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May God bless you - Representative Bill Reiboldt
According to the National Safety Council, the United States is on track to have one of its worst traffic fatality years since 2007. The Missouri Highway Patrol has reported that from January 1 to August 17, there were 519 lives lost in traffic crashes in our state. Traditionally, August seems to be the deadliest month on our state’s roads, and primarily there are four major reasons for traffic fatalities: driver inattention, speeding, impaired driving, and not wearing a seat belt. So far, there is a 13% increase in fatalities over the same time period from last year. Weekends seem to be the time when more accidents occur. Sadly, weekend before last sixteen people lost their lives on Missouri roadways.
Research shows that fatalities can be prevented if the ones behind the wheel take proper measures. When operating a vehicle, those driving must take personal responsibility for their own safety and for the safety of others in their vehicle by always requiring seat belts to be on while driving or riding. Sixty-one percent of those killed in our state this year were not wearing their seat belt. The national average for seat belt usage is 87%; however, in Missouri, only 79% are obeying the law by buckling up. Six out of ten occupants of vehicles killed in 2014 traffic crashes were not wearing their seat belt, and since the first of 2015, it is estimated that 61% of all Missouri fatality victims were unbuckled. Seat belts clearly do save lives, and if you are not wearing yours, you are gambling with your life each time you fail to put it on when driving or riding in a moving vehicle.
Across our state this past week school bells were ringing out, signaling the start of another school year. At the same time, the Missouri State Fair opened its gates to the public for its yearly festivities. The fair is a showcase of Missouri’s youth and agriculture; but among lawmakers, it re-opened the ongoing debate as to when our state’s schools should begin their fall session. The tourism industry—including State Fair supporters—advocate for a later start date, but some in the educational world are pushing for an earlier date or even year-round school. Locally, constituents are calling and questioning why schools are seemingly starting earlier and earlier each year. On both sides of this issue, there are numerous pros and cons needing to be considered.
Each fall when school starts, I am reminded of my own school days when we began around Labor Day. I know that things are so different today, but I believe the main reason we started our school around the beginning of September was because we did not have air conditioning and classrooms would be stifling hot. Starting around Labor Day meant the days were beginning to get shorter and they were turning cooler. Most schools did not have air conditioning and beginning the school year in early to mid-August just wasn’t practical. Also, a large percentage of farm work was finished by Labor Day, and mid-May was when schools were out so that young people could help with spring planting.
Over the years, Missouri has enjoyed the benefits of a vigorous rail industry. Our state is home to the nation’s largest railroad companies in addition to several smaller ones. In all, Missouri has nineteen rail companies operating statewide and has approximately 4,400 miles of mainline track, 2,500 miles of rail yard and side tracks, and almost 7,000 crossings, of which approximately 3,800 are public crossings and over 3,000 are private ones, used primarily by farmers and landowners needing access to their property across the tracks. While Chicago is the number one rail hub city in the nation, Kansas City holds the spot for the second largest hub and St. Louis claims the third largest one. The rail industry is indeed important to Missouri.
With all the rail activity in our state, unfortunately accidents do occur at times. Nationwide, it is estimated that every two hours either a vehicle or a pedestrian is in an accident involving a train, many of which happen at crossings. The railroad industry has been working with various organizations, including federal, state, and local entities in efforts to reduce crossings accidents by making drivers and pedestrians more alert to safety issues dealing with train crossings. As many of you may be aware, there have been several train crossings—both public and private—in our area closed for this reason. Because of the crossing initiatives the number of accidents, including fatalities, has been reduced. The federal government has increased funding for railroad crossing improvements and re-routing traffic in efforts to further reduce crashes and fatalities.
Last week the Missouri House Republican caucus met in St. Louis for their annual informational meeting to discuss current issues facing our state. Among other things, this was an opportunity for House leadership to talk about the past session, talk about bills the governor signed into law, and to talk about those eighteen bills he vetoed, twelve of which might be challenged with a possible override at the 2015 Veto Session to be held on Wednesday, September 16 in Jefferson City. Any attempted override would require a two-thirds majority of both the House and the Senate. As Veto Session draws closer, more information about these bills will be shared.
Other topics discussed at this year’s summer caucus that might become priorities for the 2016 Legislative Session are ethics reform legislation, a state transportation plan, and possible pay increases for state employees (not elected officials or judges). Several newsworthy events taking place in the past few months involving ethics and ethical behavior in state government elected officials has prompted the need to take a hard look at reform. Yet it must be pointed out that poor and unethical behavior among some elected officials in the legislature is certainly not the norm. The huge majority of elected men and women are upstanding and are at the capitol to only do the best job they possibly can. Furthermore, this problem is not specific to any particular political party, and, in fact, has brought down elected officials from both parties this year. In efforts to help others avoid such irresponsible actions in the future, we heard a presentation from former Speaker of the House, Rod Jetton, who admittedly made many poor choices when he served four years as Speaker of the House. He shared good advice with us on how to avoid making some of the same mistakes he made and reminded us to treat others as we would want to be treated. We also heard from former Missouri Democratic State Senator Jeff Smith who was invited to the Republican caucus to discuss ethics and the situation that landed him in a federal prison. Ethics reform is really bi-partisan and both of these presentations were timely and important for all elected officials in attendance.
Perhaps now is the time to cut the almost five hundred million dollar annual federal tax funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. U.S taxpayers are picking up the tab for almost 45% of this organization’s yearly budget.
Recently undercover videos were made public that revealed a Planned Parenthood executive discussing the potential sale of body parts from an aborted fetus. Dr. Deborah Nucatola, who performs abortions at a clinic in Los Angeles and is the senior director of medical services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America was speaking about her role in the selling of baby body parts. Following the release of two appalling videos, showing Dr. Nucatola casually discussing the sale of body parts while she sipped her wine and munched on her salad, viewers got a much clearer picture of what goes on behind the scenes with the abortion giant organization, Planned Parenthood. In response to public outcry to the video, the Planned Parenthood organization said that the tissue and body parts were to be used only for medical experimentation. Organizations who perform abortions, like Planned Parenthood, can donate fetal tissue and other body parts following an abortion with the patient’s permission, and only for the purpose of legal medical research.
July 14 (last Tuesday) was the constitutional deadline for Governor Nixon to either sign or veto legislation that was passed during this year’s session. Any bill not signed or vetoed by this date automatically became law without his signature. This year every bill that lawmakers sent to the Governor was acted upon (either vetoed or signed) with the exception of one—House Bill 137—the bill that changes the law regarding the bidding process for license bureaus.
On Tuesday Governor Nixon announced he would allow HB 137 to take effect without his signature. Perhaps he did not have a strong opinion either way or he allowed it to become law because both the Senate and the House passed it by a veto-proof majority. As it had an emergency clause attached to it, it automatically became law on the 15th of July.
Select Committee on Agriculture - Chairman
Appropriations - Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources