In addition to the funding we approved in the legislature in our current Missouri budget, earlier this week we received exciting news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that Missouri will receive $60.9 million through the ReConnect Pilot Program to expand rural broadband. Missouri's rural communities are in significant need of access to broadband. More than 8,300 households, particularly our farm families, and 12 educational facilities will greatly benefit from this timely investment into Missouri. As I receive more information about this great news I will share it with everyone in the 116th district.
Missouri House moves forward with plan to explore Hyperloop system (HB 1963)
Members of the Missouri House gave initial approval to a plan that could make Missouri the first state in the nation to develop a high-speed Hyperloop system. Lawmakers approved preliminary legislation to explore a “tube transport system” to a list of projects that are eligible for a public-private partnership.
Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation that is meant to move freight and people quickly and safely. Passengers or cargo would be transported in a Hyperloop pod and accelerate via electric propulsion in a low-pressure tube. The pod would float above the track using magnetic levitation and glide at speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour. It could put Missouri on the map in the transportation innovation space. A Hyperloop system in Missouri would allow users to travel from St. Louis to Kansas City in approximately 30 minutes.
Last year House Speaker Elijah Haahr formed a Special Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop to study the viability of developing the tube-based transportation system in Missouri. The panel produced a report that outlined specific steps that could establish Missouri as the global epicenter for research and development of core worldwide Hyperloop technology. The bill passed by the House is one of the steps necessary to investigate the viability of Hyperloop becoming a reality.
The bill would enable the state to partner with private organizations for the project. An amendment added on the House floor would ensure that eminent domain is not used to obtain land for the construction of the Hyperloop system. Supporters would like to build a 15-mile track to test the feasibility of Hyperloop transportation, which would take 3 to 5 years to build. If successful, Missouri could begin construction on a full commercial route between St. Louis and Kansas City in 7 to 10 years.
The bill now requires another vote in the House. If it is given final approval it will move to the Senate for consideration.
House Approves Bill to Prohibit Cell Phones in Prison (HB 1296)
The House has given first-round approval to legislation that would prohibit prisoners from having cellphones in a prison or jail. Supporters say the bill is necessary to prevent illicit communications between inmates and other individuals and are often used for drug deals. Cellphones and sim cards are being smuggled into our prisons and prisoners are sometimes able to have unmonitored conversations that put Department of Corrections employees and our communities at risk.
Under current law, it is unlawful to possess, deliver, deposit, or conceal certain items in a prison or jail. Prohibited items include guns, knives, or other weapons. This bill would add two-way telecommunications devices and their component parts to the list of prohibited items. The bill now awaits another vote in the House.
Improving Security at the State Capitol (HB 1521)
House members gave initial approval to legislation that is meant to create better safety and security in the State Capitol building and the state office complex. The bill would establish a Capitol Police Board to provide for public safety at the seat of government and for the safety and security of elected officials, government employees, and visitors. The Capitol Police Board would consist of the governor, the speaker of the House, the president pro tem of the Senate, and the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, or their designees, and the chair of the State Capitol Commission. This board would be housed in the House of Representatives for administration purposes. It would hire a chief of police and establish all necessary rules and regulations.
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Officers need the tools and every opportunity necessary to do their jobs correctly and safely. This bill gives them those opportunities without putting government in the way. The legislation now awaits a final vote in the House.
Legislators Approve Accountability Bill for Public School Retirement System (HB 1934)
Lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would ensure greater transparency and accountability for the Public School Retirement System (PSRS). Of the 16 retirement systems created in statute, only PSRS does not currently follow transparency requirements with regard to the salary and benefits of those who manage this important retirement system for our educators. All systems, including PSRS, need to be as transparent as possible so the general public has confidence in those controlling those systems.
The bill exempts information pertaining to the salaries and benefits of the executive director and employees of the Board of the Public School Retirement System of Missouri. Supporters say the bill will require the Public School Retirement System of Missouri to report the salary and benefits information of the director and employees of the system in the same way all other public employee retirement systems in the state already do.
House Sends Bill to Senate to Improve Local Government Retirement System (HB 1467)
The House also approved legislation modifying the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS) for member employer contribution elections for retirement benefit funding. Currently, an employer can elect to cover the full cost of funding the retirement benefit of its eligible employees or require all eligible employees to contribute 4 percent of their gross wages to help pay for the retirement benefit. The bill would expand the available contribution options by allowing employers to, additionally, elect a 2 percent or 6 percent contribution rate that all eligible employees would make to help pay for the retirement benefit. The bill is meant to allow employers who are members of the LAGERS system to have additional choices for developing a retirement plan for their employees.
I want to congratulate Senator Gary Romaine for his recent appointment as Chairman of the Missouri Taxing Commission, by Governor Mike Parson. Senator Romine has served Senatorial District 3 for seven years and has represented all of us very well. He began his new duties this past week and I know he will serve the citizens of Missouri admirably and with fairness. Until a new senator is elected in November we will have no senatorial representation. Until then please feel free to call upon me or my office with your legislative needs.
Senator Gary Romine began his new role as Chairman of the Missouri Taxing Commission this past week. I know he will be an advocate of fair taxing rules on behalf of all Missourians. On behalf of all the great citizens of Missouri House District 116 I’d like to thank Senator Romine for his dedicated service over the last seven years as our senator of the 3rd district and wish him the very best in his new duties!
Next week at the Capitol
I will be presenting my HB 2315 to the Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, Feb. 10th at 6:00 p.m. This bill relates to three properties proposed for conveyance to National Park Service for establishment of National Historic Park at Ste. Genevieve. The Felix Vallé House, built in 1818, was designed as a combination mercantile store and residence for its original owner, Jacob Philipson, a Philadelphia merchant. Built of native limestone, its Federal-style architecture demonstrates the American influence on the community in the decades following the Louisiana Purchase. The home was sold to the prominent Vallé family of Ste. Genevieve in 1824 and served as a location for the trading firm of Menard & Vallé, as well as the residence of Felix and Odile Vallé. Holding firmly to their French traditions, including language and religion, the Vallé’s embraced “modern” features of life, including an American style home and American goods brought by steamboat.
The Dr. Benjamin Shaw House stands just across Second Street from the Felix Vallé House. Built ca. 1819 by Jean Baptiste Bossier, the building served as a store-house for his mercantile business. Bossier was the great nephew of Vital and Jean Baptist Beauvais. He sold the building to a local physician, Dr. Benjamin Shaw, in 1837. Shaw made significant additions to Bossier’s small building, converted it for use as a residence. He built a separate stone kitchen for the house. Dr. Shaw’s wife, Emilie, lived in the home for over 50 years, next door to her neighbor and cousin, Odile Vallé.
The Green Tree Tavern is a French Colonial architecture known as a poteaux sur sole is the oldest house west of the Mississippi, being built in 1790 as a residence. The house was built by Nicolas Janis. Later the house became a tavern with a number of documented travelers staying there such as Henry Marie Brackenridge. As travelers poured into the new territory, the Green Tree Tavern offered lodging, entertainment, socializing and news. The first Masonic Lodge West of the Mississippi was in the Green Tree Tavern, Western Star Lodge #107. I will keep you posted via my Capitol Reports as to the progression of this bill. You are also welcome to call my office at any time.
I look forward to working for my district while I am at the Capitol and I always enjoy visiting with the various groups that come to the Capitol for their Advocacy Day. This week I will be meeting with members of the Ste. Genevieve School Board, MO Teacher Retirement Association, Unitec Career instructor Jason Loughary and several of his students, Ste. Genevieve Presiding Commissioner Gary Nelson and Perryville Officials Brent Buerck and Ken Baer.