Greetings Friends of the 144th Legislative District!

As session is on the final countdown, the Capitol is very active with visitors. Arcadia Valley students with the JAG program (Jobs after Graduation) along with Bart and Rhonda Ackley visited the Capitol this week.

Next week, we will have visitors from the District up for a luncheon with the Lt. Governor. The Lieutenant Governor will be selecting individuals for the Senior Service Award. It will be exciting to see if any of our locals are honored with this award. We have so many individuals in our community who put in countless community service hours and would be so deserving of this award.

General Assembly Approves Important Legal Reforms (SB 7)

The members of the House gave their stamp of approval this week to legislation meant to improve Missouri’s legal climate and bring fairness to courtrooms in the state. The legislation, which was previously approved by the Senate, now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The legislation comes in response to Missouri’s existing laws on joinder and venue that have made the state a premier destination for out-of-state litigants to file their lawsuits. The reputation that courtrooms in St. Louis and Kansas City have for handing out big judgments have attracted thousands of litigants from across the nation. Only 1,035 out of 13,252 mass tort plaintiffs in cases being heard in St. Louis City were actually Missouri residents.

The changes approved by the legislature reflect a ruling made in February by the Missouri Supreme Court. The state’s highest court found that a St. Louis City Circuit Court Judge incorrectly allowed a suit by a St. Louis County plaintiff against a New Jersey-based company to move forward in his court. This legislation will reduce cost and increase access for Missouri residents to the court system by reducing the number of cases filed in Missouri courts by plaintiffs with no connection to the state.

Gov. Parson praised the legislature for sending the bill to his desk. The governor released a statement saying, “Passing venue and joinder reform is a huge win and will provide long overdue relief to Missouri businesses that have been taken advantage of by rampant abuse of our state’s legal system. Today’s passage of SB 7 will soon deliver a significant economic boost and create a better business environment all across Missouri.

I look forward to the Governor signing these positive reforms to improve our state’s competitiveness, strengthen our legal climate, and bring fairness to our courtroom.

Members of the Missouri House approved my House Bill 1135 meant to help victims of domestic violence get away from abusers and move on with their lives.

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Under my bill, victims of domestic violence, who are engaged with an agency accredited with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence, would receive a one-time fee waiver for obtaining a copy of a birth certificate.

Individuals who leave a home where abuse occurs often leave behind birth certificates, as well as other documents and identification. When they attempt to obtain new forms of identification such as a driver license or attempt to open a bank account, it is difficult to do so without a birth certificate. The fee to get a new copy is often a burden to a survivor faced with numerous other expenses while trying to start down a new path in life.

These vulnerable people need access to birth certificates in order to participate in legitimate activities leading to independence and self-sufficiency. Abusers often take control of a victim’s vital records since that keeps them unable to leave. This is a bill I filed after a visit with individuals from the SEMO Family Violence Council from Bonne Terre. During their visit they shared with me some of the obstacles they face as they try to help these victims. This piece of legislation is a small step we can take to help these individuals get on their feet and away from their abuser.

The bill also provides a free birth certificate to any homeless or unaccompanied youth, and allows an unaccompanied youth to obtain a birth certificate without consent or signature of a parent or guardian. The bill now is now under consideration in the Missouri Senate.

House Bill Moving to the Senate

HB 1162 requires the Department of Economic Development to maintain a record of all federal grants awarded to entities for the purposes of providing, maintaining, and expanding rural broadband in the state of Missouri. In cases in which funds have been retained, withheld or not distributed due to failure to meet performance standards or other criteria, the department must seek to have the funds awarded to another eligible, qualified Missouri broadband provider. The bill would keep grant funds in Missouri instead of returning the funds to the federal government to reallocate. This would ensure that funds remain in the state to bring broadband to the rural areas.

HB 1002 requires dump trucks to be equipped with mud flaps that have up to 12 inches of ground clearance, instead of the eight inches required for other vehicles. Mud flaps on dump trucks get caught on piles and rip off. Raising mud flaps will help dump trucks maneuver better. This bill will allow mud flaps to be adjusted and prevents wasting mud flaps. Often times these mud flaps rip and then eventually fall off on the highway and cause a safety concern. The purpose of the bill is to save drivers money, to facilitate consistency and help keep our roads safer. There are 13 states that do not require mud flaps and only three states have the eight inch requirement.

HB 585 establishes the "Taxpayer Protection Act." For all tax years beginning January 1, 2020, this bill requires paid tax return preparers to sign any income tax return or claim for refund and provide the preparer's Internal Revenue Service preparer tax identification number. The bill will help prevent fraud and also serve as a consumer protection measure to help prevent taxpayers from being taken advantage of by unqualified tax preparers or criminals.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112.

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