House and Senate members convened for a joint session this week to receive the annual State of the Judiciary Address. Delivered by Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge, the speech focused on the reforms and improvements made by the court system, and the need to improve pretrial incarceration practices in Missouri.
Also, this week, during a Veterans Committee hearing, the Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission presented a briefing sharing five specific strategic plan goals for our state. Specifically, those goals include:
-- communicating the value of Missouri's military and defense sector to Missouri leaders and citizens;
-- supporting and enhancing Missouri's military installations, missions, and defense agencies; improving the quality of life
and economic opportunities for service members and their families, veterans, and military retirees;
-- supporting the success of Missouri's defense industry and its economic impact on Missourians; and
-- increasing defense-related research and development funding to Missouri universities and small businesses.
A newly-formed House subcommittee is set to investigate reports of harassment within the Department of Corrections. The Speaker of the House and Paul Fitzwater, the chair of the House Corrections Committee, this week formed the new committee to closely examine the current problems within the department. Recent news articles outlined multiple cases in which corrections employees were the victims of harassment by other employees. Some were retaliated against after reporting incidents. Some cases led to lawsuits that have cost Missouri millions of dollars in legal settlements, with more pending. The new House Subcommittee on Corrections Workforce Environment and Conduct will begin its work immediately.
Finally, this week Governor Greitens announced the creation of a new committee that will be charged with fixing what he says is a broken tax system. In forming the new committee, Greitens said the state has "a tax system that is complex, corrupt, and high. So today, I signed an executive order to put an end to our broken tax system once and for all." The 10-member Governor's Committee for Simple, Fair, and Low Taxes is intended to look for ways to create a simple and fair tax system that will help create jobs. The committee will be made up of ten unpaid members. The governor will appoint four of the members, and the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem will be responsible for selecting three members each. The governor will designate the chair of the committee.
We have also been to work on the floor. This week we voted to reject a pay increase for legislators and statewide elected officials, a measure I co-sponsored. I believe there are more important priorities in our state than spending $470,000 on raises for legislators while we face a budget deficit, and our economy remains flat. Early in the week, HB 151, which I co-sponsor, was heard in the Standing Committee on Government Efficiency. HB 151 would allow the Department of Revenue to issue REAL ID compliant driver's licenses unless the applicant requests a license that is not compliant with the REAL ID, an opt-out. Next year, if Missouri remains uncompliant, state drivers' licenses will no longer be accepted as valid forms of ID to the federal government. Later in the week, the House also voted to pass legislation that creates a statewide framework for Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft. Details of both measures follow with the TNC bill up first.
House Approves Legislation to Pave the Way for Uber and Lyft (HB 130)
The Missouri House gave final approval this week to legislation that would allow rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to expand services throughout the state. The legislation is meant to allow transportation network companies to expand beyond municipalities that have passed their own ordinances governing ridesharing. Currently, Uber operates only in Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia, and Springfield. Lyft does not currently operate in Missouri, but recently announced it will begin offering services in Springfield.
House Bill 130 would establish criteria for fare charges and customer receipts. It would also require local and national criminal background checks for drivers; inspections for vehicles; and an annual registration fee of $5,000. Additionally, the bill would exempt transportation network companies from local or municipal taxes. During discussion on the House floor, the House amended the bill to include additional protections for the private information of individuals who utilize rideshare services. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
House Members Reject Proposed Pay Increase (HCR 4)
House members came together in bipartisan fashion this week to overwhelmingly reject a proposed pay increase for elected officials and judges. The House approved a resolution that would prevent the pay increase recommendations made by the Citizens' Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials from going into effect.
The commission meets every two years according to the state constitution to set the compensation for state officials. Once the commission makes its recommendation, it automatically goes into effect unless the legislature rejects the proposal before February 1. It takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to keep the increases from going into effect.
In rejecting the increase, House members agreed it is not appropriate to increase their own pay. They also said the difficult budget situation faced by the state this year makes it even more important to ensure taxpayer dollars are saved for priority items such as education and services for Missouri's most vulnerable citizens.
The legislation has already moved to the Senate where it is expected to move quickly in order to receive final passage early next week ahead of the deadline.
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.