On Monday, January 21, 2013, we celebrated the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King dedicated his life to God and to the belief that we were all created equal. He promoted that message through love, and peaceful demonstration and he advanced the understanding that a person of any race should be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. The world owes a debt of gratitude for all he did to help usher in a new era of equality in America. It is in this same spirit of equality, the same belief we were all created equal, in which I hope and pray that one day, our society will recognize the tragedy unfolding before us on a daily basis—the death of the innocent unborn child. Tens of millions of unborn lives have been snuffed out in the last 40 years and this practice has no part in a civil society. Please join with me in an effort the end this barbaric behavior. We have all been created equal and deserve equal protection under the law.
State of the Judiciary
At 10:23 am on January 23, 2013, the Missouri House of Representatives voted to suspend the House Rules and allow State Office holders, Members of the Senate, and Missouri Supreme Court Justices to enter the House Chambers for a Joint Session. With 150 House Members present and 32 Senate Members, we welcomed Chief Justice Richard B. Teitelman for the delivery of the State of the Judiciary Address. In a fashion befitting of Chief Justice Teitelman, he delivered a brief address designed to pay respects to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., recognized the efforts of some exceptional Missouri citizens, and offered his view on the benefits of cooperative government. It was truly an honor to welcome him to the House Chambers.
Though sometimes taken for granted, the State of the Judiciary is far from symbolic. There are few who know better, or are as well versed, in the effectiveness of our state laws than the justices who came before us today. Their knowledge of the direct impact and success of policies like drug courts - which our legislature created and the judiciary implemented - serve to reinforce the rule of law in the most beneficial way to Missourians.
Good Government Bill Passes the House
This week in House floor action, I am happy to report that we saw the quick passage of a bill that supports and affirms good government procedure and protocol. HB 110, sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem) makes our law clear that the voice of the people will be heard when filling a vacancy for a statewide offices such as; lieutenant governor, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor, state treasurer and US senator . The measure passed with a vote of 115-45.
HB 110 is a much needed piece of legislation that will ensure the power to select statewide office holders remains in the possession of the people. The current system—based on precedent, not law—excludes the people from the process. In the past, the governor has been allowed to select an individual to fill a vacancy in the office of lt. governor. HB 110 simply clarifies our law to say that the governor can fill a vacant office on a temporary basis only. That appointee would then serve as the formal placeholder until the time of the next general election, upon which the people would then elect the new individual to fill that particular statewide seat.
Furthermore, this legislation stipulates that the governor must call for the special election to coincide with a scheduled general election. This is an important change that would give the people a say in the process without creating additional financial burden for Missouri taxpayers.
Now we await and anticipate swift action on HB 110 by the senate so that it can go before the governor for his approval. Upon the governor’s signature, it would immediately become law because it contains an emergency clause. This measure is an example of the common sense government the people deserve. The voters should have the ultimate authority to decide who represents them in the halls of government.
A better solution to help those in need
Of the hundreds of pieces of legislation that have been and will be filed, one of the first to start moving through the legislative process is House Bill 87, filed by Representative Eric Burlison. This legislation seeks to reauthorize what have come to be known as “Benevolent Tax Credits.” These are tax credits that encourage Missourians to donate to our charitable organizations that perform essential services for our state’s neediest. Most importantly, it encourages private sector solutions—instead of forcing the government’s involvement, which so often drains resources in administrative costs. While I am not a big fan of most tax credits, these bill is one that will receive my full support.
Which Tax Credits Are Being Reauthorized?
There are several tax credits that the legislation will reauthorize or extend. The following will be affected:
• Income tax credit for the surviving spouse of a public safety officer who has not remarried
• Children in Crisis tax credit
• Disability access residential renovations tax credit
• Pregnancy resource center tax credit
• Income tax credit for a donation to a food pantry
How Do They Work?
When a Missouri taxpayer donates to a qualified organization (or meets the requirements of the surviving spouse tax credit) that performs the services outlined in the tax credit, that taxpayer receives a credit on their taxes in an amount typically less than the amount donated (often 50%). In this way, the state encourages the private sector to respond to the needs of the community. As you’ve likely heard me say before, decisions are best left to the local level – and these credits support that concept.
Though it is early in the legislative process, I look forward to this bill moving through the legislative process and coming to the House floor for a full vote. In the meantime, feel free to let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this or any other legislation.