Ethics and Education Legislation Move to the Governor’s Desk
This week at the Missouri Capitol, the Senate was successful at moving ethics and education reform legislation forward to the governor’s desk for approval.
The General Assembly was able to get three bills to the governor’s desk this week after significant hard work and debate. The result is a genuine effort to move the ethical standards of Missouri lawmakers in a positive direction, so that your Legislators will be held to a higher standard for many Sessions to come.
Three House Bills were delivered to the governor’s desk this week. House Bill 1979 imposes a new rule for members of the General Assembly, so they cannot register as lobbyists until six months after their legislative term has ended. The second ethics bill passed, HB 1983 specifies that no current statewide elected official or member of the General Assembly can serve as a paid political consultant for other elected officials or General Assembly members, and this bill has been signed by the governor. The third ethics bill passed this week, HB 2203, changes the laws regarding campaign fund investments, and would work to curb corruption in the campaign finance system.
Another important update from the Senate this week revolves around Missouri’s public schools funding formula. As legislators, one of the most important jobs we have is protecting the education in this state. Our children are our lifeline to the future. We need to ensure that our public school system has the financial means to provide quality educations to our students. But the state’s current school funding is in jeopardy and hasn’t been fully funded for many years. While it’s a good formula in structure, it cannot be sustained.
The foundation formula determines the amount of funding each school district in Missouri receives. It was originally designed to grow at a fair rate, but because of the removal of the state adequacy target (SAT) five percent cap in 2009, the formula has continued to grow at unsustainable rates. The move was based on projections of increased gambling revenue, but that revenue never came. Since then, we have been fighting a losing battle while the SAT continues to rise at an uncontrollable rate.
With a modification, we can save the foundation formula and give schools the assurance and planning predictability they need so they know how much money they can spend. This week we sent Senate Bill 586, sponsored by Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, to the governor’s desk. The measure reestablishes a five percent cap that was included in the original formula and has previously survived a court challenge. This modification would not only save the foundation formula, but make full funding of the formula an attainable goal.
If this bill goes into law, it will preserve the formula, and we will be able to allow it to increase more proportionately to the growth rate in Missouri, instead of setting unrealistic expectations. It will provide Missouri school districts with the consistency and reassurance they need to efficiently allocate their resources and effectively educate our students. It will provide our schools, teachers and students with the resources they need to be successful in the long haul.
This measure had bipartisan support and was passed unanimously in the Senate. If the governor chooses not to sign this bill, the SAT will continue to increase and create an estimated $560 million gap next year with no hope of ever being funded. With his signature, we can slow the growth and set realistic expectations that will allow our school districts to plan for the future with more certainty.
I urge you to contact me with any questions or concerns you have about state government so that I can better represent you during the 2016 legislative session.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.senate.mo.gov/wallingford.
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