Legislative Column for the Week of April 20, 2015

Keeping Washington Politics Out of Missouri

Legislative News

Earlier this session, the Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee, of which I am the chair, heard several different measures calling for a convention of states for the purpose of proposing constitutional amendments, better known as an Article V convention. On Wednesday (4-22), the Senate passed a resolution moving Missouri one step closer to the adoption of a formal call for an Article V convention for the purposes of limiting federal government spending, bureaucracy and the career politicians on Capitol Hill.

Our Founding Fathers anticipated a day when the federal government would grow too large to govern our country effectively and within the confines of our Constitution. This is why they created Article V, which constitutionally provides states with the power to rein in the federal government in order to protect our liberty. An Article V convention of states is not a solution in and of itself; rather, it is the acknowledgment that our government is broken and a sign from the states that we’re willing to work together to get our nation back on track.

Senate Bill 321, relating to the offenses of sexual assault and stalking, was third read and passed by the Senate on Tuesday (4-21). In addition to victims of domestic violence and stalking, SB 321 would allow the courts to grant protective orders to victims of sexual assault. Current Missouri law defines stalking as when a person purposely and repeatedly engages in an unwanted course of conduct that reasonably causes alarm to another person, meaning that the unwanted pattern of behavior must occur repeatedly to the same person. As we all know, however, life is not so cut-and-dried.

There are many times when a stalker might repeatedly show up to a family home and display threatening behavior, only it’s experienced by different residents of the same household – not necessarily to the one person in the household who filed the order of protection. Current statute does not define this behavior as stalking. Senate Bill 321 addresses this very problematic and dangerous oversight by redefining “stalking” as occurring when a person purposely engages in an unwanted course of conduct that causes alarm to another person, or a person who resides in the same household with the person seeking the order of protection.

It’s estimated that the human trafficking industry generates $150 billion dollars in annual profits throughout the world on the backs of 21 million victims, including more than 5 million children. These victims are forced into terrible situations, the likes of which most people can scarcely begin to imagine. This week, the Senate passed House Concurrent Resolution 38, which creates the Human Trafficking Task Force. The mission of the task force is to raise awareness of human trafficking in Missouri and provide organizations and agencies that enforce human trafficking laws and assist victims with a central place to share information.

On Thursday, the Senate advanced legislation to the House requiring anyone who submits a petition for a political subdivision audit to reside or own property in the same subdivision and allowing for petition signatures to be removed. A number of communities in Missouri have experienced the problematic situation of a non-resident initiating a petition audit, only for those individuals who signed the petition to later discover more information, decide they no longer wish to have the audit and then learn they’re unable to remove their signatures – forcing the community to go through with a costly audit that many smaller communities cannot afford to do unnecessarily. Senate Bill 87 aims to resolve this issue by ensuring the person requesting the audit is a resident of the community footing the bill and creating a pathway for a resident to remove their signature with 10 days of the state auditor receiving the petition.

Senate Bill 517, which modifies death certification laws, was third read and passed by the Senate. The goal of this legislation is to make the death certification process as efficient and timely as possible. A death certificate is the most immediately necessary document whenever someone passes away, as almost nothing in terms of business or legal affairs can proceed without one. Under SB 517, physician assistants, assistant physicians and advanced practice registered nurses would legally be able to sign off on certain phases of the death certification process, thereby decreasing the turnaround time on certificates and allowing loved ones to more quickly and easily attend to matters during an already difficult and stressful time.

Finally, the appropriation bills that make up the Fiscal Year 2016 budget were approved by the Legislature this week and are now on their way to the governor’s desk for his consideration. Although we had until 6 p.m., Friday, May 8, to deliver our finalized budget to the governor, we were determined to complete it much sooner than in previous years in order to overturn any of the governor’s line-item budget vetoes, as well as any decisions to withhold money from the state budget, while still in the regular session. This is a new legislative authority approved by Missouri voters in the November 2014 election. 

Helpful Consumer Financial Information

This week, the Missouri Credit Union Association offers information to help baseball fans enjoy their favorite game without breaking the budget. Baseball season is now in full swing. If you are a baseball fan, Missouri has lots of great options to catch the action. However, those trips to the ballpark can get a little pricey. Don’t let ballpark prices get the best of your budget.

Here are five tricks to enjoy everything our teams have to offer:

  • Check your credit union for discounts: Many credit unions sell tickets to various theme parks and sporting events. Some of these sales benefit charity, while others simply benefit members. Next time you drop by your local branch, ask a service representative if your credit union is running a special promotion on tickets.
  • Decide what’s important: The price of a game depends on what you’re willing to spend. It’s easy to blow $80 or more per person on a single baseball game, but only if you let yourself spend that much. Decide what’s important to you when attending a game and budget accordingly.
  • Forego team merchandise: It’s tempting to buy baseball jerseys, but some of that merchandise can really add up. Instead, try some less expensive items, like cotton T-shirts and baseball caps. If you must, shop for items with your favorite team’s logo before you head to the game. You can often find great deals at local retailers, without the pressure of finding something to wear immediately at the ballpark that leads to impulse purchases.
  • Take advantage of area minor league teams: If you have a hankering for a ballgame, but don’t want the major league prices, check out one of Missouri’s awesome minor league teams. Whether it’s the River City Rascals, T-Bones or Springfield Cardinals, there’s nothing minor about the fun you can have at these games.
Enjoy baseball at home: Get some snacks and rally your friends together to watch or listen to a ballgame. After all, baseball is America’s favorite pastime. By foregoing the ballpark, you can catch up with your friends without crushing the contents of your wallet.