Rep. Dale Wright

This week is National Volunteer Week and I would like to send out a sincere Thank You to all the volunteers who devote their time and energy to those organizations that benefit from their commitments.

This legislative session will end in a few weeks. I will be sending out an end of session report that will list all bills that were passed. I also have on my House website an online survey for you to participate in. Knowing your opinions on certain topics helps me when bills come up for debate on the House Floor. When Session ends on May 17th, I will be back home in the district and look forward to attending meetings, social events and I am available to meet with anyone as concerns arise.

These last few weekends in the district I had the opportunity to tour and meet with a special group of young adults at the Friends in Action Clubhouse in Farmington. What a pleasure meeting and interacting with them!

I also had the chance to visit with teachers and students at the Ste. Genevieve Middle School. Ste. Genevieve offers their students some leading edge programs going on there. The students are fortunate to be attending such an excellent school system.

While at Ste. Genevieve I got to try my hand at Virtual Heart Surgery with the help of Librarian Coordinator Carrie Staffen.

On Friday, representatives from schools around southeast Missouri, local businesses, members of various Chambers of Commerce, city governments and Representative Henderson and I had the chance to attend a meeting hosted by US Tool Group to discuss our future workforce. Governor Parson has made Work Force Development a priority for our State. This is a win win for our area and state. Employers need skilled workers and students who do not want to attend college can benefit from on the job training or pursuing a degree from a technical trade school.

Today, we received great news from the Governor. Missouri’s economy is growing at an amazing pace! We have more jobs, higher wages, and lower taxes than ever before. These are all ingredients for a very strong economy. If all that wasn’t good enough In March Missouri employers generated 4,700 new jobs. Currently, Missouri’s unemployment rate is at an extremely low 3.3%, and for the 32nd time our unemployment rate is lower than the national unemployment rate!

House Approves Legislation to Protect Land Owners from Eminent Domain Abuse (HB 1062)

The bill comes in response to the proposed Grain Belt Express transmission line that would carry power generated by wind turbines in Kansas across Missouri to other states in the Midwest and neighboring states. The 750-mile line would run across eight northern Missouri counties - Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls – and would deliver a portion of the power it transmits to utilities and customers in Missouri.

In March the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a request made by Grain Belt Express to construct the high-voltage transmission line. As a result of the decision made by the PSC, developers would have the authority to utilize the power of eminent domain to obtain easement rights from landowners who are unwilling to sell.

The legislation approved by the House would prevent the use of eminent domain for the purpose of constructing the Grain Belt Express transmission line. Supporters of the bill said it is important to prohibit private companies from using eminent domain to maximize their profits for a project that will provide little benefit for Missouri consumers. They say less than 12 percent of the electricity carried by the transmission line would be sold to Missouri consumers.

I am proud to defend the property rights of Missourians. Telling one private owner to share their land and follow unreasonable regulations for another private company is a violation of the core beliefs this country was founded on.

Today the Missouri House led the fight to protect Missouri’s agriculture land and sent a clear message that we will protect all Missourians private property rights. Abuse of eminent domain for a private company to pad its bottom line is unacceptable and today the Missouri House made it unlawful. The property you possess is your tangible piece of the American Dream and today the House sent HB1062 on to the Senate to protect Missourians property rights.

I care deeply about the rights of landowners and today supported HB 1062 to protect your private property from the abuse of eminent domain.

I enjoyed visiting with FFA Students from Perryville High School. These are the future leaders of our area and state.

House Approves Bill to Improve License Renewal Process (HB 679)

Members of the Missouri House have approved legislation that would make it easier for residents to renew a driver’s license or a motor vehicle license. The legislation also would allow drivers to obtain a secure digital driver’s license in addition to the physical card-based license.

The bill would authorize the Missouri Department of Revenue to design and implement a remote driver's license renewal system that would be accessed through the department's Internet website, or through self-service kiosks that would be available at one or more locations within the state. Missourians would also be able to use the kiosks to renew their motor vehicle license just as they currently can through the department’s website. This option would be available to residents who live in a county where property tax records are kept online.

The plan would be to roll out a handful of kiosks in select locations initially as a pilot project. If the kiosks prove successful and cost efficient, they would then be made available in more fee offices throughout the state. The expansion of the self-service kiosks would be subject to appropriation. The change should help streamline services offered by the department and allow consumers to use the kiosks so they can get renewals completed faster.

Under the bill, a Missourian who opts to renew a driver’s license remotely would be exempted from vision and road sign tests. Applicants who have applied in-person and received a driver’s license would be able to remotely apply for one three-year or one six-year renewal. The bill would require the department to have a remote renewal system in place by January 1, 2021.

The bill also authorizes the department to design a secure digital driver's license program that allows applicants to obtain a digital version of their license in addition to the physical card-based driver's license. The bill’s sponsor said the bill will give Missourians the option to have an electronic license on their phone or mobile device that works in the same way as their current license for all applications. He noted that users would pay an additional fee to obtain the electronic version.

The bill is now under consideration by the Senate.

Lawmakers Approve Bill to Crack Down on Carjackers (HB 966)

Members of the Missouri House gave approval this week to legislation that would create and define the crime of carjacking. The bill would give consistency and clarity to Missouri law.

Missouri does not currently have a law for prosecutors to charge vehicle hijacking under. Instead, prosecutors have to charge under a similar offense, such as robbery or theft. Supporters say carjacking has become an epidemic that needs to be addressed. They note that St. Louis had 350 carjackings in 2018.

The bill creates the offense of “vehicle hijacking.” It would be considered a “dangerous felony,” and would carry a penalty between 5 and 15 years. If the crime is committed with the use of a weapon, if a victim is seriously injured, or if one of the victims is a child or “special victim,” the crime would be a class A felony with a penalty of 10 to 30 years, or life.

The bill would make the penalty for an armed carjacking very similar to that for first-degree robbery, which is comparable to the charges faced by people who commit carjackings now.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Signed by the Governor

HB 77 fixes a problem with the school retirement system that was created by language that was passed last session. The bill adds a provision that exempts anyone that retired as a teacher under the public school retirement system who is now employed by a public community college.

Other Bills Sent to the Senate

HB 1094 prevents penalties for delayed payments on outstanding income tax liabilities for the 2018 tax year, as long as a taxpayer timely files their return. There may be interest assessed on outstanding income tax liabilities, provided that no interest will be assessed before May 15, 2019 and any interest already paid will be refunded. Supporters say that with the new federal tax laws and Missouri withholding issues, taxpayers' Missouri withholding may have been reduced causing unexpected tax liability due when they file their tax returns. This bill gives a taxpayer more time to pay his or her tax bill, without hurting the fiscal year for the state.

HB 301 requires certified nursing assistant training programs to be offered at skilled nursing or intermediate care facility units in Missouri veterans homes and hospitals. It also requires advanced practice nurses (APRNs) to be licensed by the Missouri Board of Nursing and sets out the requirements for that licensure. Supporters say the bill will allow the Board of Nursing to give APRNs a separate licensure, instead of just a document of recognition, which will allow the board to have better oversight and discipline for APRNs. They say the bill will streamline and simplify APRN licensure.

HB 932 allows prosecuting attorneys to develop multidisciplinary adult protection teams that protect elderly and other dependent persons from abuse. Supporters say that most of the things discussed in this bill are being done which is why the fiscal note indicates no cost. However, this bill addresses the practices, procedures and coordination of the activities for these teams and all the people and agencies involved. This legislation was modeled on best practices from other states and what we know works well in Missouri and the sponsor is bringing this bill forward to protect our most vulnerable elderly population.

HB 186 provides that a person who is injured by a product has 15 years after the sale or lease of the product to bring a suit for damages. Supporters say there needs to be certainty for manufacturers and distributors. They note that the United States Supreme Court has held that statutes of repose are legitimate limitations on bringing claims. They say Missouri defendants should be free from worry about liability after a certain amount of time has passed.

HBs 281 & 570 allows school districts to implement alternative methods of instruction to avoid make-up days. Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, the bill allows a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for up to 36 hours due to inclement weather.

HB 749 creates the "Towing Task Force" to make recommendations on overcharges, customer complaints, and the process for nonconsensual towing used by law enforcement. The bill will help regulate overcharging in the towing industry. The task force outlined in the bill will give recommendations and a framework to help eliminate price gouging.

HB 756 requires health care professionals to utilize the process outlined in statute for claims for charges for unanticipated out-of-network care. The bill is necessary for transparency purposes. If you go to a hospital that is in your health care plan then everything should be treated like in-network for your health insurance coverage. People often get bills for out of network from physicians that work in the hospital and this is a lot more expensive.

If you have any questions regarding any state matters or legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact email me at dale.wright@house.mo.gov or call 573-751-3455.

It is an honor to serve as your state representative.

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