These bills, which have been discussed in prior sessions, moved quickly this year through the process. They were heard in committee on Monday, debated and given initial approval on the House floor on Wednesday, then third read and passed on to the Senate on Thursday. The first four bills passed by the House are as follows:
HB 1452 would require elected officials to file a personal financial disclosure twice each year; whereas, at the present time Missouri law requires only a single disclosure each year.
HB 1575 requires elected officials to report lodging and travel expenses within 30 days of the reportable event.
HB 1979 would put an end to the revolving door practice by requiring elected officials to have a one-year cooling off period after leaving office before they can take a job as a lobbyist.
HB 1983 specifies that no statewide official or member of the General Assembly can serve as a paid political consultant while in office.
This week the Missouri House plans to continue working on ethics reform legislation as several more bills are set to make their way to the House floor for debate.
Another issue that saw a lot of attention this past week concerns the federal Real ID Act and Missouri’s compliance to it. House committees began to hold hearings in regard to citizens being able to board an airline using a Missouri driver’s license for ID. We did receive some good news in that Missouri was granted a two-year extension from complying with the Real ID Act. Currently, only 23 states have agreed to comply with Real ID; 27 states, including Missouri, have been granted another extension. Missouri citizens who travel on an airline will have until January 22 of 2018 to use their current Missouri driver’s license for identification purposes when boarding a plane. In the meantime, Missouri’s General Assembly will continue to look at long-term solutions to ensure Missourians are not negatively impacted when traveling by air or when entering a federal building or going on to a military base.
During committee hearings concerning the Real ID Act, questions were raised about the cost the state would incur to comply with the law. Other concerns revolved around the possibility that private information might be kept in a national data base and then shared with other states, or possibly even with foreign countries. In testimony given by Missouri’s Director of Revenue and his deputy director, it was stated that many changes would need to be made in order to comply. A key point emphasized is that it would take a significant amount of time to implement changes if Missouri chose to comply with the federal law. These concerns and options will continue to be discussed.
Finally, the St. Louis Stadium issue apparently has been resolved, as the owner of the Rams announced his team would be moving to Los Angeles. This past week the NFL approved their relocation. Now the St. Louis region will be looking at other options and uses for the Jones Dome—perhaps even a major league soccer team. Others have suggested that the Rams leaving St. Louis will free up more space for conventions to help fill the economic void created by the departure of the NFL team. In my opinion, funding for any future new stadium should receive both public and legislative approval before committing the state’s taxpayers to pick up the tab for it.
Wednesday, January 20, Governor Nixon will give his last State of the State Address for Missouri. On Thursday morning, his budget proposals are to be on the desk of each member of the General Assembly, after which the challenging process of budgeting and appropriating will begin.
This year’s session is off to a good start and we are hopeful that many positive things can be accomplished for the state and her citizens in the next few months.