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Jan 2011 e-Newsletter

Please complete my 2011 Constituent Survey

MORE THAN A CAMPAIGN SLOGAN

During my campaign for re-election, I repeatedly used the slogan: “Let’s turn down the volume and silence the rhetoric.” For me, those words were more than a slogan.  They will guide my activities as the Legislature convenes in Jefferson City this month.

Unfortunately, politics has become a sport for too many of us––politicians and voters alike. For many it’s a win or lose, zero-sum game, with no referee to throw the penalty flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The concerns of our state and country are not a game. We have been elected to transact the people’s business to the best of our abilities. Jobs, healthcare, education, public safety, and transportation are serious issues that require that we work together for the benefit of all.

Republicans and Democrats often approach public policy from different starting points––with different ideological assumptions. I would like to think, however, that all of us want our economy to provide jobs for those who are looking for work, our citizens to receive adequate healthcare, our schools and colleges to deliver quality education, and our cities and roads to be safe. We can’t achieve any of these goals if we spend our time shouting at each other for the purpose of scoring political points or passionate self-interest.

Missouri has more than its share of problems. Unemployment is too high, healthcare is lacking for too many of our citizens, our educational system is not delivering the quality that we need, and our infrastructure is deteriorating––all while our economy is near an all-time low.

I’m not arguing that every issue can be solved by negotiating a middle-of-the-road consensus. Rather, I believe that Missouri is better served if all of us turn down our volume, silence our rhetoric, and focus on solving the problems before us.  That’s what I think you expect. That’s how I intend to legislate.

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2011 COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS

I have been appointed to the following committees for the 2011 Legislative Session:

  • Member, House Budget Committee
  • Chair, Appropriations Committee for Public Safety and Corrections
  • Ranking Member, Judiciary Committee
  • Member, Agribusiness Committee
  • Joint Committee on Capital Improvements and Leasing Oversight
  • Special Standing Committee on Election Contests

Other special committee assignments may be forthcoming.

It is of note, that despite my party affiliation, Speaker Tilley has seen fit to appoint me as Chair of the Appropriations Committee for Public Safety and Corrections.  This is an honor he bestowed on two other members of our minority Party.  Rep.Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) was appointed as Chair of the House Urban Issues Committee and Rep. Linda Black (D-Bonne Terre) as Chair of the Corrections Committee.

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BILLS INTRODUCED THIS SESSION

I believe my work on the Budget and Appropriations Committees to take the majority of my time and effort this session.  However, I have filed or am co-sponsoring the following bills as of the first week of the 2011 session:

Sponsored Bills

HB151 - Income Tax Check-Off for Organ Donor Program

Authorizes a check-off box for the Organ Donor Program Fund to be added to the individual and corporate income tax forms and allows for a separate check donation to be sent in with payment of taxes

Other bills are currently being researched and written.

Co-Sponsored Bills

HB79 - Military Medallions, Medals and Certificates

Authorizes the issuance of a military medallion, medal, and certificate to certain veterans who served in specified conflicts regardless of whether they are or ever were legal Missouri residents

HB82 -Renewable Energy Standard

Defines “small modular reactors” and allows energy produced by these reactors to be used to meet the Renewable Energy Standard percentage requirements for investor-owned electric utilities

HB147 - Made in Missouri (title pending)

Requires the commissioner of administration to purchase forest products, bricks, or aluminum produced in Missouri with certain exceptions

HB149 - Missouri Military Family Relief Fund

Extends the expiration date of the provisions regarding the Missouri Military Family Relief Fund to December 31, 2017, and the termination date of the provisions to September 1, 2018

HB163 - Extended Unemployment Compensation Benefits

Changes the laws regarding unemployment compensation benefits in order for Missouri to receive recently approved additional federal funds

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COMING SOON TO AN AIRPORT NEAR YOU

“The overpass has been my top capital improvement priority. Not only will it make Highway 63 much safer, it will also provide a major boost for economic development at the Columbia Regional Airport.

Ashland leaders identified this priority as I began my campaign in 2007 and I have been working on it since then. I am thrilled that we will see its construction and completion in the next couple of years.

When we all cooperate­­­­­­–city and county officials, business and economic development leaders, state departments, and legislators–we can get things done to serve our communities.”

– Chris Kelly

The Missouri Department of Transportation has identified funds for an overpass on Highway 63 and a new entrance to the Columbia Regional Airport, moving the project a big step closer to reality.

The Route H/Airport Road intersection with Highway 63 is often cited as one of the most dangerous intersections between Jefferson City and the Iowa line. Columbia and Ashland officials have long sought a way to eliminate dangerous cross-over traffic on Highway 63.

Equally important, economic development of the airport site hinges on safe entry and exit for trucks, employees, and passengers. The current arrangement makes enticing new employers­­­­––such as distribution centers that use the airport–-difficult. Controlled access to Highway 63 gives a major boost to airport development that will create jobs in mid-Missouri.

MODOT will fund the overpass with money saved from other construction projects. The estimated cost is $14 million. Several steps will take place before construction begins. MODOT will hold a public open house on February 8 at the county’s public works facility at 5151 S Highway 63. The Highway Commission must then formally approve the project, with bids let as early as this summer and construction projected to begin in Fall 2011 or early 2012. Assuming all goes according to plan, the project will be completed by early 2013.

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PROPOSITION B: A RATIONAL APPROACH

“Proposition B passed in the November 2010 election with a 51.6% vote.  It amended Missouri law to require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space; necessary veterinary care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles. The amendment further prohibits any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets. The amendment also creates a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violations.”

As with many legislative issues, one can speak passionately and rationally on either side of this issue, but in truth the best solution lies somewhere between two polar positions.

The rationale for Prop B is reasonable. It is beyond question that Missouri has a real and serious problem with some irresponsible dog breeders.  Further, the Legislature failed to deal with it, leaving the citizens in a position to either accept the situation or take matters into their own hands.  They did––in the form of an Initiative Petition in the last election.

As with virtually all voter petitions, Prop B, being written by only those on one side of the issue, is unbalanced and fatally flawed. Among its several problems, the most glaring is the lack of a funding mechanism.  In today’s economic climate no reasonable legislator can justify funding new animal protection over state services like education.  Yet this is what we would have to do to actually activate Prop B.

The most radical view articulated by the opposition is that Prop B is a sinister plot against animal agriculture and therefore the will of the people may be ignored with impunity.  The problem with this theory is that it ignores the twin realities––that there is actually a puppy problem and there is actually a citizen mandate to fix it.

Both sides have a stake in working this out.  Prop B supporters want a workable law and they must be aware that in the last analysis there are the votes in the Legislature for total repeal of the Initiative.

Anti-Prop B folks must also be concerned.  They acknowledge that there is a real puppy problem.  They also realize that the voters, who in the last election, were certainly less favorable to Prop B than those who will vote in 2012, will not take kindly to a total repeal or to any kind of sham law enacted in its place.

There is room for reasonable compromise.  It will require that we get past the name calling, each respect the other side, and be willing to accept middle ground even when we do not agree completely.  Both sides have reason to “get it right”. A more reasonable law can help ensure that our many ethical breeders do not suffer from Missouri’s reputation as the puppy mill state.  It can also alleviate the legitimate animal cruelty concerns of the proponents.

To “get it right” all interested parties must be willing, able and available to contribute to a reasonable solution.