The deadline for the Governor to sign or veto bills is rapidly approaching and consequently, he had a busy week attending formal signing ceremonies.
Children’s Division was given authority to take action when it receives a report of a child under 14 exhibiting problem sexual behavior against another child. Prior to this legislation, the Children’s Division could only investigate allegations against adults or other teens. This will allow the child to get the therapy needed to keep this behavior from becoming a lifelong affliction.
The bill also contained language allowing the Office of Child Advocate to audit any judicial circuit that has three or more review requests in a year. This measure will further ensure that all children will receive fair and adequate protection throughout the state.
Victims of rape and sexual assault will now be able to obtain an order of protection from their assailants. Currently, only victims of domestic assault and stalking can obtain the orders.
The definition of stalking is also changed to include members of the victim’s household. There are also provisions in the bill to require licensed child care centers to follow current sleep standards recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
All in all, the bills generated by members of my Child Abuse and Neglect Committee will greatly improve the health, safety, and well-being of children in our state. I’m grateful to the Governor for his signature and extremely proud of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their strong support.
We are by no means through with our committee’s work. I am holding monthly hearings throughout the interim with the Juvenile Officer system. Among other things, we are working on some standards of practice across the state. We are also very concerned about the number of turnovers within the Division and are working on ways to improve working conditions and salaries.
Business owners were helped by a bill which was signed into law last week. Prior to its passage, the Department of Revenue could change policy on which items sales taxes could be charged on. Many businesses, unaware of policy changes, would go several years before suddenly finding during a tax audit that they were liable for large amounts of back taxes and penalties.
This new law requires the department to notify any business which may be affected by policy changes. If businesses are not informed, they won’t be responsible for the taxes.
Due to concerns raised in the aftermath of last summer’s Ferguson unrest, Senate Bill 5 was filed to address the limits on how much of a city’s budget can come from traffic fines. It also requires changes in how municipalities operate. This bill sets caps on the amount of money that cities and villages can collect from traffic fines and fees at 12.5 percent in St. Louis County and 20 percent in the rest of the state.
The other big development last week was Department of Education informing the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium on Wednesday that, as the result of language that Missouri Legislators opposing Common Core worked into this year’s budget, the department was prohibited from spending any money as a member of SBAC.
The Senate Budget chairman, Kurt Schaefer and House Budget Chair, Tom Flanigan, exhibited great foresight and leadership in accomplishing this task. Last year Legislators established a working group to establish Missouri-specific standards to replace those being forced upon us by Common Core.
Many of us look at Common Core efforts as being continued overreach of this administration and their one-size-fits-all agenda. The first reports from those working groups are due in a few weeks and I expect we will have recommendations to work with next session.
One last bit of great news is that Senators Blunt and McCaskill, with the help of Representative Hartzler, forestalled the near closure of Ft. Leonard Wood. The Dept. of Defense had a “listening post” this spring that was attended by over half of the General Assembly. We were there to support our Federal counterparts in asking the Dept. to reconsider the layoff of over 5,400 service men and women as well as thousands of civilian staff.
This would have had a devastating effect on the area as well as the whole state. It feels great to report a successful bi-partisan effort of Missouri State and Federal Representatives and Senators!
More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.
(State Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, represents the 159th District of Missouri, which includes Seneca and all of McDonald County. He can be reached in his Capitol office at (573) 751-9801 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)