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We are now back in session following a week of being home in our districts. Budget bills are completed and we now wait for the Senate to deliberate them and send us their versions.

This week we have begun taking up Senate bills which, along with House bills, are moving forward and are now getting loaded with amendments from Representatives hoping to get their own legislation through. These amendments sometimes change the original intention of the bill which you thought would be voted on. In some cases as many as 20 amendments may be offered up which are fully debated and voted on. All this makes for long days in the House Chamber.

This week we have had debates on grandparent rights, working animals for businesses, raising fees for driver’s license offices, and making personal healthcare products available to prisoners.

This week I had the honor of being invited to the Governor’s Mansion, along with other Representatives, for an early morning breakfast hosted by Governor Parson and the First Lady. We were greeted and welcomed into their home and enjoyed the interaction and the time to discuss items of importance to the Governor but also to each of us for our districts.

As always, I welcome those visitors and advocacy groups who come to our State Capitol.

Tuesday was Child Advocacy Day and I had the pleasure of meeting with a special group from the Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services in Farmington, advocating for their passion to help the youth in our area. We are blessed to have that agency available as a resource to the youth who are in need. Other groups at the Capitol this week were students from SEMO State who will be graduating this December with a degree in Social Work. This week was also dedicated to the great outdoors. There were numerous displays from various agencies; Missouri Park Association, Missouri Conservation Foundation, Missouri Stream Team, Wild Bird Chatter, Trapping and Furbearer Management, Conservation Federation Missouri. If you would like any information regarding any of these outdoor programs, feel free to contact my office and I can get that information to you.

I always appreciate receiving your opinion on various topics affecting our district and state. On my website I have an online survey that I am asking you to fill out. It will help me know your thoughts and will help me represent you better. To access that website, click on https://house.mo.gov/, then click on Members, my name will be the very last one. You can also click right on this link and it will take you right to the survey https://xeroxcorp.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_39JLezOuPcw6aiN. If you have any questions, please give my office a call.

The House has approved legislation that would allow school districts to open up lines of communication with one another as a way to stop employees with a history of abusing students from moving from one district to another. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The House has voted that Missouri inmates who are at least 65 years old get a chance at parole. The legislation would apply to a small number of inmates who have served at least 30 years of a sentence, who have no prior violent felony convictions, are not convicted sex offenders, and are serving a sentence of life without parole with a 50-year minimum.

The sponsor said, “We are trying to give these folks, who have become elderly in prison and are a burden on the Missouri department of justice health system the same opportunity for parole that they would’ve had if they had committed their crimes a few years after they were convicted.”

Under the bill, an inmate receiving a parole hearing must be found by the parole board to have met certain criteria to be eligible for parole. He or she must have a record of good conduct while in prison; must have demonstrated rehabilitation; must have an institutional risk factor score of no more than one and a mental health score of no more than three; and must have a workable parole plan that includes the support of family and community. An offender who is not granted parole would be reconsidered every two years. The bill now moves to the Senate.

The Missouri House of Representative has approved legislation to protect taxpayer dollars from expensive projects that run over budget or behind schedule. Known as the Million Dollar Boondoggle Act, the bill is meant to increase transparency for taxpayers so they are aware of what the state is doing with their tax dollars. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Other Bills Sent to the Senate

HB 456 creates a STEM diploma endorsement for high school students who demonstrate mastery in the STEM disciplines. Supporters say the bill will help encourage students to consider STEM fields of study, and that bringing focus to STEM is important as it brings job skills to areas of need. They also support students that may not be college bound to have the opportunity to get endorsements like the bill would provide.

HB 278 allows the Division of Employment Security to serve, by certified mail, written notice to an employer that has failed to file certain reports required by law. Supporters say that allowing the use of certified mail without requiring a return receipt will provide a significant cost savings with no loss of effectiveness.

HB 604 establishes the "School Turnaround Act." Schools and children are our most precious resource and if the current structure is failing, we need more options beyond school takeovers and lack of local control. This bill will provide high accountability with high local buy in.

HB 462 creates certified teacher externships. The purpose of the bill is to enhance discussion with students regarding employment opportunities after graduation. It addresses a skills gap issue by bringing practical experience into the classroom. In addition, externships are an important piece of workforce development.

HB 973 requires the nonpartisan state demographer to establish a "Redistricting Public Comment Portal," to accept comments, maps, or other communications from the general public or interested parties. Supporters say the bill is a good government proposal that requires the nonpartisan demographer to disclose communications about redistricting to the general public in a readily available format.

HB 959 repeals an existing provision of the Motor Vehicle Franchise Practices Act regarding coercion of franchisees to alter their facilities and enacts new prohibitions against coercion. Supporters say the bill is a product of reasonable compromise between franchisers and franchisees. It will allow franchisees to spend more profits on technology, salaries, and product lines instead of infrastructure repair and construction projects.

HB 762 establishes the Missouri Municipality Government Expenditure Database. The database must include extensive information about a given municipality's expenditures and the vendors to whom payments were made. Supporters say the bill will provide public access to local government expenditure data. The Office of Administration will provide a template so political subdivisions can easily send information.

HB 628 prohibits a dentist from writing a prescription for long-acting or extended-release opioids for the treatment of acute dental pain, unless, in the professional judgment of the dentist, the use of said opioid is necessary to treat the patient's acute pain. Supporters say the legislation is important in attempting to prevent opioid abuse and protect patients, as research shows that in preventing opioid dependency, it is important to limit the duration and dosage of an opioid prescription. However, the legislation still allows the dentist to exceed the parameters if they feel it is in the best interest of the patient.

HB 824 modifies the requirements relating to the production of industrial hemp. Supporters say the federal government has completely legalized the growth and sale of industrial hemp. The acreage limitations were part of the pilot program and are no longer needed. Expanding the program and allowing more farmers to take advantage of the new crop would allow for more economic opportunity throughout the state.

HB 626 allows any person, company, or corporation engaged in the business of renting or leasing motor vehicles, trailers, boats, or outboard motors, which are to be used exclusively for rental or lease purposes, and not for resale, to apply to the Director of the Department of Revenue for authority to operate as a leasing or rental company and pay an annual fee of $250 for such authority. Supporters say the bill will create efficiencies for licensing in massive rental car operations and will likely result in a positive overall fiscal note because most vehicles will be passenger cars, which produce a small fiscal gain, rather than trucks, which produce a small fiscal loss.

HB 715 removes the sunset provision for the Wartime Veteran's Survivor Grant Program. Supporters say the bill would remove sunset provisions to the Veteran's Survivors Grant Program but would still leave the program subject to appropriations. Supporters also say that this program does not cost that much money and the program should be extended.

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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