA will directly benefit several groups:
- Entrepreneurs and their employees will have greater access to tax incentives and institutional resources
- Institutions will be able to monetize their vacant space and collaborate with innovative new businesses
- Instructors and their students will have access to real-world, hands-on learning and job opportunities
Building on Our Commitment to Public Education
As a member of the House Budget committee, I am proud to report that we will recommend a $100 million increase in funding for public education. Additionally, we will recommend a 5% increase to Missouri’s public colleges and universities.
Modernizing, Streamlining, and Lowering Missouri Taxes
The House gave approval this week to HB 1268 which ties Missouri’s tax brackets to inflation. Our state’s tax code has been unchanged for decades and, as a result, if you make more than $9,000 a year you fall in the top tax bracket. I supported this common sense, long-overdue change—it passed by 146-4.
To streamline your experience with the Department of Revenue, the House passed HB 1081—the Paperless Documents and Forms Act. The bill allows DOR to offer all tax forms and documents online and offer the ability to submit those forms and documents electronically. The bill would also allow DOR to send you notifications via email, if that is your preference. HB 1081 passed 146-0.
My colleagues and I also approved two tax cuts this week:
- HB 1253 deals specifically with taxes on business income. The tax cut is phased in over five years; each round of cuts can only go into effect if state revenues remain unchanged; if revenues fall, taxes will not be cut. For small business owners, this means the amount of business income you pay taxes on will decrease by 10% each round until you are only paying taxes on 50% of your small business income. HB 1253 also reduces the corporate income tax from 6.25% to 3.125% over five years. Again, if state revenues fall the remaining tax cuts will not take place. HB 1253 passed 106-49.
- HB 1295 deals specifically with personal income taxes. The tax cut is phased in over seven years in 0.1% increments. State revenue must increase by $150 million (compared to the highest collections of any of the three previous years) in order for each round of cuts to go into effect. Tax revenues will have to grow by over $1 billion before we ultimately reach the final tax rate of 5.3%. HB 1295 also includes a $1,000 deduction for all individuals with an adjusted gross income less than $20,000. To protect education funding, the bill requires 40% of new net general revenue to go to the foundation formula until our schools are fully funded. HB 1295 passed 106-47.
This Week’s Capitol Guests
Gifted students from Rock Bridge High School stopped by my office this week to talk about gifted education…we had a blast!
I had the pleasure of meeting the MU Tiger Volleyball Team this week. Congratulations ladies on winning the Tigers’ first SEC Championship!
If there is an issue that’s important to you, feel free to stop by my Capitol Office any time Monday afternoons through Thursday mornings. I’d be happy to meet with you!
Saturday, February 8th, 2014
My Legislation to Improve Government Accountability Moves Through the House
Back in January, I introduced several pieces of legislation to improve government accessibility and transparency. Last week I had the privilege of presenting a few of those bills to the House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability.
HB 1433 would require the Department of Revenue to collect information about all taxing districts and display them in a searchable database on the department’s website. This database, as the Columbia Daily Tribune and Springfield News-Leader have pointed out, would bring consumers a little more clarity to tasks such as shopping or buying a home.
HB 1432 would require Missouri’s executive agencies to post, on their homepage, links to proposed language and easy-to-understand summaries of administrative rule changes. These rules carry a lot of weight and govern how you interact with agencies, such as the Department of Revenue for example; rule changes deserve as much public scrutiny as we can give them.
Both bills received a positive response in committee. Once these bills have been voted on by the committee—I am positive they will make their way to the House floor for debate.
Bill to Improve Disaster Response Times Fast-Tracked in the House
I am proud to report that HB 1300, which will help Boone County Fire improve disaster response times for Missouri Task Force 1, has been voted out of committee and recommended for “consent” status. Bills are only granted consent status if they are uncontroversial and will not cost the state any money. HB 1300 allows Boone County Fire to vote on disaster deployment funds immediately via any available form of communication. During the committee process, we strengthened the bill by adding language that would require the Fire Protection District to keep minutes of those meetings and make them publicly available. I am confident HB 1300 will become law this year.
New Jobs Coming to Centralia
Hubbell Power Systems, ABB, and General Cable have announced their partnership with CleanLine Energy to build a 750 mile direct-current transmission line, to carry renewable wind energy, from Kansas across Missouri. This huge project will bring 65 new jobs to Hubbell in Centralia.
You can read more about this exciting announcement onKOMU.
A Big Thank You to Law Enforcement, First-Responders, and Road Crews
I want to publicly thank Captain Lance McLaughlin, of the Highway Patrol, for his help after I blew a tire on the way to Jefferson City. The Captain saw me on the side of the road and stopped to assist me. As we endure more treacherous winter road conditions, I ask that you pray for those Missourians who put themselves in danger to keep us and our roads safe. Before you travel, be sure to check the road conditions at http://traveler.modot.org/map/.
Members of the Missouri Home Care Union stopped by my office this past week to advocate for home health care policies. If there is an issue that’s important to you, feel free to stop by my Capitol Office any time Monday afternoons through Thursday mornings. I’d be happy to meet with you!
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
I had two bills heard in the House Gov’t Oversight & Accountability committee yesterday. HB1432 would require all state departments [DESE, Dep't of Eco Devo, etc] to prominently post proposed rule changes, as well as fiscal impact for those rule changes on their website. HB1433 would require the Dep’t of Revenue to collect taxing rates from all local taxing districts around the state and provide a searchable database on their website for Missourians to know exactly how much they are being taxed at ALL levels of government. Check out a couple of news articles below to learn more about the bills.
Friday, January 24th, 2014
Governor Nixon is Writing Checks Missourians Can’t Cash
In his annual State of the State Address, Governor Nixon laid out his legislative priorities for the year. Despite withholding over $130 million from the state budget last year under the guise of fiscal responsibility, he has proposed a spending plan this year that would be the largest in state history.
When crafting the state budget, it is customary for House and Senate budget staff, the Governor’s budget staff, and economists from the University of Missouri to collectively settle on a fiscally responsible revenue estimate for the year. It is that consensus revenue estimate, or CRE, that our entire state budget is based on. For the first time in 10 years, Missouri will go without a CRE because Governor Nixon has chosen, irresponsibly, to assume that Missouri will see over 6% growth this year. There is absolutely no evidence to support his claims. The economic experts have recommended a more modest assumption of 4.2% growth, and that is the estimate the legislature will use going forward.
Writing checks we can’t cash is nothing new for Governor Nixon. Every year, the State of the State Address has served as a platform for him to pander to and promise increased funding for one interest group or another. And every year, the governor withholds millions of dollars from higher education, infrastructure improvements, and other critical needs around the state. This year the promises have reached a reckless fever pitch.
As the owner of a startup company and as a member of the House Budget committee, investments in jobs and education are near and dear to my heart. I campaigned on those issues and I believe that when talking about the economic future of our great state, we cannot separate the need to attract jobs from making a significant commitment to education.
I look forward to supporting investments in education and infrastructure, and creating an economic environment in Missouri that will encourage growth. I will, however, be operating within the reality of our’s state’s current fiscal situation. House and Senate Republicans have increased funding for education for years and have done it with balanced budgets.
Legislation I Have Filed
Ethics Reform (HB 1258)
As some of you may know, I have introduced a bill that would fill some holes in Missouri’s existing ethics laws. The bill:
- Caps lobbyist gifts at $50 and would prohibit legislators from accepting more than $500 in gifts per quarter. There are currently no caps on lobbyist gifts.
- Requires lobbyist expenses for committee meetings held outside the Capitol building to be reported on legislators’ individual ethics reports. Currently, lobbyists may report those expenses (usually for taking the committee out to dinner) as going to the whole committee—but not to the individual committee members.
- Prohibits members of the legislature from serving as a lobbyist or soliciting future clients until two years after leaving office.
- Requires state legislators and statewide office holders to report any campaign donations over $500 within 72 hours
I chose to address these issues because of their simplicity and because they have the greatest chance of becoming law this session, not years down the road.
You can read HB 1258 and follow it through the legislative process HERE.
Missouri Task Force 1 (HB 1300)
This bill would allow fire boards that host an urban search and rescue task force, such as Boone County Fire and Missouri Task Force 1, to more quickly deploy first responders in the event of a disaster. When an organization such as FEMA requires support from the task force, it is the fire board’s responsibility to allocate money to pay for the team’s deployment; this is legally required to happen within a very narrow timeframe. After the deployment, FEMA then reimburses the task force’s deployment expenses.
In the event that members of the fire board are absent or inaccessible, the task force cannot deploy in a timely manner. This bill gives the fire board the ability to vote to spend money on disaster responses by any electronic means necessary. This exception will only apply to these deployments. No other fire board business may be conducted this way.
You can read HB 1300 and follow it through the legislative process HERE.
Administrative Rule Changes (HB 1432)
State agencies are government by a number of administrative rules—often times, people know very little about them or know when they change. This bill would require all state agencies to post, on the front page of their websites, a link to any pending rule changes. Each rule change must include a fairly worded, easy-to-understand summary. This bill will bring greater transparency to the executive branch and give you a better idea of how new rules will affect your interactions with our state government.
You can read HB 1432 and follow it through the legislative process HERE.
Taxing Districts (HB 1433)
This is the second time I have filed my taxing districts bill. This legislation would require the Department of Revenue to keep a database of all taxing districts in the state. These local entities account for a growing portion of your tax burden. This database would be searchable by your address and give you a clear picture of all of the taxes you pay where you live.
You can read HB 1433 and follow it through the legislative process HERE.
Live Streaming the Legislative Process (HB 1544)
This bill would require a live video/audio stream of all floor proceedings and committee hearings at the Capitol to be broadcast on the internet. We currently only stream audio from the House and Senate chambers. This bill would dramatically increase your access to the legislature and to its committee hearings—and hopefully make legislators more accountable to their constituents, many of whom live hours away from Jefferson City.
You can read HB 1544 and follow it through the legislative process HERE.
Sunday, January 5th, 2014
On Wednesday, 44th District State Representative Caleb Rowden will file an ethics reform bill that he hopes will “close some holes” in Missouri’s current ethics law. Rowden’s bill will do a number of things, including:
- Capping any individual lobbyist gift at $50, and capping the total amount of gifts a legislator can receive at $500/quarter.
- Implements a two year ‘cooling off period’ before a legislator can become a lobbyist.
- Specifies that all dinners/activity outside of the Capitol building must be reported individually by lobbyists and may not be reported as a group or committee.
- Specifies that any campaign contribution received above $500 during session must be reported within 72 hours to the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Rowden comments, “I think the General Assembly has a good chance this year to clean up our ethics laws, and ensure our constituents can look at Jefferson City and be proud of what they see. The goal of this legislation is to bring a higher level of transparency and accountability to our legislative process. I believe there are a few holes and areas of concern that we as legislators need to address, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this become law in 2014.”
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Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
Take a moment and fill out Caleb’s legislative survey by CLICKING HERE. This year’s session will undoubtedly be filled with debate on big-ticket issues, and having your input is invaluable as Caleb navigates these tough issues.
Wednesday, January 1st, 2014