Business at the State Capitol is in full swing with bills being filed and sent to committees to be heard. As of Jan. 25, there have been 996-plus bills filed in the House. Many more are expected to be filed.
House Speaker Delivers Response to Governor's State of the State Address
Governor Jay Nixon delivered his final State of the State Address last week as he called on legislators to work with him to advance several issues including ethics reform. Immediately after he finished his speech, House Speaker Todd Richardson delivered his response to the governor's call to action. It was during his response that Richardson noted that the governor has too often been someone who pledges to work with the General Assembly, but then fails to live up to his promise.
"The hallmark of this governor is talk and not action," said Richardson in his response. "Each January he comes to the General Assembly and promises to meaningfully engage on the challenges facing Missouri. With few exceptions, he has failed to deliver on that promise."
Richardson went on to say, "This Republican legislature has pledged to lead even in the governor's absence. Because of his lack of leadership, Governor Nixon has been overridden more times than every other governor in the history of this state combined."
Richardson used his response to highlight the many accomplishments the legislature has made in recent years. He focused on the tax cut approved by the legislature and then put into effect as law over the governor's veto. As Richardson said, "Because of these actions, and despite the governor's objections, this year Missouri families will see their first income tax cut in nearly a century."
The Speaker also mentioned the legislature's efforts to protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians. "Just last year this General Assembly defeated a proposal to enact a massive tax on guns and ammunition, and we will continue to defeat similar proposals going forward," said Richardson.
The House Speaker also noted that the legislature has made great strides in protecting the lives of the unborn. He said because of legislative efforts there are now thirty percent fewer abortions in Missouri than there were a decade ago.
In his State of the State Address, the governor again called for Medicaid expansion, and the Speaker responded by saying the legislature will continue to stand firmly opposed to the federal health care plan. Speaker Richardson
noted that even without expansion, Medicaid enrollment has increased 15 percent in the last 18 months, and spending has increased 26 percent since Governor Nixon took office.
"Republicans have stood adamantly opposed to an ever encroaching federal government and this is especially true with our health care," said Richardson. "We will continue to oppose this president, this governor, and the Democrat party in their efforts to expand the failed and flawed Obamacare system."
House Speaker Calls for New Investment in Missouri's Transportation System
One of the major issues discussed by House Speaker Richardson in his response is the need to increase investment in the state's transportation infrastructure. Richardson noted that, "investing in our state's transportation funding isn't just a convenience issue; it's one of economic necessity and public safety."
The Speaker said he is proposing, along with his fellow House and Senate leaders, that the state reinstitute the Missouri Department of Transportation cost-sharing program. Richardson said the once popular program among Missouri cities and counties will allow local governments to work with the state to meet the infrastructure needs of their communities.
"While this proposal won't solve all our transportation problems, this investment will send a clear signal to job creators and industry that our state is making the necessary investments and improvements to our infrastructure to allow business to capitalize, expand, and grow," said Richardson. "And we can do it without asking Missouri families for a single penny."
House Moves to Reject Tax Increase on Agricultural Land (HCR 58)
As it has done several times over the years, the Missouri House of Representatives took action this week to reject a proposed tax increase on Missouri's agricultural land. The House gave bipartisan support to HCR 58, which would reject a recommendation made by the Missouri Tax Commission for a five percent tax increase on farm and ranch properties.
A five percent increase went into effect in 2015 after the Tax Commission made a similar recommendation in 2014. Proponents of rejecting the new proposed increase said now is not the time for yet another tax increase on farmers and ranchers who are struggling in the current economy. They also noted that many of Missouri's agricultural lands have been adversely impacted by flooding, which is something the commission doesn't take into account when making its recommendation.
With House approval, the measure now moves to the Senate where it is expected to move quickly through the process.
Voter ID Legislation Receives House Approval (HJR 53 and HB 1631)
The House approved and sent to the Senate this week two pieces of legislation designed to require a valid form of photo identification in order to vote.
One piece of legislation would change the Missouri Constitution to allow a system of voter identification. If approved by the legislature, the change would then need to be approved by Missouri voters. The constitutional change is necessary because a voter identification requirement put into law in 2006 was ultimately struck down as unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court. Lawmakers hope to avoid a similar challenge in the future by amending the constitution to allow voter identification.
The second piece of legislation would implement the system of voter identification if the constitutional amendment is approved by voters. The bill would require voters to present a specified form of identification in order to vote in a public election. Valid forms of identification would include photo IDs issued by the state, the federal government or the military. The bill also would require the state to pay for individuals to obtain a valid ID if they do not have one, or to obtain documents necessary for an ID. The bill also states that individuals without a photo ID could still vote by casting a provisional ballot.
Supporters called the measures a necessary step to protect the integrity of the elections process. They said providing a valid photo ID is the best way to ensure voters are who they say they are when they cast their vote. They also deflected criticism that the bill would disenfranchise Missourians without an ID by pointing to the provisions that would require the state to help such individuals obtain state-issued photo identification.
Both measures now move to the Senate for discussion.
House Continues Discussion on Ethics Reform (HB 2166, HB 2203, HB 2226)
The members of the Missouri House recently approved four pieces of legislation meant to improve the culture at the Capitol, and several more bills are now set to make their way to the House floor for discussion. The House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability this week gave its stamp of approval to three more reform bills.
One piece of legislation (HB 2166) is meant to alleviate the undue influence of lobbyists in Jefferson City by banning gifts and meals provided by lobbyists to elected officials. Under current law, no limit exists on the amount of gifts a lobbyist can provide to a legislator or other state elected official. The bill approved in committee would impose a strict gift ban for members of the General Assembly and other statewide officials. The legislation is modeled after law in Arizona and contains some common sense exceptions that would allow a legislator to, for example, receive an award without breaking the law. However, the intent of the bill is to prohibit all gifts that could create an appearance of impropriety.
The committee also approved HB 2203 to limit how long campaign funds can be invested and how they can be used, and HB 2226 to prohibit task force and commission appointees from profiting from the recommendations they make.
All three bills now move to the House floor for discussion.
I continue to pray daily for the Lord's guidance in making decisions as your State Representative. As always I welcome and appreciate your help, support, contacts and opinions. Please pray for me, the Legislative Body, and pray to preserve our Freedoms.
Thank you for reading this Capitol Report. If you know anyone who would be interested in receiving my Capitol Report, please have them e-mail Dave.Muntzel@house.mo.gov or call 573-751-0169.
Finally, if we can ever be of any assistance to you do not hesitate to contact us at 573-751-0169 or you can reach my assistant, June, at email@example.com. If you are ever near Jefferson City at any time during the year, please feel free to visit my Capitol office Room 235BB. It is my pleasure to represent the good people of the 48th District.