by State Sen. Brad Lager
As public servants, we all take an oath to defend our constitutions. For most of us, this amounts to fighting for or against certain public policy changes that we believe will impact the civil liberties of the citizens we represent. For the men and women of our military, this means putting themselves in harm’s way and possibly risking their lives for those of us here at home.
Each year, a number of bills are filed that will impact those who have served and still serve our great nation. This year, the General Assembly was successful in passing several measures that will benefit these brave men and women. We began by passing legislation that will make it easier and faster for deployed troops to vote by absentee ballot. We approved legislation that ensures the parental rights of deployed soldiers are protected by making custody modifications temporary until the parent serving abroad is able to return home. We passed legislation requiring colleges and universities to award academic credits for certain courses military personnel take as part of their training. And finally, we established a Veterans Court, which will focus on long term treatment similar to Missouri’s drug courts, to deal with criminal cases which stem from substance abuse and/or mental illnesses of our veterans and/or current military personnel.
In Missouri, we are proud of our veterans and appreciate their contributions to protecting our freedom. History has taught us that this freedom is not free. These Veterans, who left their homes, their families, their safety, and their comfort to place themselves in harms’ way in order to ensure that freedom would survive, deserve our gratitude. These individuals thought not of themselves but of their country and answered the call to defend our liberties. Let us remember their love for our country, their devotion to the ideals of democracy, their hopes for our future, and their sacrifices made. Therefore, it is with great pride that on Veterans Day we joyfully rise to remember them, salute them, and may God Bless them.
You can contact Sen. Lager by telephone at the State Capitol at 573-751-1415 or by email at [email protected] or by mail at Room 422, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
by State Sen. Brad Lager
Would you be surprised to learn that individuals who have fallen asleep on the job, been drunk at work, been caught using drugs while at work, and even individuals who have been caught stealing from their employer have filed for and have been granted unemployment benefits in Missouri? Unfortunately, this is true. Missouri’s Unemployment system is broken and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to provide benefits to people who do not deserve them.
Under Missouri’s current unemployment benefits system, employees terminated for legitimate reasons are being awarded thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits. This is occurring primarily because of the rules are vague and the definitions are being applied so broad that many bad claims are getting approved without proper vetting. This leads to Missouri’s business owners paying higher costs and the benefits to those who truly qualify being put at risk.
Due to this abuse, this session the Missouri General Assembly took up and passed legislation aimed at restoring accountability and common sense to this broken system. This legislation strengthened the rules for who could qualify for unemployment benefits thereby ensuring they would be available to those who truly qualify. The governor vetoed the measure and during the annual veto session, the House was unable to get the votes necessary to override his veto.
In order to maximize Missouri’s economic growth, we must have a business climate that is fair and in line with other states. We cannot have systems plagued with fraud and abuse. Loopholes and bad judicial decisions that allow someone on the job while drunk or high on drugs to receive employer funded benefits is simply wrong, and I will continue fighting to do everything possible to bring this much needed reform to our state government.
You may reach Sen. Brad Lager by telephone at 573-751-1415 or by email at [email protected] or by mail at Room 422, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
by State Sen. Brad Lager
Missouri’s sex offender registry was created back in the mid-1990s as part of a nationwide movement. The concept is simple: require offenders convicted of specific sexually related crimes to enter their personal information into a public database which citizens could then search to see if there were offenders living in their area.
Unfortunately, with government, nothing is ever simple and managing a responsible sex offender registry has proven more difficult than ever expected.
The sex offender registry is an important tool in keeping our communities safe. Many sex offenders, especially violent ones, are at a high risk of committing a similar crime. The challenge, however, is that not all sex offenders are the same, and the laws dictating who has to register have become so broad that they now encompass crimes as brutal as the sexual abuse of a child, to as innocuous as getting caught urinating in a public park after dark.
By treating all these crimes as equal, we’re condemning some people to lifelong punishments that may far outweigh their offense. One dumb decision as a teenager and a person is stigmatized for the rest of their life. A perfect example was given during this debate.
A senior in high school (he was 17) begins dating a freshman (she was 14). They become sexually involved and during the course of the relationship he turns 18. Upon learning about the two teenagers, her parents pursued charges of statutory rape against the boy, despite the relationship being completely consensual and having started when both were technically minors. The boy was ultimately convicted and thereby forced to register on the sex offender list.
Fast forward 15 years. The high school sweethearts have married and have two children. He is a great husband and a loving and caring father who takes his family to church every Sunday. The all American family, except for the fact that the husband is still listed on Missouri’s sex offender list, lumped in with people who’ve sexually abused children and raped women.
The saddest part of this story is that the relationship that the father is allowed to have with his kids (events he can legally attend, etc.) is heavily governed and limited by state law.
Because of stories like this, this year, the legislature passed House Bill 301, which was an attempt at reforming Missouri’s sex offender registry. In my opinion, this legislation made it too easy to get off the list and thankfully, the Governor vetoed it. Regardless, it did begin a conversation we should continue having.
It is time to instill some common-sense into this broken system. We must find a balance that both protects the public from true offenders while allowing those who pose no future risk to go through a legal proceeding, after a certain period of time and under very specific situations, that would provide a path to having their names removed from the registry.
Finding that middle ground won’t be easy and reform will take time, but as a nation and a state that prides itself on justice, we have a duty to see that the punishments under our legal system fit the crime.
You may reach Sen. Lager by telephone at the State Capitol at 573-751-1415 or by email at [email protected] or by mail at Room 422, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
by State Sen. Brad Lager
Last week, the Missouri General Assembly met the constitutionally established deadline when we delivered to the Governor the spending plan for fiscal year 2014. The FY14 budget appropriates just short of $24.8 billion which makes it the largest operating budget in our state’s history. The only good news is that as of this week, there is nearly a $400 million surplus which the General Assembly did not spend.
The final budget increases funding to our elementary and secondary schools to historic levels, increases funding for the Missouri Preschool Program and provides a small increase for our public colleges and universities. While this all sounds good, the truth is that the elementary and secondary foundation formula is still underfunded by more than $600 million and higher education funding still lags historic funding levels.
The most concerning part, when you dig into the details, is the fact that the largest portion of the increase went to social welfare programs. This brings total social welfare spending to over $11 billion which makes it almost twice as much as elementary, secondary, and higher education combined. In fact, Missouri now spends a greater percentage of its overall budget on Medicaid than any other state in the nation.
While I do not speak for every elected official, I can tell you that these do not represent my priorities.
I believe our top priority should be the education of our children, followed closely by transportation, public safety, and protecting the most vulnerable citizens in our state. If we keep doing what we have been doing, we are going to keep getting what we have been getting, and I find that unacceptable. I believe our state government can do better, but in order to achieve better results, we have to be willing to challenge the status quo and the special interests that protect it.
While the FY14 budget does not appropriate all of the money the state expects to collect, I believe that the General Assembly must still exercise extraordinary restraint as we finalize legislation this final week. During this last week of session, bills and amendments start moving at a rapid pace and unfortunately, many of these initiatives have the ability to put serious strain on our state’s finances.
With a solid financial foundation and the right fiscal priorities, our state can be positioned to experience strong, long lasting economic growth which will result in a new level of financial health and prosperity.
You may contact Sen. Lager by telephone at the Capitol at 573-751-1415 or by email at [email protected] or by my mail at Room 422, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
by State Sen. Brad Lager
The final weeks of every legislative session are long and demanding. This session, we have worked to hold the line on the federal government while doing what we can to improve the economic climate in our state. In order to call the 2013 legislative session a success, there is a lot that will need to be accomplished in the final two weeks.
Tax credit reform, reducing the corporate income tax, reducing the personal income tax, improving Missouri’s employment discrimination laws, repairing Missouri’s insolvent second injury fund and restoring the medical malpractice limits are just a few of the items still needing addressed. The resolution of these issues are important if we are serious about improving Missouri’s business climate and growing jobs. Without fair and equitable rules, reasonable regulation and a strong economic foundation, Missouri will continue to struggle.
As we work through these final weeks of the 2013 session, I will do everything I can to make sure all levels of government remain accountable to the people they serve. While government needs to generate revenue in order to provide services to the citizens, it should be done in the most limited way possible and with full transparency. Taxpayers should demand that government is operating in an open and honest manner, and I am determined to make sure this happens.
Finally, I will do everything possible to stop the bad legislation that is still moving through the legislative process. These bad bills often grow government bureaucracy, grow spending and reduce our freedoms. This time of year, legislation moves quickly and changes often, thereby creating opportunities for poor public policy to be inserted into bills where it is overlooked. By ensuring that our state government is focused on the best interests of Missouri’s citizens and taxpayers, we will be successful in creating a climate which fuels economic prosperity and makes Missouri an even better place to work, live and raise a family.
You may contact Sen. Lager by telephone at the Capitol at 5730751-1415 or by email at [email protected] or by mail at Room 422, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
by Congressman Sam Graves
We all surely have a teacher from our childhood who inspired us to become what we are today. Whether it was because they were able to explain things easily or stayed after school to help us understand a subject, chances are that a teacher had a big influence in your life.
The week of May 6th marks National Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to pay tribute to those throughout the educational system who make teaching their living. America is home to roughly 3.7 million elementary and secondary teachers who deserve our admiration and appreciation.
That’s why I have introduced a resolution in the House to honor the teachers and other education staff who have earned and deserve the respect of their students and communities for their selfless dedication to community service and the future of our nation’s children.
Our principals, superintendents, teachers and staff have a tough job these days. Our education system is constantly changing and our students are continually compared with those around the world in terms of knowledge and performance. While working to prepare students for both a college career and immediate entry into the workforce, the daily strains of managing a classroom and ensuring school safety are constant.
Our children are our nation’s future. This resolution is a simple way for the United States Congress to say ‘thank you’ for everything teachers do to make that future brighter.
You may contact Congressman Graves at his Washington D.C. Office, 1415 Longworth HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515 phone: 202.225.7041; or at his St. Joseph District Office, 411 Jules Street, Room 111, St. Joseph, MO, 64501 Phone: 816.749.0800.
by State Sen. Brad Lager
Approximately one month ago, I wrote about Senate Bill 26, which has become Missouri’s first attempt at income tax reform within our state government. Since that time, this proposal has continued advancing through the legislative process and last week, the Missouri House gave its stamp of approval to a modified version of this proposal.
The majority of both proposals remain focused on lowering our state’s personal and corporate income tax rates. For example, both proposals cut the pass through tax on S-corps and LLCs by 50% while reducing the corporate income tax by three quarters of a percent over the next five years. Both proposals would align Missouri with neighboring states by joining the Streamline Sales Tax Compact while also clarifying how Missouri would use Nexus to collect out of state taxes.
Although there are many provisions that are the same, there are a few significant differences. For example, the House reduces personal income tax by two thirds of one percent while the Senate had proposed reducing it by three quarters of one percent. The House proposal has dedicated increased sales tax revenue to funding K-12 schools and highway construction. Most significantly, the House proposal requires $100 million in increased revenue before the proposal would take effect.
Over the next three weeks, the House and Senate will work to reconcile the differences before placing a final proposal on the Governor’s desk. While this proposal may be more modest of reforms than I had hoped, it does represent the first significant step towards meaningful tax reform in modern history.
I remain committed to doing everything possible to develop a tax policy that encourages and rewards economic growth in our state. Economic growth leads to job growth. Job growth leads to more Missourians fueling our economy and paying taxes which fund our state’s top responsibilities.
The only question that remains is whether or not Missouri has elected officials who are willing to make the bold decisions necessary to advance our state or will we continue managing the status quo?
You may reach Sen. Lager at the Capitol by phone at 573-751-1415, or by email at [email protected] or by mailing address at Room 422, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
by State Sen. Brad Lager
For nearly a decade, there has been much discussion about the process used to select Missouri’s Appellate and Supreme Court judges. This plan, often called the Missouri Plan, was originally created in the 1940s and came about in an attempt to end the political corruption that had arisen in Missouri’s judiciary.
This process formed a commission that would compile a panel of prospective judges and submit that list to the governor for selection. Although the plan was a great improvement over the corruption of the time, the plan itself has not been updated as government has evolved.
Amendment 3 would bring some much needed reforms to the Missouri Plan.
Amendment 3 was placed on the ballot by Senate Joint Resolution 51 which was discussed, debated and passed by both the Missouri Senate and the Missouri House. Currently, the panel for our states highest judges are proposed by a commission made up of lawyers and laypersons. As the process works today, the majority of members on this commission are lawyers, some of which will more than likely have cases pending before the exact judges that they are putting forth to the Governor for selection.
The most important aspect of Amendment 3 is that it will change the structure of the commission ensuring a majority of laypersons make up the commission while still including lawyers and a former judge who would be present to advise the commission when questions arise.
I believe that Missourians deserve accountability at all levels of government thereby ensuring governmental processes that are honest, fair, and free from improper influences. While government will never be perfect, we must do everything we can to make sure it remains accountable to the people it serves.
Amendment 3 does implement some of the reforms I would like to see in the judiciary, it is better than what we have today, and it does move us closer to a fair and unbiased selection process.
by Congressman Sam Graves
An old English proverb says “An empty belly hears nobody.” While you can probably relate to a similar scenario, the US Department of Agriculture just doesn’t seem to get it.
New USDA school lunch guidelines were meant to fight childhood obesity and get kids more fruits and vegetables. But leave it to Washington to take good intentions and turn them into a massive government overreach. In reality, students are seeing smaller portions, reduced servings of protein, and strict calorie limits. Kids across the country are complaining about being hungry.
Gone are the days of getting a second helping of chicken or mashed potatoes. An active fifth grader is provided the same amount of food as a child in kindergarten. High school students are limited to two ounces of protein a day and no more than 10-12 ounces each week. We can’t expect a high school football player who lifts weights before school, practices after and does chores when he gets home to feel good when he’s limited to 850 calories.
That’s why I’m a proud cosponsor of HR 6418, the “No Hungry Kids Act.” This bill repeals these new lunch standards, prohibits caloric limits, and protects the rights of parents to send their children to school with the foods they choose.
Considering so many of our students receive free and reduced lunches, the best meal of their day may come from the school cafeteria.
We need to use some common sense in keeping our kids healthy. It’s clear the needs of our children are not being met with this one-size-fits-all approach.
Sam Graves represents the 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He may be reached by writing his office at 1433 Longworth House Office Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20515; telephone 202.225.7041; fax: 202.225.8221. He also operates district offices at 113 Blue Jay Drive, Suite 100, Liberty, MO 64068, and at 201 S. 8th St., Rm 330, St. Joseph, MO 64501-2240. The 6th District includes the following counties: Atchison, Nodaway, Worth, Harrison, Mercer, Putnam, Schuyler, Sullivan, Grundy, Daviess, Gentry, Andrew, Holt, Buchanan, Platte, Clinton, Clay, Caldwell, Livingston, Carroll, Linn, Chariton.