This week I filed HB 2234, which will require the Department of Higher Education to provide a statewide portal to provide information for potential and current students. The website would be designed as a type of clearinghouse where students may search all of the state's colleges and universities programs, transfer information, financial aid information, as well as other types of information.
I have worked with several higher education officers and officials in the Department of Higher Education who are in agreement for the need of the portal. Also, it allows them to cooperate in transferability of courses, which will be a great benefit for students. It will have expandability capabilities as we move forward with developing more and more communication devices.
With that noted, let's move on to other issues.
House Committee Meets to Discuss Real ID Issue
Citizens concerned about being able to fly with a Missouri driver's license received good news recently as the state was granted a two-year extension so that state IDs will continue to be accepted at airport security checkpoints. Missouri is now one of 27 states that have been granted extensions, and Missouri travelers will now have until January 22, 2018 to use their current driver's licenses to travel.
In the meantime, the legislature will continue to look at long-term solutions to ensure Missouri citizens are not negatively impacted by the state's decision to not comply with the Real ID Act approved by the federal government in 2005. The act was passed by Congress to create new minimum standards for licenses, and the Missouri legislature responded in 2009 by passing legislation to protect the privacy of Missouri citizens by rejecting the requirements of the act.
This week the House Committee on Emerging Issues met to look at the options the state has to ensure travelers are not
negatively impacted by the federal requirements. Both the director and deputy director of the Missouri Department of Revenue appeared before the committee to outline the current state law and the changes that would need to be made in order to become compliant with the Real ID Act. For example, the department would need to start retaining copies of source documents such as birth certificates. It also would need to implement a photo validation program to ensure applicants don't have more than one ID issued by the state under different identities.
One of the key points emphasized by the department in its testimony is that it would take a significant amount of time to implement the changes. Lawmakers also raised questions about the cost the state would incur to comply with the federal act. Others were concerned with the possibility that the private information of Missourians would be kept in a national database if the state complies, but the department deputy director said his understanding is that there is not a federal database.
Please rest assured that I will keep an eye on matters of privacy as we review this issue. There have been possible solutions offered already such as including an opportunity for Missourians to have a second, non-driver's license that would be compliant with the Real ID Act. The option would allow Missourians to choose whether to obtain just the standard driver's license that is not Real ID compliant, or to also obtain the second ID that would be accepted at federal facilities and airport security checkpoints throughout the country. Legislators will continue this discussion, please let me know your thoughts.
Stadium Issue Resolved as Rams Announce Move to Los Angeles
One of the looming issues of the session was the imminent showdown between the legislature and the governor over the prospect of using taxpayer dollars to partially subsidize a new football stadium for the St. Louis Rams. The showdown now
appears to be off the table for the 2016 legislative session as the NFL recently approved the relocation of the Rams to Los Angeles.
From the start of the discussion, many lawmakers, myself included, supported the idea of working to keep the Rams, but opposed the governor's proposal that circumvented the will of the people. We insisted that any stadium funding plan receive public or legislative approval before moving forward. However, the governor had continued to push his own proposal to issue bonds without a statewide or legislative vote.
With the stadium proposal now off the table, lawmakers will no longer need to focus their efforts on passing legislation to stop the governor's plan. Instead, the St. Louis region and the state will now look at other options to fill the void created by the Rams' departure.
House Approves Four Ethics Reform Bills (HB 1979, HB 1452, HB 1575, and HB 1983)
On the first day of session, House Speaker Todd Richardson made it clear that substantive ethics reform would be the top priority for the 2016 legislative session. In the second week of session, the House approved four reform bills and sent and sent them to the Senate.
The bills moved quickly through the process as they were heard and approved in committee on Monday, given initial approval on the House floor on Wednesday, and then given final approval Thursday morning. The bills address a wide array of issues including: HB 1452 which requires elected officials to file a personal financial disclosure twice each year. Current law requires only a single disclosure each year. HB 1575 which requires elected officials to report lodging and travel expenses in a timely fashion. The bill requires the expenses to be filed within 30 days of the reportable event. The remaining two concern political employment: HB 1979 that requires elected officials to have a one-year "cooling off" period after leaving office before they could become lobbyists, and HB 1983 which prohibits statewide official or member of the General Assembly from serving as a paid political consultant while in office.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.
Serving the Constituents of the 51st District,