Legislative Column - April 3, 2014

A group of high school students and their chaperones from Caruthersville, Charleston, Hayti, Lilbourn, Sikeston, and Steele join
Sen. Libla on the grand staircase for a photo
on March 25, 2014.

Last week a group of high school students and their chaperones from Caruthersville, Charleston, Hayti, Lilbourn, Sikeston, and Steele had a great opportunity to visit Jeff City. This trip was organized by my office and was sponsored by Robert and Robin Whelan, Herman and Jill Styles, and my wife Elaine in conjunction with faith-based ministries and civic leaders that have a strong interest and investment in the future of their community. The students heard from six senators, three representatives, and legislative staff who used their personal time to speak and visit with the group. These speakers shared with them their personal stories, the different challenges in their lives they had to overcome, and what it means to have self-responsibility and to make good decisions. Staying in high school to complete their education was a common theme. The students also learned about Missouri government and history, and visited the Governor’s Mansion and the Supreme Court. Judge Patty Breckenridge and her staff hosted the group as they toured the Supreme Court. They also visited the Highway Patrol Headquarters and learned about careers in law enforcement, and also met current troopers and recruits studying in the academy. Their trip concluded with remarks from Highway Patrol Colonel Ron Replogle. They received advice about the hard work it takes to be successful in any career. In addition, they watched the Senate debate and toured the State Capitol. The students learned a lot about what it takes to be successful and responsible young adults.

Legislative staff member Kyle Aubuchon, constituent Connie Larrew, and Sen. Libla pose for a photo in the Senate Bingham Gallery on March 26, 2014.

We also had other visitors at the State Capitol. It was great to see my good friend, Connie Larrew. She was here with the Silver Hair Legislature. Connie runs the Northside Nutrition Center in Poplar Bluff and does an incredible job advocating for seniors. Her husband, Mike, is a WWII veteran and does a lot of volunteer work for the center, delivering meals to those who aren’t able to leave their homes. Jason Bean and Trent Haggard from the Bootheel also visited this week. They are great advocates for Missouri’s agriculture industry. Trent runs the University of Missouri Delta Research Center in Portageville, and Jason is the Chairman of the Advisory Committee. I also enjoyed meeting with representatives from Delta Companies, Inc., a large and key employer in the district. Randy and Lorrie Schulz from Poplar Bluff and Larry Swindle from Kennett also visited and discussed issues relating to funeral directors.

Last week we also celebrated “Rice Day” at the State Capitol. Rice has been grown in Missouri for nearly a century. The first rice field in our state was located near Dudley, and now there are approximately 185,000 acres of rice in Southeast Missouri and the Bootheel. The crop of high quality Missouri rice provides over 550 million pounds of ready-to-eat rice. Agriculture is vital to the success of our state and local economy, and our rice producers are especially important in Southeast Missouri and the Bootheel. Sonny Martin, Eric Hover, and Gary Murphy visited for Rice Day. Thank you to all of our rice farmers for bringing our great local products to share with those visitors and staff at the State Capitol!

It is also Three Rivers College Week at the State Capitol. I met with the President’s Leadership Academy, which consists of 15 emerging leaders of the college and consists of faculty, profession and support staff. In addition to the academy, center directors visited with elected officials regarding legislative issues that impact our region. It was great to see Dr. Devin Stephenson and his wife Judy, as well as Dr. Angela Totty, Teresa Johnson, and Bill and Connie Hampton, representing the college. I am excited and proud about representing the fastest growing community college in the state.

Recently, Senate Bill 668 was signed into law, and I was proud to vote in favor of the bill. The bill would prevent insurance companies from charging more than $75 for a 30-day supply of oral chemotherapy pills if the company offers both oral and intravenous treatments. The bill helps ease the financial burden on cancer patients. Currently, there are higher out-of-pocket costs for oral chemotherapy drugs than intravenous treatments, despite cases that indicate oral chemotherapy medications are less invasive on the body and more convenient for patients, especially those living in rural areas.

Also this week, I presented Senate Bill 911 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Landlords are having a difficult time recovering losses from tenants that knowingly destroy their property while living in the space. The only way for these landlords to recover monetary values for damaged property is to bring civil suits against the tenants as long as the lease had a provision stating that tenants are responsible for damage beyond normal wear and tear. Police have said they are reluctant to investigate and write police reports for property crimes committed by tenants under the belief that the tenants will not be convicted because of the “claim of right.” That’s why I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 911, which clarifies that this defense does not apply to tenants who willfully damage property, so police are more willing to investigate tenants for property crimes. I want to thank Greg and Angie West from Poplar Bluff for testifying in favor of my bill. The Wests are landlords and shared with committee members some of their personal experiences dealing with tenants who do not respect their property.

I also presented Senate Bill 530 before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. As the sponsor of the bill, which passed the Senate overwhelmingly on March 6, it will provide incentives for parents whose children have been removed from their home because of their illegal drug use to seek out treatment in a timelier manner. My goal is to get drug-addicted parents the help they need to provide a safe, nurturing home for their children, or depending on their lack of commitment to a healthy family unit, not let their children languish in the foster care system. This will relieve foster and prospective adoptive homes of the agonizing wait in considering a parent’s progress in addressing his or her drug addiction, and make it faster and easier to get these children out of foster care and adopted into a caring and loving home. Senate Bill 530 changes how parental rights are terminated by adding to the circumstances under which a parent is considered unfit. It speeds up the process of terminating parental rights for those parents who are irresponsible and deemed unfit by the court. This bill also shortens the timeline deemed necessary for family intervention performed by social workers, eliminating years of children languishing in foster care. As children age, their hopes and dreams of being adopted diminish. Thank you to Jim and Deana Ward, who traveled to the Capitol and testified before the committee in favor of my bill. They shared their personal experiences of having foster children in their home, and then seeing them returned to the same bad situation for which the children were removed in the first place. Children are our future and have rights, too, so let’s give them the opportunity of finding a nurturing home they so desperately need.

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

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