Thursday, January 05, 2017

Speaker: Agenda includes more charters, virtual schools, and education savings accounts

(From Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, R-Cape Girardeau)

The Missouri House of Representatives has convened for the 2017 legislative session and I am honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to continue in the role of Speaker of the House. During the opening day of session, I gave a few remarks to the legislature about the direction we have the opportunity to take our state in and wanted to share some of those thoughts with you today.

Missouri is in position to make our economy even stronger and bring many of our governmental policies into the 21st century. As part of that effort, the House will be working to remove unnecessary government regulations which stifle innovation and job creation. We will be crafting statewide frameworks for disruptive ride-sharing technologies like Uber and Lyft and lodging rental services like AirBnB or HomeAway which will allow private enterprise and the free market to determine success instead of the government choosing winners and losers.

Attracting new businesses to our state does not end with reforming our regulatory environment. I have already referred right-to-work legislation to the Standing Committee on Economic Development which will swiftly make its way from the House over to the Senate. This legislation will protect workers from being forced to join a labor union as a condition of employment. Numerous businesses declined to invest in Missouri workers as a result of our archaic labor laws. Instead businesses have invested in states like Michigan, a right-to-work state which has added 58,000 manufacturing jobs since 2012 and seen its average weekly wage rate grow at twice the rate of Missouri over that time.

Other priorities will include making changes to our court system to make sure Missouri is a place where a fair trial may be had by all. We also plan to establish education reforms which increase access to high-performing charter schools for students, expand course offerings for students through virtual education, and make education savings accounts available to those in need. All of these changes are about creating more opportunities and flexibility for our next generation and not forcing students into a one-size-fits-all approach to learning.

Finally, I want to continue to build trust in our elected officials and public institutions and will continue the ethics reform work we started last year. A ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators will be the first piece of legislation the House will be sending over to the Senate. A gift ban is just the beginning though. Lawmakers from both parties have submitted proposals aimed at restoring public trust in elected officials and all will receive fair consideration.

I continue to be honored to work in your service to make our area and this state a better place to live, work, and raise a family. With a super-majority in both the House and Senate and a Republican in the governor’s mansion, this year will be a time of bold action and great reform and I will continue to be your voice.

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