The gavel has officially fallen in Jefferson City, and lawmakers are back for another year of work at the State Capitol.
We are starting work a bit differently than normal. In a year after an election, we swear in newly-elected and re-elected members and start over with committees and committee assignments. We are also taking a different approach at the beginning of session to revisit the Senate’s "Rebooting Government" efforts, which actually were started last spring.
We will spend three days, in different work groups, reviewing ideas submitted by the general public. I will be on the panel that will look at agriculture, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and transportation. Once all of the groups finish, panel members will report their recommendations to members of the Senate.
We took a day last year to review the public's recommendations, and we were able to turn some of those into legislation that is now saving the state money. What we do this month will further those efforts and make the state's government run more effectively, which is important in a year where we are facing another budget shortfall.
Just as it has been for the past two years, the state's budget will be the focal point once again this session. The governor's office, along with Senate and House budget teams, put together what they call the Consensus Revenue Estimate every year before the session starts. This year, we face a $300 million to $500 million shortfall. We will not have any federal stimulus money, so we are on our own. With new folks in the Senate and new leadership in both chambers, I have no doubt this will be the year we make tough decisions, which will go along with our continuing efforts to streamline state government.
I have also filed several bills, some of which you have seen from me before. Senate Bill 3 would establish voter I.D. rules in Missouri, but would put it to a vote of the people. If we need photo I.D. to rent a movie or send something via U.P.S., then it should also be required for one of the most important things we do as citizens.
Senate Bill 4 would repeal the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act” that was passed last year as Proposition B. Too many folks were misled by millions of dollars in out-of-state money — it is time to put the record straight and I aim to do that this session. Senate Bill 5 would require drug testing for applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). We have heard the stories of parents using these tax dollars to buy drugs, and there is no way of stopping this from happening currently. My proposal introduces some common-sense solutions to the idea.
We have a lot of work to do between now and the middle of May. Rest assured, I am listening to you and will do everything I can to continue to make rural Missouri a great place to live, work and raise a family. We want to get folks back to work, and I pray this will be on everyone's mind in the Legislature throughout the 2011 session.
Friday, January 07, 2011
Stouffer: Budget will be focal point this year
Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, says in his latest report that the budget will be the major emphasis as the 2011 legislative session begins: