January not only means a new year, but it also means it is time for the next legislative session in Jefferson City.
The Second Regular Session of the 96th General Assembly will begin on Jan. 4, 2012, and end in May. It has only been a couple of months since lawmakers were in the Capitol dealing with tax credits and job creation, as part of the special session. I have no doubt most of the topics of the special session will carry over into January.
I plan to hit the ground running with several measures that have already been prefiled, including:
- Senate Bill 442, which would establish photo identification requirements for voting. Because of the governor’s veto, the plan to enact this — upon voter approval — was scrapped; however, it will still be on the November 2012 ballot. Senate Bill 442 would ensure the proper steps would be enacted into law, requiring photo IDs to vote, assuming the ballot measure were to win approval.
- Senate Bill 443, which would make changes to several transportation issues, including drunk driving. The biggest change would be made regarding limited driving privileges for repeat offenders. The federal government ties funding for the states’ roads to complying with these “non-mandate mandates.” Similarly, the feds hope to tie funding to bans on cell phone and texting use for some or all drivers.
- Senate Bill 444, which would make changes to binding arbitration cases involving MoDOT. This would provide more flexibility on how Missourians can resolve disagreements with the department and put more money on our roads instead of towards lawyers.
- Senate Bill 481, which would create a tax credit for contributions to care providers for the developmentally disabled, legislation I have filed in previous years. This allows folks that take care of the state’s “kids” to be paid in tax credits instead of cash. Then, they can use the tax credit certificates to leverage more private funding, costing the state nothing.
Another important legislative initiative I am working on would allow rural school districts to establish themselves as a charter school, bringing more control to local communities. The education community has had a mixed reaction to this proposal. However, we do have struggling schools right here in rural Missouri and this option might provide local school boards the opportunity to move forward instead of backward.
These are just a few of the measures I have already filed. For a complete list, go to www.senate.mo.gov/stouffer and click on the sponsored bills link under my legislation tab. A list of all of my previous columns and audio updates are also available online.
As always, I thank you for your continued calls and e-mails to our office. Without you, I would not be able to address the issues that are important to rural Missouri. We take every concern and comment seriously.
I pray we make the right decisions when we return to Jefferson City. It will be another difficult year. With your help, we will be able to make Missouri even better for our children and grandchildren, not only now, but in their future.