Friday, February 08, 2013

Richard: Senate debating fate of Second Injury Fund

(In this week's column, Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, addresses the second injury fund and taking over unaccredited schools.)

We tackled two high profile measures in the Missouri Senate this week. The first involved the Second Injury Fund. The (SIF) was originally created to encourage employers to hire workers with previous disabilities, particularly veterans. It’s funded through a surcharge on workers compensation premiums. In recent years, the SIF has become underfunded to the point of insolvency. The total liability against the SIF is now more than $100 million, according to the attorney general.

This week, we held extensive debate about the issue on the Senate floor. Senate Bill 1 modifies the laws regarding the SIF. Under the bill, the surcharge rate which funds the SIF could be increased to 4.5 percent in the instance of a shortfall, and up to 6 percent if agreed to by a Second Injury Fund Commission, among other measures. The bill also changes who qualifies for coverage under the fund. These measures would help ensure the SIF’s future viability. The bill has yet to receive full approval from the Senate, but we will continue working on this issue in the coming weeks of session.
Another issue we addressed this week involves Missouri’s unaccredited schools. When a school loses its accreditation, the state grants the district a two-year waiting period to regain accreditation before taking over the school. Unfortunately, there are unaccredited school districts who have struggled foryears to reach accreditation, with little or only temporary success. In these kinds of instances, the state needs to be able to have a quicker and more effective response.

Senate Bill 7 removes the two-year waiting period after a school loses accreditation before the state can take over a school district. The bill also requires the Department of Education and Secondary Education to conduct two public hearings regarding the status of the school, and whether community resources are available to help the school regain its accreditation status, among other provisions. The bill now goes to the House for similar consideration.

In district news, it was recently announced that the Joplin Public Library will receive a Summer Library Program Grant for $12,000. The grant will help the library provide a summer reading program for children, teens and adults and expand its outreach programs. I congratulate the Joplin Public Library, which provides a lot of wonderful services to our community.

One hundred and two years ago, on the night of Feb. 5, 1911, the dome of the Missouri Capitol was struck by lightning. The ensuing fire completely destroyed the building, with the light from the flames so bright people from miles away could see the glow. By the time the fires had died, all that was left of the building was an ashen husk.

And yet from that destruction, the citizens of Missouri rebuilt the modern day Capitol, a symbol of democracy and our resilience to adversity. As we remember the 102nd anniversary of this historic tragedy, the fire shouldn’t remind us of what was lost, but what remained: our enduring faith in our democratic principles and the rule of law. Those things are stronger than any building or structure.

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