Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, March 31, 2014
Protecting Local control of Education

Legislative News

Shown above, Sen. Richard met with students from Stapleton Elementary School in Joplin during their visit to the Missouri Capitol on Tuesday, April 1.


Hundreds of citizens gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday for the last hearing in the Senate Education Committee on legislation dealing with Common Core Standards, an issue that has garnered broad attention this session.

For those unfamiliar, the Common Core Standards Initiative is an effort to create a single set of educational standards for English language arts and mathematics for kindergarten through 12th grade. This program was created by groups representing the nation’s governors and education commissioners. While it is not directly affiliated with the federal government, it is supported by those in Washington, who tied increased education funding to the adoption of the standards.

A few years ago, the Department of Education and Secondary Education quietly started implementing these new educational benchmarks. Most parents weren’t informed of the change in curriculum, and only heard about the new standards after they were put in place.

Many were outraged, and saw the initiative as one more step toward national standards, robbing districts of local control and the authority of our state to create the educational policies that best fit Missouri. Others have criticized Common Core for relying too heavily on standardized testing, which has a poor record of improving education and gauging student achievement.

This session, we’ve considered a handful of measures addressing Common Core, including bills to prohibit schools from continuing to use these standards. I completely believe that we need to reassess how we provide education in this state. There’s no doubt we increasingly face a world where skills like math, science and engineering will be key, and we need to steer our students toward the skills they’ll need to compete. However, forcing teachers to follow thinly veiled national standards is not the solution. I expect us to spend a significant amount of time debating this issue in the coming weeks.

In other news, the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee, which I chair, approved a measure this week to raise funding for much-needed infrastructure repairs. Senate Concurrent Resolution 39 authorizes the issuance of bonds to pay for certain state and university projects.

There are numerous state buildings, colleges and universities that have fallen into serious disrepair due to a lack of infrastructure funding in recent years. This legislation would allow the state to issue bonds to pay for these projects by taking advantage of low interest rates due to our state’s AAA bond rating. The funds would go to countless projects, including ones at Crowder College and Missouri Southern State University. The bill now goes to the full Senate for possible debate.

The Senate approved numerous bills this week, including a measure that would encourage the sale of older vehicles in Missouri.  Senate Bill 693 exempts motor vehicles older than 10 years old from local and state sales taxes on titling for vehicles that cost less than $15,000. This legislation would help dealers and individuals sell older model vehicles, which stimulates our local economy. However, to make sure we weren’t simply handing a tax break to those buying $50,000 classic sports cars, we amended the legislation to only apply to vehicles under $15,000.

We also passed Senate Bill 829, which removes the burden of proof requirement for companies regarding tax issues and instead places it on the Department of Revenue, as it is for most other businesses, and Senate Bill 707, which modifies the definitions of “all-terrain vehicle,” “recreational off-highway vehicle,” and “utility vehicle.” 

District News

With the arrival of spring, the Missouri Credit Union Association has offered the following tips to help financially prepare citizens for the year ahead:

  • Review Your Credit Report

    Have you ever downloaded your credit report?  Most people don’t.  But it is extremely important to review your credit history at least once a year to ensure it is correct.  By law, you're entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can get yours at no cost from annualcreditreport.com.

  • Organize and/or Shred Old Financial Documents

    Reducing paper clutter will not only help you stay more organized, it will also put your mind at ease.  Sort through your statements, pay stubs, bills and other financial records, and keep only the documents that are absolutely necessary.

    If you aren’t sure about getting rid of certain types of receipts, scan or make a copy and then go ahead and shred the rest.  But don't simply toss paperwork in the trash.  Leaving important documents in the trash without properly shredding them is a bad idea. They are just waiting to be picked up by an identity thief.

  • Record Your Financial Passwords and Store Records in a Safe Place

    Make sure you're not using the same password and log-in information for all of your online bank accounts and other financial accounts.  Protect yourself against identity theft by keeping your financial passwords in a password-protected or encrypted document and storing it in a safe place.

  • Review Your Budget

    Take a close look at your budget to see if you need to make any modifications. Make sure you're reporting expenses accurately and have made some room for savings account contributions.  Use a personal budget worksheet to help organize your finances.

  • Setup Automatic Bill Pay

    Spring cleaning isn't only about de-cluttering —it's also about making things more efficient. Set up automatic bill pay, and link it to your primary checking account.  Automatic bill pay will eliminate the chances of missing a payment and paying those pesky late fees.
  • Pay Off Holiday Date Once and for All

    Spring is a good time to look at your total outstanding debts and see which loans or credit cards you could pay off entirely this year.  At the very least, put yourself on a stricter debt payoff plan, and pay off any debt you accumulated over the holidays.  Cleaning up this debt quickly can put you in a much better financial position for the rest of the year.