I don't know about you, but it seems to me that 2015 flew by. The year started with a legislative session with an ambitious agenda that the General Assembly worked hard to complete. Major successes included medical malpractice reforms to keep the costs of health care in check; reforms to the state's system of welfare to give Missourians in need an incentive to get back to work; and a fix to the state's unemployment system meant to ensure benefits are available to the jobless while also protecting business owners from excessive taxes and fees (in other words, keep the system intact for the future). The legislature also came together to pass landmark municipal court reform legislation meant to crack down on the predatory practices some municipalities have used to raise revenue through excessive traffic tickets.
Sadly, the accomplishments of the General Assembly were overshadowed by several tragic events that sent shockwaves through the Capitol, and through the state. It was in late February when legislators learned of the death of State Auditor Tom Schweich. This was amplified just a few weeks later when one of Schweich's key staffers succumbed to the same fate. The year 2015 also produced unexpected changes in leadership in both the Missouri House and Senate. On the House side, Floor Leader Todd Richardson took over as John Diehl resigned. On the Senate side, Floor Leader Ron Richard ascended to the top position after President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey vacated his seat. As 2016 is set to begin, the past is behind us and both chambers have rallied to support their new leaders and are set to work together to move Missouri toward a brighter tomorrow.
2015 comes to a close with dangerous flooding
Rather than a white Christmas, Missourians saw the holiday season produce record levels of rainfall that led to flooding throughout the state. Already the overflowing rivers and streams have taken the lives of 13 Missourians and have led to hundreds more being evacuated. The heavy rains and flooding led Governor Nixon to declare a state of emergency, and to activate the National Guard to support Missouri communities and assist first responders.
Fortunately, the forecast now calls for no heavy rain in the next several days, which should allow the flood waters to recede. However, officials continue to warn all Missourians to continue to use extreme caution when encountering water-covered roads. If you are traveling to potential flood area, please remember these important safety tips on flooding and high water: Do not walk in moving water or drive into flooded areas.
Missourians who need disaster information, shelter information, and referrals are urged to call 211. The 211 service is now available throughout Missouri.
Legislature set to look at Real ID issue
The State of Missouri recently was notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that driver's licenses issued in Missouri will not be considered valid forms of identification by federal facilities. The notification has set leaders in both the House and Senate into motion to develop a fix that will ensure Missourians do not have issues in the future with boarding an airplane. For now, the federal government's decision to not recognize Missouri driver's licenses will only prevent license holders from using that ID to enter a federal facility such as a military base. However, both House Speaker Richardson and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard exploring solutions to the problem.
As you may recall, two summers ago the House and Senate held hearings about the implementation of Real ID. During this period we also found that concealed carry permit holder names were being shared with the Federal government. This week we learned of spying by the National Security Agency on Israel and Congress. All of this leads me (and many of you) to have great concerns about our privacy. During this solution phase, there are questions I will ask concerning the Real ID act and the national data lists compiled with those requirements while trying to preserve our ability to maintain privacy. This includes my
continuing activity with those of like -mind in the Privacy Caucus. Also know that we are not in this alone: the majority of states joined Missouri in rejecting what they saw as an attempt to create a national identification card. I will keep you updated on this matter.