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Members gathered in the House Chamber Wednesday, Jan. 3 as the 2018 legislative session officially began. The opening day activities were highlighted by a speech from House Speaker Todd Richardson who encouraged his colleagues to continue the work they have done to make the great state of Missouri even greater. As Richardson said in his speech, “That is why it is critical for those of us in our final session, and for those who will pick up the torch when we are gone, to make it our focus in everything we do to leave this state a better place than we found it.”

Looking ahead to the weeks to come in the 2018 session, the Speaker said he hopes lawmakers will continue to work to pass impactful ethics reform, and increase the level of trust and accountability between the citizens and their citizen legislators. He called on his colleagues to once again stand up for the working families across the state so that they and future generations can look forward to a more prosperous Missouri.

The Speaker said the legislature must also take action to help the many Missourians who must now fight through unfair and cumbersome regulations. He called on his colleagues to work this session to break down barriers for those Missourians who would bring innovation and economic opportunity to the state.

Speaker Richardson ended his comments asking his colleagues to “join together in service and good faith for the people of Missouri, so that each distinguished member of this House can one day look back during his or her final session and say that this chamber, this government, and our great state are better off than ever before.”

House leaders made it clear on the opening day of session that they plan to work quickly to pass several priority pieces of legislation. The House is set to take up two pieces of legislation that have received strong bipartisan approval in the past. While these bills made it through the House, they did not receive Senate approval before time ran out on the 2017 session. Lawmakers hope this year to move all three measures across the legislative finish line.

Human Trafficking (HB 1246) - House members will work again this year to address the growing problem of human trafficking. The state is currently ranked 20th in reported human trafficking cases according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Lawmakers hope to build on past efforts to address the trafficking problem by passing legislation that would make Missourians better aware of the resources available to assist victims of trafficking. The bill would require the Department of Public Safety to develop a poster to promote the use of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. The posters would be displayed at common areas where human trafficking can occur such as hotels or motels that have been cited for prostitution, and train and bus stations.

Ethics Reform (HB 1303) - House members will also work to once again pass legislation meant to diminish the influence of lobbyists. Similar to legislation the House has passed in each of the last two sessions, the bill would ban gifts from lobbyists to legislators and other statewide elected officials. Missouri currently has no limits on lobbyist gifts. The bill House members will work to pass will create a gift ban with some common sense exceptions that would allow a legislator to receive an award or accept flowers for the funeral of a loved one without breaking the law.

Finding updated information about Missouri’s economy just got a lot easier thanks to State Treasurer Eric Schmitt. Schmitt announced the launch of where citizens can easily track and monitor Missouri’s economic performance.

The Missouri Economic Dashboard gives the public a snapshot of the state’s economic climate and features key data on unemployment, state and national debt, exports, housing, education and more. County-by-county breakdowns are available for several of the dashboard’s indicators.

“This new tool gives Missourians an easy way to check on our state’s economic status without sifting through spreadsheets and boring government reports,” said Schmitt. “The Missouri Economic Dashboard will dramatically increase transparency in economic data and help keep the public, business leaders and lawmakers up to date with the latest information.”

The dashboard was designed by a team of economists and government accounting experts to prioritize the most important economic indicators found within publicly available datasets. Figures will be updated regularly as new reports are published by government agencies.

Missouri Dash Board is the first economic dashboard in the nation to be launched by a state treasurer’s office. Treasurer Schmitt and his team will utilize the data collected by the dashboard to conduct a comprehensive audit of the state’s economy.

(Treasurer’s office is still waiting for new updates as those shown are older dates)

For Information on tracking Missouri’s economy: treasurer.mo.gov/economicdashboard

For information on the Missouri House of Representatives: www.house.mo.gov

For information on Missouri State Government: www.mo.gov

For information on the Missouri Senate: www.senate.mo.gov

For information on Highway Construction: www.modot.org

Please know you can contact me during the legislative session with your issues and concerns by calling 573-751-2317 or emailing my office at Mike.Henderson@house.mo.gov.

This report was filed Jan. 5, 2018

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