The Capitol Report | 1/14/2016

Ethics, Real ID, Voter ID, & STL Stadium
Today marks the end of the first full week of session for the General Assembly. Much has been accomplished so far!

On the first day of session, House Speaker Todd Richardson made it clear that substantive ethics reform would be the top priority for the 2016 legislative session. In the second week of session, lawmakers made good on his promise by giving bipartisan approval to four reform bills and sending them on to the Senate.

The bills moved quickly through the process as they were heard and approved in committee on Monday, given initial approval on the House floor on Wednesday, and then given final approval Thursday morning. The bills address a wide array of issues designed to improve the environment in Jefferson City, and begin the process of restoring the public’s confidence in elected officials. As Speaker Richardson said in his Opening Day Address, “There is no rule or law that can make our imperfect process perfect, but we can, and we must, work to improve the culture here in the people’s Capitol.” The House plans to continue work on ethics reform legislation next week as several more bills are set to make their way through the committee process and onto the floor for discussion.

In other news, citizens concerned about being able to fly with a Missouri driver’s license received good news recently as the state was granted a two-year extension so that state IDs will continue to be accepted at airport security checkpoints. Missouri is now one of 27 states that have been granted extensions, and Missouri travelers will now have until January 22, 2018 to use their current driver’s licenses to travel. In the meantime, the legislature will continue to look at long-term solutions to ensure Missouri citizens are not negatively impacted by the state’s decision to not comply with the Real ID Act approved by the federal government in 2005.

Also, the members of the House Elections Committee met this week to consider and approve two pieces of legislation that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polling place, which proponents believe would help prevent voter fraud. One piece of legislation is a constitutional amendment that would allow Missourians to decide whether voters should have to show a form of photo identification in order to vote. The second bill would put a voter ID system in place in the event voters approve the change to the state constitution. The bills also received approval on Thursday from the House Select Committee on State and Local Governments and will move to the House floor for discussion next week.

Finally, one of the looming issues of the session was the imminent showdown between the legislature and the governor over the prospect of using taxpayer dollars to partially subsidize a new football stadium for the St. Louis Rams. The showdown now appears to be off the radar for the 2016 legislative session as the NFL recently approved the relocation of the Rams organization to Los Angeles.

You may read more about what is happening at your Capitol below. As always, I will work diligently and tirelessly for you as your State Representative.

-Jason

Ethics Reform Bills Approved
On the first day of session, House Speaker Todd Richardson made it clear that substantive ethics reform would be the top priority for the 2016 legislative session. In the second week of session, lawmakers made good on his promise by giving bipartisan approval to four reform bills and sending them on to the Senate.

The bills moved quickly through the process as they were heard and approved in committee on Monday, given initial approval on the House floor on Wednesday, and then given final approval Thursday morning. The bills address a wide array of issues designed to improve the environment in Jefferson City, and begin the process of restoring the public’s confidence in elected officials. As Speaker Richardson said in his Opening Day Address, “There is no rule or law that can make our imperfect process perfect, but we can, and we must, work to improve the culture here in the people’s Capitol.”

The bills approved by the House include:

HB 1452 that would require elected officials to file a personal financial disclosure twice each year. Current law requires only a single disclosure each year.

HB 1575 that would require elected officials to report lodging and travel expenses in a timely fashion. The bill requires the expenses to be filed within 30 days of the reportable event.

HB 1979 that would require elected officials to have a one-year “cooling off” period after leaving office before they could become lobbyists. The sponsor of the bill called it an effort to “remove the distractions, remove the barriers to good governance.”

HB 1983 that would make it clear that no statewide official or member of the General Assembly can serve as a paid political consultant while in office. The bill’s sponsor called the measure a necessary conflict of interest provision to prevent public offices from being used to gain personal wealth.

The House plans to continue work on ethics reform legislation next week as several more bills are set to make their way through the committee process and onto the floor for discussion.

House Committee Discusses Real ID
Citizens concerned about being able to fly with a Missouri driver’s license received good news recently as the state was granted a two-year extension so that state IDs will continue to be accepted at airport security checkpoints. Missouri is now one of 27 states that have been granted extensions, and Missouri travelers will now have until January 22, 2018 to use their current driver’s licenses to travel.

In the meantime, the legislature will continue to look at long-term solutions to ensure Missouri citizens are not negatively impacted by the state’s decision to not comply with the Real ID Act approved by the federal government in 2005. The act was passed by Congress to create new minimum standards for licenses, and the Missouri legislature responded in 2009 by passing legislation to protect the privacy of Missouri citizens by rejecting the requirements of the act.

This week the House Emerging Issues Committee met to look at the options the state has to ensure travelers are not negatively impacted by the federal requirements. Both the director and deputy director of the Missouri Department of Revenue appeared before the committee to outline the current state law and the changes that would need to be made in order to become compliant with the Real ID Act. For example, the department would need to start retaining copies of source documents such as birth certificates. It also would need to implement a photo validation program to ensure applicants don’t have more than one ID issued by the state under different identities.

One of the key points emphasized by the department in its testimony is that it would take a significant amount of time to implement the changes if the state chose to do so. Lawmakers also raised questions about the cost the state would incur to comply with the federal act. Others were concerned with the possibility that the private information of Missourians would be kept in a national database if the state complies, but the department deputy director said his understanding is that there is not a federal database.

In the coming weeks, lawmakers will look for a compromise solution that will honor the spirit of the 2009 law passed by the state legislature, but also ensure Missourians don’t have to face additional hurdles when travelling. Already several bills have been filed to allow the state revenue department to issue a second, non-driver’s license that would be compliant with the Real ID Act. The option would allow Missourians to choose whether to obtain just the standard driver’s license that is not Real ID compliant, or to also obtain the second ID that would be accepted at federal facilities and airport security checkpoints throughout the country. Legislators will discuss this option, as well as others, as the legislative session progresses.

Voter ID Approved
The members of the House Elections Committee met this week to consider and approve two pieces of legislation that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polling place, which proponents believe would help prevent voter fraud. One piece of legislation is a constitutional amendment that would allow Missourians to decide whether voters should have to show a form of photo identification in order to vote. The second bill would put a voter ID system in place in the event voters approve the change to the state constitution.

The issue is one the legislature has considered numerous times in recent years. The legislature and the governor actually put a voter identification requirement into law in 2006, but it was ultimately struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court. In 2011, the General Assembly approved a constitutional amendment to let voters decide on the issue, but it was kept off the ballot by a court decision. Proponents of the change now hope to allow Missourians to decide once and for all if Missourians should have to prove that they are who they say they are when they vote.

Supporters of the idea say the current system that requires only a document such as a bank statement or utility bill to prove the voter’s identity is not sufficient to prevent fraudulent voting. They say requiring a valid photo ID will protect the integrity of the voting process, and ensure that every vote cast is done so by the person who is registered to cast it. They also say the bill will not disenfranchise voters who do not have an ID because it contains a provision that allows such individuals to vote by provisional ballot.

Opponents have stated that a voter ID system would disenfranchise voters and complicate the election process. They also point to the Missouri Supreme Court decision, which they say protected the fundamental right to vote under the state constitution. Opponents also say the use of provisional ballots does not fully protect the interests of voters.

The bills also received approval on Thursday from the House Select Committee on State and Local Governments and will move to the House floor for discussion next week.

Rams Moved to Los Angeles
One of the looming issues of the session was the imminent showdown between the legislature and the governor over the prospect of using taxpayer dollars to partially subsidize a new football stadium for the St. Louis Rams. The showdown now appears to be off the radar for the 2016 legislative session as the NFL recently approved the relocation of the Rams organization to Los Angeles.

From the start of the discussion, many lawmakers, including House Speaker Todd Richardson, supported the idea of working to keep the Rams, but opposed the governor’s proposal that circumvented the will of the people. Richardson and his colleagues had insisted that any stadium funding plan receive public or legislative approval before moving forward. However, the governor had continued to push his own proposal to issue bonds without a statewide or legislative vote.

With the stadium proposal now off the table, lawmakers will no longer need to focus their efforts on passing legislation to stop the governor’s plan. Instead, the St. Louis region and the state will now look at other options to fill the economic void created by the Rams’ departure. Already some have discussed working to attract a Major League Soccer team. Others have noted there will now be more space for conventions, which will bring in more money for the downtown area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s