Legislative Column for the Week of Jan. 26, 2015
Promoting Ethics and Agriculture; Preserving our State Buildings and Parks

Legislative News

The fourth week of session brought significant movement on several key pieces of legislation. On Tuesday, my ethics reform bill, Senate Bill 11, was passed out of the Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee. This measure creates a “cooling off” period, in which lawmakers must wait two years after leaving office before working as paid lobbyists in the Capitol. It also prohibits lobbyists from footing the bill for out-of-state food, travel, lodging or entertainment expenditures, and modifies the term “public official” to include superintendents of a school district and school board members.

It’s important that our lawmakers and elected officials are truly working for Missouri’s people and for the right reasons. Any step we can take toward ensuring our government is more ethically sound is a step in the right direction. Senate Bill 11 now moves to the calendar to be perfected.

On Thursday, Senate Bill 12 was third read and passed out of the Senate. The legislation creates and amends a number of important agriculture provisions, including the establishment of the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act of 2015 and the Missouri Dairy Scholars Program—an effort to incentivize students in agriculture-related degree programs to continue working in the agriculture industry after graduation. Senate Bill 12 will now make its way to the House for further consideration.    

Also during session on Thursday, Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 9 were both third read and passed. If adopted by the House, these bonding measures will address several millions of dollars in much-needed construction, renovation and maintenance projects for state parks and historic sites, state buildings and the Capitol, and places of higher education throughout Missouri.

Finally, I am pleased to report that both the House (133-15) and Senate (31-3) voted down an increase in salary for legislators and statewide elected officials. Currently, Missouri ranks 50th in the nation for state employee pay, but 16th for legislator pay. I know many of my colleagues, in both chambers, could not in good conscience approve a raise for ourselves when we still have not provided adequate pay for our state employees. 

Helpful Consumer Financial Information

This week, the Missouri Credit Union Association offers information to help you break the cycle of debt. Groundhog Day is just around the corner. Many people can feel like they’re stuck in a Groundhog Day loop with their finances. Making small changes can be the first step toward improving your financial future. The important thing is to break out of your current action (or inaction) and do something.

Here are six small steps you can take to break the monotonous cycle of spending, debt and frustration:

  • Earn Extra Money and Apply it Toward Your Debt – Don’t think of your day job as your only source of income. You could also babysit, wash cars or sell things (either unneeded stuff or items you made) on Craigslist, eBay, Etsy and resale shops. Once you bring in some extra cash, apply it toward your debt.
  • Find a Frugal Friend – The old saying “birds of a feather flock together” can help you achieve goals. Spending time with someone who is trying to get out of debt (or has recently gone through the same effort) and talking about it can help both of you achieve goals and keep on track.
  • Learn a New Skill – Don't pay other people to cook your food, fix your bike or do your nails. Thanks to the Internet, you can learn to do almost anything yourself. Use the library. There you can access free books, music, movies, classes and the Internet.
  • Swear Off Incurring New Debt – Leave your credit cards at home. Pay your way through school. Don't borrow money from family members.
  • Create Visual Motivations – It might be a spreadsheet or a chart that shows your savings balance going up and your debt going down. Draw your debt on graph paper, and color in a square as you pay off a $10 chunk of debt. Whatever works as a visual reminder of your goals and effort can help.
  • Reward Yourself, Within Limits – When you hit one of your savings or debt repayment goals, allow yourself an inexpensive treat, like a music download or a coffee drink. Little rewards help you stay motivated and keep you from feeling deprived.
These small steps can help you break the monotonous spell of your financial Groundhog's Day.