My HB 116 dealing with Right to Work is without a doubt the most challenging vote. As you can well imagine, there is a lot of pressure on some of the Reps to change their positions. I have been advising those who are talking to the "no" voters to lay out their case for a vote change without doing any of the famous arm-twisting. I think we can accomplish this override vote without endangering anyone's seat and without creating a hostile situation for anyone. I am totally convinced that this is the one thing that can move Missouri from 45th in growth and start competing with our neighboring states for new industry.
HB 722 deals with restricting municipalities from enacting laws that contradict state law. The issue of St. Louis and Kansas City establishing their own versions of minimum wage has to be addressed. On the surface it doesn't seem like it's the state's business to tell them what to do but in St. Louis County alone there are 82 municipalities. Imagine the bureaucratic nightmare if each of them establish their own minimum wage. This issue is already addressed in State Statute but local politicians in those metro areas have ignored the Constitution and raised the wage anyway. The courts are preparing to address the issue but HB 722 will clarify the statute once and for all.
SB 224 is also a red-hot issue. It would require a student to be a United States citizen or permanent resident in order to be eligible to receive reimbursements from the A+ Schools Program. This is the program where a student who has a need for assistance, a good attendance record, good grades, and has been a help to the community can qualify for two years of free education at a Community college or in some cases a four year school. If you remember, this program was severely cut by the Governor last year and we had to restore it to keep from cutting the number of available scholarships drastically. In his veto letter the Governor says that it's not fair for illegal's to work hard and not get the free college. The program already excludes Private School, Home School, and Parochial School Students and I'm sure against including illegal's before we extend the offer to the children of Missouri taxpayers.
All of the bills we are going to attempt to override passed both the House and Senate by large majorities. Most of them will be a relatively easy exercise but I'm sure there will be a challenge or two in the mix. I have all the bill numbers and summaries and will be glad to share the information if anyone has an interest.
Another hot topic that was discussed at length was Ethics Reform. Unless you've been on an extended vacation in the Arctic, you've heard of the recent scandals. Two gentlemen addressed the caucus on these topics. The first one to speak to us related how, as the youngest Speaker of the House, he let the power and acclaim go to his head. He traced a path of ruination that destroyed his family, cost him his job, and left him in total disgrace. The second speaker was a former State Senator. He too was on the path to success. Barely old enough to serve in the Legislature, he had a PhD and was on his way to great things. He told us how, in an attempt to eliminate an opponent, he made an illegal decision that came back to haunt him 3 years later. He found himself indicted for a Federal Elections violation and served a year in a Federal Prison. We will be taking up the Ethics reform legislation that we didn't have time to finish last Session. Along with finance reform we will be adding regulations concerning interns and establishing a stricter code of conduct. With over two hundred elected officials and a staff of several hundred more plus nearly five hundred lobbyists in the building at any given time, things can and do happen. Part of our responsibility as an elected official is to make sure we conduct ourselves as ladies and gentlemen. It might be old fashioned, but if you can't do it or say it in front of mom, then don't do it!