Capitol Report | February 18th, 2016

Paycheck Protection, DNR, Audit, & Veterans

The House gave approval this week to legislation meant to give workers the authority to annually opt-in rather than opt-out of paycheck deductions for union fees. Often referred to as “paycheck protection” legislation, the bill would require annual written consent from a public employee before any amount could be withheld from the earnings of the employee for the payment of any portion of dues, agency shop fees, or other fees paid to a public labor organization.

The House also approved legislation that would force Missouri DNR to sell land it had acquired in Oregon County for use as a new state park. During the 2015 interim, the House formed a committee to look at what members said was an inappropriate use of settlement funds that were intended to be utilized to remediate the damage done by the ASARCO mining conglomerate at five sites in southeast Missouri’s lead mining district. Instead, the trustees of the ASARCO settlement determined it was appropriate to use funds to acquire land several counties away and in a different watershed. Members hope to undo the decision made by executive branch to prioritize the purchase of Frederick Creek Ranch over the remediation projects in areas that were actually impacted by ASARCO’s actions.

House members also approved a resolution calling on Congress to pass the Federal Reserve Transparency Act to require a complete audit of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. As the sponsor of the resolution said on the House floor, the Federal Reserve has loaned trillions of dollars to bail out foreign banks without the consent of Congress, and it refuses to fully disclose the details of its lending practices. He also noted that the Federal Reserve has never received a complete audit.

The House also took action to fix an issue with the Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act that will help veterans to more easily afford the cost of a college education. The bill changes existing law to ensure the tuition benefit created by the act is applied correctly. The legislation changes the law to require the tuition limitation be provided before all other aid is applied and repeals the provisions prohibiting a veteran from receiving more than the actual cost of attendance when the limitation is combined with other available aid. The bill also will clarify how the law should be interpreted so that every university in Missouri will apply the act in the same way. Supporters said the goal of the legislation is to support veterans in Missouri and to help them to obtain their degrees without accumulating excessive student loan debt.

Lastly, every taxpayer with a 2015 Adjusted Gross Income of $62,000 or less may visit http://www.IRS.gov/freefile to prepare, complete and e-file their federal tax returns at no cost. Free state return options are also available.

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

 

“Paycheck Protection” Bill Receives House Approval (HB 1891)

The House gave approval this week to legislation meant to give workers the authority to annually opt-in rather than opt-out of paycheck deductions for union fees. Often referred to as “paycheck protection” legislation, the bill would require annual written consent from a public employee before any amount could be withheld from the earnings of the employee for the payment of any portion of dues, agency shop fees, or other fees paid to a public labor organization.

The legislation also would require public employee unions to obtain annual written consent in order to spend a portion of the fees on political activities. Unions for first responders, such as police and firefighters, would be exempted from the requirements of the bill.

Supporters of the change say it is a matter of protecting the rights of workers and giving them a say in where their money goes. They say unions sometimes support political causes not endorsed by their membership and the bill would give members the authority to prevent their fees from being used for these purposes.

Opponents say contributions already are voluntary and requiring this annual authorization will increase costs to public employers and school districts in particular. They believe the authorization requirement is an unnecessary intrusion into the inner workings of a private organization and another administrative burden placed on unions by state government.

The General Assembly approved similar legislation two years ago but saw the bill vetoed by the governor. This year’s version of the legislation received 110 votes in the House, which is one more than needed to override a potential veto by the governor.

House Approves Legislation to Address Misuse of ASARCO Settlement Dollars (HB 2187)

The House approved legislation that would force the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to sell land it had acquired in Oregon County for use as a new state park. Many House members had taken issue with the decision of the executive branch to acquire the Frederick Creek Ranch land with funds that were meant for important remediation efforts such as clean drinking water projects in Missouri’s lead mining district.

During the 2015 interim, the House formed a committee to look at what members said was an inappropriate use of settlement funds that were intended to be utilized to remediate the damage done by the ASARCO mining conglomerate at five sites in southeast Missouri’s lead mining district, which includes St. Francois, Reynolds, Iron and Madison counties. Instead, the trustees of the ASARCO settlement determined it was appropriate to use funds to acquire land several counties away and in a different watershed.

Now, with the legislation approved by the House, members hope to undo the decision made by executive branch to prioritize the purchase of Frederick Creek Ranch over the remediation projects in areas that were actually impacted by ASARCO’s actions. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Approves Resolution Encouraging an Audit of the Federal Reserve (HR 71)

The members of the Missouri House of Representatives approved a resolution calling on Congress to pass the Federal Reserve Transparency Act to require a complete audit of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. As the sponsor of the resolution said on the House floor, the Federal Reserve has loaned trillions of dollars to bail out foreign banks without the consent of Congress, and it refuses to fully disclose the details of its lending practices. He also noted that the Federal Reserve has never received a complete audit.

The resolution approved by the House notes that the Federal Reserve has inflated the money supply and manipulated interest rates since its inception in 1913, which has eroded the purchasing power of the dollar by approximately 95 percent, and contributed to boom and bust business cycles. It also points out that Federal Reserve has operated the nation’s monetary system without full disclosure and transparency, which has led to a lower quality of life for the American people and abuse verified by the United States Government Accountability Office in its 2011 Report to Congress.

The bill’s sponsor hopes that a complete audit will finally provide the American people with answers about how their money is being spent, where their money is being spent, and at what cost.

Promoting Civics Education (HB 1646)

The Missouri House approved legislation to promote American history and civics education in Missouri classrooms. The bill would create the Missouri Civics Education Initiative to require students in public, charter, and private high schools to receive a passing grade on a standardized civics test in order to graduate.

Supporters said ensuring a thorough knowledge of the country’s history and system of government is a key first step in creating an engaged and active citizenry that will vote and take active roles in the political process.

Under HB 1621, exams would consist of the same 100 questions used on the civics portion of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ U.S. Naturalization test that is taken by immigrants looking to gain American citizenship. The questions would cover topics ranging from the United States Constitution to American history to geography. The test could be retaken by the student an unlimited amount of times until a passing grade is obtained.

If passed into law, Missouri would join states such as Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana and Wisconsin, which all passed Civics Education Initiatives earlier in the year.

If approved by both chambers and signed by the governor, the Missouri Civics Education Initiative would take effect Aug. 28, 2016, and all students entering ninth grade after July 1, 2017, would be required to receive a passing grade on the civics test.

House Approves Returning Heroes’ Education Act (HB 2156)

The Missouri House took action this week to fix an issue with the Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act that will help veterans to more easily afford the cost of a college education. The bill changes existing law to ensure the tuition benefit created by the act is applied correctly.

The Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act was created by Senate Bill 830 in 2008. The act limits tuition charged to qualified combat veterans to $50 per credit hour for any program leading to a Bachelor’s degree. the act, a “combat veteran” is any person who served in armed combat after September 11, 2001, who was a Missouri resident when first entering the military, and who was discharged from military service under honorable conditions.

While the program has been beneficial for combat veterans, several filed a lawsuit alleging some state universities were misapplying the benefit. The universities were using the other financial aid available to the veterans to pay for tuition before capping the cost of classes at the $50 limit. The veterans who brought suit said the $50 cap should be applied first so that other financial aid could then be used to cover the other costs associated with attending college, which have increased significantly in recent years.

The legislation approved by the House changes the law to require the tuition limitation be provided before all other aid is applied and repeals the provisions prohibiting a veteran from receiving more than the actual cost of attendance when the limitation is combined with other available aid. The bill also will clarify how the law should be interpreted so that every university in Missouri will apply the act in the same way. Supporters said the goal of the legislation is to support veterans in Missouri and to help them to obtain their degrees without accumulating excessive student loan debt.

IRS Free Tax Filing Opportunity

Every taxpayer with a 2015 Adjusted Gross Income of $62,000 or less may visit http://www.IRS.gov/freefile to prepare, complete and e-file their federal tax returns at no cost.

Free state return options are also available. In addition, Free File provides basic online e-filing services, called Free File Fillable Forms, to all taxpayers regardless of income.

Free File can also be used to e-file an extension for free. Free File also helps taxpayers with the new health care requirements.

Capitol Visits

I was to honored present Wyatt J. Smith a House Resolution for his great efforts in becoming an Eagle Scout in Troop 429 in Bourbon.

I also visited with several Missouri S&T students from the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM). The purpose of ASUM is to educate students about the political process and increase political awareness, concern, and participation among students.

Nearly 1,000 retired teachers made their annual trip to the Capitol this week. Among them were John and Carolyn Taylor of Steelville. It was great to catch up and discuss current educational issues.

The Kansas City Royals announced last month that the World Series trophy would begin a display tour at sites in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska starting on Feb. 8 through Feb. 27. This week the trophy made its way to the State Capitol. It was great to see up close and in person. A great win for the Royals and for our state!

 

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