JEFFERSON CITY -- Missouri lawmakers began prefiling bills on Dec. 1, in preparation of the start of the 2000 legislative session. The prefiling of bills is the first step in the legislative process that includes committee hearings and floor debate.
I have prefiled five bills and one Senate Joint Resolution.
As always, I have tried to introduce bills which would benefit both the residents of the 34th Senatorial District, and the people of Missouri as a whole.
In this column, I would like to review the legislation I have proposed for the upcoming session.
Senate Bill 561: Since it's going to be a crisis time for communities where tobacco is the major industry, I filed SB 561 to help communities. This bill would offer relief to communities by creating grants for diversification of areas with economies dependent upon tobacco production.
Three tobacco-dependent communities – a city, county, or any combination of cities or counties in which the economy of the area is dependent upon the production of tobacco – could apply for and receive a grant from $300,000 to $900,000 per year. These grants would be awarded by the Rural Economic Development Council and administered by the Office of Rural Development.
I believe this type of grant will allow these communities to get back on their feet by creating new industries.
This program has a sunset clause, and will terminate on Aug. 28, 2010.
Senate Bill 562: The whole concept of charter schools is new in our state, and their impact on public schools is still unknown. As most of you already know, charter schools are public schools that operate independently of local school districts and, to some extent, the state.
If passed, SB 562 would provide that assessment results of students attending charter schools would be included when determining the academic performance of the local school district during the Missouri School Improvement Program Review.
Senate Bill 563: Operating the State of Missouri is a business, just like any business. When the doors of state offices are closed during the week it can be inconvenient for hundreds, even thousands, of people in need of state services. Currently state employees are given several days off, when most other businesses are open. I would like to see that changed.
I have proposed SB 563, which would modify some of those existing holidays.
Under this legislation, the following dates would no longer be holidays for state employees:
Lincoln's Birthday – Feb. 12
Truman's Birthday – May 8
Columbus Day – second Monday in October
All other holidays will remain the same for state employees. However, all state employees hired before Jan. 1, 2001, will receive three additional vacation days in order to compensate them for the lost time.
If other businesses are open on these dates, I would like to see the state open also.
Senate Bill 616: Local governments would have the opportunity to make various improvements to employee retirement benefits if SB 616 is approved.
It will be up to each local government to determine whether to adopt these changes.
Senate Bill 617: This bill would make some much-needed changes to Missouri's Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.
Under this legislation, any person may donate their organs if they have stated their wishes in writing at least 15 days prior to their death. Unless that is done, the gift request will be invalid unless consent of the next-of-kin is given. If an individual completes the donor request documents as specified, no consent will be required at the time of death.
In addition, minors – at least 16-year-old – would be allowed to donate an organ with parental consent noted on the donor card, application, driver's license or other organ donation document.
Senate Joint Resolution 37: This constitutional amendment, would suspend refunds under Missouri's tax limitation measure – more commonly known as The Hancock Amendment – for five years. To go into effect, this would need to go to a vote of the people.
The refunds, if any, would be transferred to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot) to be used only for interstate highways or projects originally included in the 1992 15-year-plan. However, MoDot cannot budget expected refunds until they are actually received.
The legislature will resume on Jan. 5.
For more information, contact Sen. Johnson's office at 1-800-488-0593.