Legislative Column - Jan. 23, 2014

The past weeks have been filled with various legislative committee hearings. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I heard testimony on legislation that would implement performance-based funding for public four-year higher education institutions in our state. Similar to legislation filed last year, Senate Bill 492 would transition our state away from enrollment-based funding to one that instead uses a formula to allocate money based on the number of students who complete courses and receive their degrees. We need to support community colleges and universities that promote student success.

The Coordinating Board for Higher Education would be required to develop and adopt at least five institutional performance measures for each institution, in collaboration with the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Education. These performance measures would be evaluated every three years by the coordinating board, which would also be responsible for publishing these measures as administrative rules.

I also serve as a member to the Senate Rules and Resolutions Committee, which recently considered two bills relating to our state's gubernatorial appointment process: One changes the process for acting directors and filling vacancies in certain state public offices, while another authorizes our lieutenant governor to make appointments if the governor fails to make an appointment within 90 days of a vacancy.

The Missouri Constitution states when a vacancy occurs in the House or the Senate, the governor must "issue a writ of election without delay." Senate Bill 507 would remove the phrase "without delay" and require the governor's order to be issued within 30 days. Right now, there are four vacancies in the General Assembly: one in the Senate and three in the House of Representatives. These vacancies need to be filled and the governor needs to weigh the cost of holding these special elections over the lack of elected representation of citizens.

Our state has more than 200 important boards and commissions on which citizens have a chance to serve and make vital decisions on behalf of the people of Missouri. These appointments should not be taken lightly, and vacancies on boards and commissions should be filled in a timely manner so matters that impact citizens' daily lives are considered, whether it’s regulating industries, ensuring consumer protections, or impacting official policies. To see a complete list of Missouri's boards and commissions or to view a list of current vacancies and expired terms, visit www.gov.mo.gov/boards. If you are interested in serving, please contact our office for more information.

Sen. Libla sponsored the gubernatorial appointment of Sharon Sorrell (left) of Poplar Bluff to the State Committee for Social Workers on Jan. 15, 2014. She was joined by Hollie Hudlow (middle) and Leanne Duncan (right).

Congratulations to Sharon Sorrell of Poplar Bluff, who was named as a member to serve on the State Committee for Social Workers, and to Kathie Miller of Dexter, who was reappointed to this same committee. This important panel is responsible for protecting our citizens through licensing of certain social workers, assessing competency to practice as a social worker, and investigating all complaints against licensed social workers in a fair and equitable manner.

Lastly, a lot of visitors recently stopped by my Capitol office. Pastor Bill Vail and his wife from Poplar Bluff visited for the opening day Baptist Prayer Service and lunch with the MO Baptist Children's Home (MBCH). MBCH is doing awesome work with children and families. In addition, Dr. Devin Stephenson from Three Rivers College was here for the Missouri Community College Association's meeting and breakfast in Jefferson City. He also attended the Senate Education Committee with me during his visit.

Herman and Jill Styles and Ben Thies were here with Colton's Steakhouse at the Taste of Jefferson City, an event highlighting some of the Capital City's best restaurants. I met with Kurt Knodell, Lucas Edington, and Lori Dunlap for the MO REALTOR's legislative advocacy day, discussing issues regarding real estate. I also met with Dr. Kameron Hunt; Dr. Terry Swinger; Dr. Kylie Divine; Dr. Doug Nosacka; Dr. Daniel Obermark, and Cassidy Obermark, daughter of Dr. Obermark, from the Missouri Optometric Association for the group's legislative advocacy day. Ms. Jordan Babcock, granddaughter of Dr. Swinger, both from Caruthersville, also visited.

Constituents from Caruthersville joined Sen. Libla at the State Capitol on Jan. 22. These citizens had the opportunity to sit in on the State of the Judiciary address given to a joint session of the Senate and House and receive a tour of the Missouri Supreme Court building given by Chief Justice Russell.

In addition, Jeff and Diane Arnold were here with other sheltered workshop managers; I visited them last year and was impressed by the energy and passion of those working at sheltered workshops. Clark Allen was here with the Missouri Park and Recreation Association giving updates on the beautiful resources we have in our state. Jay Decker also stopped by with MO Society of Accountants, and Congressman Jason Smith visited to give the other senators and representatives from Southeast Missouri an update on what’s happening in Washington D.C. It was also nice to see Eddy Justice drop by again; if you travel to Jeff City and visit your State Capitol, please come by my office and say hello!

I was excited to be joined in Jefferson City by Pastor Jamie Jones, his wife Deborah, and four students from Caruthersville High School. Pastor Jones and his wife run an after-school program in Caruthersville, helping young folks achieve their potential inside and outside the classroom. Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, Mary Russell, met the Jones’ last November when she visited my district. She invited them to be her special guests at the annual State of the Judiciary, which she delivered before a joint session of the House and Senate.

These young students had an incredible experience on their trip. They visited the Missouri State Highway Patrol and learned about the patrol’s history, toured the academy, and met current recruits training to be troopers. My friend Herman Styles hosted lunch at Colton’s Steakhouse, and was joined by Deborah’s sister Della, brother-in-law John, and their daughter. Chief Justice Russell gave the group a personal tour of the Missouri Supreme Court, and I introduced them on the Senate floor. They finished their visit by touring the State Capitol and attending the joint session of the General Assembly to listen to the State of the Judiciary in the House chamber. These young students are among the top in their class and should be an inspiration to their peers and community.

If you would like to read more about the legislation or committees mentioned in this column, visit www.senate.mo.gov/libla. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

State Senator Doug Libla
201 W. Capitol Ave., Rm. 226
Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 751-4843

Click here to unsubscribe