Legislative Column - April 18, 2014

This week the Missouri Senate hosted a Memorial Service for the distinguished former senators who have passed away since May 1987. It was the first time in nearly 30 years an event like this has been held in our chamber. Together, with the families of the former senators, we celebrated the lawmakers' lives and legacies and remembered their dedicated service. The memorial service recognized the contributions and sacrifices made by their families during the term of each senator. Each former senator was recognized by a roll call and a rose, and family members were invited to a reception immediately following the ceremony. I was privileged to honor James F. Patterson and Danny Staples by answering their name at roll call and placing a flower at the Dais in their memory.

James F. Patterson
1907 – 1989
25th Senate District (1951-1972)

James F. Patterson served the people of the 25th District (Bollinger, Iron, Madison, New Madrid, Pemiscot and Stoddard counties). Born in Portageville, he graduated from high school in Morley, and attended Southeast Missouri State College. Senator Patterson worked in mechanical and electrical engineering for a number of years; and for eight years was executive manager of the Caruthersville Chamber of Commerce. He joined his son in business in 1967 and served as vice president of Central Constructors, Inc. Senator Patterson was elected to the Senate in a special election in 1951 and sworn in during the 66th General Assembly to serve two years of an unexpired term. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968. In 1970, he was elected President Pro Tem, re-elected to this position in 1971, and served until 1972.

Danny Staples
1935 – 2003
20th Senate District (1993-2002)

Danny Staples served the people of the 20th District (Carter, Iron, Oregon, Reynolds, Ripley, Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois, Shannon and part of Jefferson counties). Born in Eminence, he attended Delaware and Eminence schools; Southeast Missouri State University; and Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Senator Staples operated a canoe business for many years on the Jack’s Fork River. He was elected to the House of Representatives and served from 1977-1982. Senator Staples was elected to the Senate in 1982 and served 20 years. Senator Staples was well known for his story telling and debate style.

To read more about each senator who was remembered this week during the Senate's Memorial Service, visit the Senate Memorial page at www.senate.mo.gov and click on the Senate Memorial link.

Legislation that would update Missouri’s aging criminal code, by creating a new classification for misdemeanors and increasing the fine for certain felonies, was approved by the Senate last week. Senate Bill 491 is a culmination of numerous years of bipartisan support to help bring Missouri's criminal code into the 21st Century. Among other important provisions, the bill would keep consistent with current state law regarding child molestation, sexual misconduct involving a child, sexual contact with a student and providing pornography to minors; ensure that crimes count toward repeat sex offenders and enhanced sentences. A similar House bill designed to update Missouri’s criminal code has also been passed out of the House and sent over to the Senate for debate.

After a week of negotiation, a conference committee designed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2014 supplemental budget delivered their final draft of the bill to both chambers. House Bill 2014 received huge support in the House and Senate, sending the legislation to the governor for his signature. This supplemental measure will adjust funding for state department operations for the remainder of this fiscal year — which ends June 30. A major component of the bill was $22 million designated for Missouri's K-12 school foundation formula.

The Senate gave final approval this week for a bill that would change state law regarding who may lawfully occupy rental property and procedures to evict a tenant. The legislation would also allow courts to order the immediate removal of individuals who are not lawfully occupying a rental unit as either a tenant or a lessee. I offered an amendment to Senate Bill 655 which was adopted. The amendment states that the “Claim of Right” defense does not apply to tenants who willingly damage rental property. This will help allow law enforcement more aggressively investigate tenants who commit property crimes and help landlords recover damages.

The Senate also advanced legislation to the House that would stop obtrusive and unnecessary inspection of certain Missourians' fuel tanks. Currently, the Department of Revenue (DOR) may conduct inspections and remove samples of diesel fuel in order to determine the color of that fuel. Red-dyed fuel is allowed for certain uses, including off-road purposes for farming or construction. Citizens using this fuel type may apply for a refund of the Missouri fuel tax because they are not utilizing this fuel on our public roadways. Inspections allowed by DOR could be limited under Senate Bill 842, which would ban inspections from any individuals who are not holding the fuel for wholesale or retail sale and who is not located at certain places. However, DOR may inspect those fuel takes when it has reasonable suspicion to believe a violation is being committed.

Capitol Visitors

Aaron Burton and Justin Dobbins from the Neelyville School District meet with Sen. Libla in his office on April 16, 2014.
I enjoyed meeting with Principals Aaron Burton and Justin Dobbins from the Neelyville School District. I was very impressed by their leadership, focus and desire to help young folks receive a quality education. My good friend Ben Barbour visited with the Probation and Parole Officers Association. Ben is the vice president of the Missouri chapter and shared some of the issues facing their profession. Steve Halter and the Poplar Bluff Chamber leadership group also visited Jeff City. A primary reason why some cities flourish is because of leadership and community involvement. I look forward to this group of citizens in the leadership group to take what they have learned and use the experience for the betterment of their community. I had a wonderful visit with Barbara Crayne for State Aviation Day at the Capitol. Barbara is the airport manager at the Malden Regional Airport. Aviation is a powerful economic development tool for our region. Airports provide communities with business development, education, medical support, agricultural support, recreation, and importantly, jobs. Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver was also in Jeff City this week. I enjoyed visiting with Russ and appreciate the good work he does for the folks in Stoddard County.

Lee Spilberg of Poplar Bluff stopped by representing Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). CASA is a volunteer program through which juvenile court judges appoint individuals as advocates for children who have been removed from their homes and placed in foster care. This is a great opportunity for those who would like to serve and help children that are in great need. It is reported that over 60 percent of children in the foster system have no access to a CASA volunteer. You can make a big difference in a child’s life! Please call Lee at (573) 776-7830 or email casa36@semo.net for more information.  

Marty Michel from Poplar Bluff was here for Pharmacy Day at the Capitol and introduced me to some students studying to be pharmacists. I also met with Jansen Williams from Dexter with Easter Seals Disability Services. We discussed how autism affects many families and how early detection can help children with autism be successful at home, school, and in their communities. I also met with a group of veterans from Poplar Bluff, Dexter, and Caruthersville. They were here advocating for the Association for Veterans Organizations and we discussed veterans’ homes and the vital role they serve. I really enjoyed my visit with them and look forward to working with them on future issues. Rickey and Sherry Emmons also visited with Swift Creek Residential Center and talked about legislation impacting independent living centers. A group of high school students participating in the Sophomore Pilgrimage program came and learned about state government first hand. The group consisted of a couple of students from school districts all throughout Southeast Missouri and the Bootheel. Lastly, we had the fourth grade class from Holcomb Elementary School here for their field trip.

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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