We did quite a bit of floor work this past week. We passed a measure on Tort Reform that is intended to place caps on the amounts courts could award for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits. In 2005, when similar legislation was passed, doctors stopped leaving our state and the cost of healthcare decreased. The Supreme Court struck down that decision in 2012 and the result was that malpractice insurance soared and costs increased. Doctors again began leaving for neighboring states where their costs were more manageable. Unlimited court awards are unfair to everyone. As you can well imagine, there was quite a bit of push back from Trial Lawyers, but the bill was passed and sent to the Senate.
The issue of tax reform was debated well in a bill that would change the tax brackets for Missourians. As they currently exist, adopted in the 1930's, the brackets range from $0 to $9000 dollars. Now $9000 dollars was a pretty fair income in 1930, but it hardly applies today as a top bracket. That figure is lower than the Federal Poverty level for a single adult. To make things worse, there is a hidden inflation tax siphoning far more wage earners money than the original tax code called for. The bill we voted out last week allows for the tax brackets to be adjusted for inflation annually and would stop taxing poverty level incomes. I look at this as common sense tax policy and look forward to it's passage in the Senate.
We debated at length and finally passed Voter I D Legislation. Why shouldn't we require the same identification from voters that is necessary to buy alcohol or tobacco products, drive a car, watch movies or cash a check? Opponents argued that there is no proof of someone in our state impersonating another voter. I support a system that insures that everyone who is eligible can vote and that every vote is counted. (only once)
I placed my bill to extend the time social workers have to investigate cases of child abuse on the floor Thursday. Increasing numbers of children being removed due to drug use are creating backlogs for the Department. The bill allows an additional 8 days for investigations to be completed. This would only apply to cases where the child has already been removed to a safe place. I also pointed out that having a little more time to do a thorough investigation could result in charges being dropped where fraudulent reports have been filed. Our Joint Committee is preparing to hold hearings on proper recruitment and training of additional case workers and supervisors. The Governor's Budget listed additional money for the Division to hire workers but I'm having a hard time figuring it out. He wants $11 Million for 23 staff members. How would you like to split that up with 23 people? I'd rather see how many case workers we could hire and train for that much money. My bill passed 150-1.
This week we will be working on additional tax measures and there are several proposals for ethics reform being heard. Once again, the Supreme Court invalidated a good ethics law on a technicality which left us with no or little regulation on donations and expenditures. I've seen some of the proposals and they will do a good job of addressing the inequities. More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.