This week I traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend an annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs. The agenda covered important topics such as solutions to veteran health care and veteran treatment courts, and updates from the Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Economic Adjustment and the DOD State Liaison Office, among several other topics.
For a quickupdate, let's take a look at the DOD economic impact in our state. Missouri ranks 11th in overall DOD spending. This accounts for 3.7 percent of our state's economy. Johnson County receives almost $350 million of the $10.6 billion spent in the state. This ranks fifth behind St. Louis County, St. Louis City, Jackson County, and Pulaski County (Fort Leonard Wood). Johnson County ranks second in total DOD personnel (6,703) behind Pulaski County (Fort Leonard Wood which is about double Whiteman personnel).
House Speaker Outlines Priorities for Upcoming Session
With the legislative session just a month away, and the legislature now set to work with a governor who has shared policy priorities, House Speaker Todd Richardson recently outlined part of his legislative agenda for 2017. Richardson has already met several times with Governor-Elect Greitens to talk about the common ground that can be found between the executive and legislative branches.
As the Speaker said, "I think we're going to find a tremendous amount of common ground and it's built around a common vision for what Missouri looks like. That's a Missouri that respects and protects individual freedom. That's a Missouri that has a stronger, more vibrant, dynamic economy than we have today. It's a Missouri that has a strong education system for every Missourian no matter where they were born or where they live."
Speaker Richardson said the top priorities for the House will be issues that his party believes will improve Missouri's economy.
"That means a universe of labor reform, tort reform, and education reform," said Richardson, "I think if we'll focus on those issues as well as removing some of the government barriers to innovation and economic development, we'll have the workings of a pretty good agenda."
The Speaker also said his legislative priorities include passage of right to work legislation preventing employees from being required to join a union as a condition of employment. The Speaker noted that ethics reform will also be a priority early in the 2017 session, as legislators again attempt to pass a ban on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers.
Task Force on Human Trafficking Prepares Recommendations for 2017 Legislative Session
The Task Force on Human Trafficking recently held its final hearing and is now putting together its recommendations for the 2017 legislative session. The group was created in 2015 with the goal of making recommendations to the legislature on how to fight trafficking in Missouri. A report with the group's recommendations is due by the end of the year.
The General Assembly has already passed legislation to criminalize the advertising of a victim for sex or pornography. Legislators also made it law to allow a victim keep his or her address confidential,
making it harder for traffickers to find them. With the goal of strengthening the anti-trafficking laws already on the books, the task force will likely recommend the creation of a position in the state's government that oversees anti-trafficking efforts. This would require the legislature to propose where the money for such a person's salary would come from in the state budget. Discussion also continues regarding where in state government the position would be housed, or whether it should be a non-profit position outside of the government.
Other recommendations could include using state money to help support groups that offer treatment and assistance to victims to help them transition out of trafficking, and requiring that employers post the national trafficking hotline in break rooms. The chairman of the task force is expected to include six to 10 recommendations in the report.
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.