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Legislative Column for the Month of January 2013

Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2013, at 4:59 PM

It was a great honor to be elected to serve the citizens who reside in the eight counties and more than 150 precincts that make up the 25th Senatorial District. Earlier this month, I took my oath of office in a very humbling ceremony. I look forward to what lies ahead for me in the General Assembly to do meaningful work on behalf of the people who sent me here to Jefferson City and represent their voice in state government. This first month was a busy one for me and my colleagues in the Missouri Senate.

Senators joined their House colleagues for a joint session to hear the governor's State of the State address. The overall consensus among lawmakers and the head of our executive branch is that there is much work to be done to craft a fiscally responsible budget that will best serve all of our state's citizens. However, that's where commonality ends. The governor is optimistic about our general revenue projections, with a $25.9 billion price tag for FY 2014; however, we must live within our means and allocate every dollar of state departments and programs accordingly. After all, the Legislature passed a $24 billion spending plan last year for FY 2013 -- nearly $2 billion less than the current proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

We also heard Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Teitelman deliver the 40th annual State of the Judiciary address. In his speech, we learned of the work our state's judicial system is performing and how drug treatment courts are thriving throughout our state. With a graduation rate exceeding 50 percent, the Show-Me State has more than 12,000 graduates who have successfully completed drug court programs. To read Chief Justice Teitelman's full address visit www.courts.mo.gov.

The Senate this week gave its initial approval to its first bill of the year, Senate Bill 20. This measure, the culmination of SB 20, 15 and 19, would make changes to certain benevolent tax credits -- tax credits that serve charitable entities rather than for-profit organizations.

Much of the last two weeks' time was also spent in legislative committees, where I had the opportunity to hear testimony on several measures. All five of the Senate panels on which I serve held hearings last week.

The General Laws Committee held an organizational meeting. One of the measures that have been assigned to the committee is Senate Bill 75. The legislation would require school districts and charter schools to provide training and education about firearms safety and address potentially dangerous situations involving armed intruders.

The Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 16, legislation that would exempt farm work performed by children under 16 years of age from certain child labor requirements. This includes obtaining a work certificate; working for a certain number of hours and days; and prohibiting certain hazardous jobs, such as operating and maintaining power-driven machinery, climbing ladders, operating vehicles, and working with specific chemicals. This exemption would only apply to young Missourians working on their own family farms, as well as working on other family farms as long as they have the knowledge and consent of their parents. I was named vice chair of this committee and look forward to serving in the capacity considering the importance of Agriculture to the district.

The Senate Education Committee also met to hear testimony on Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 7. The first measure would create the Early High School Graduation Scholarship Program for public high school students who graduate from high school early. The other measure, SB 7, would help address our state's unaccredited school districts by removing the two-year waiting period that exists between the classification of a school district as unaccredited and the lapse of the district's corporate organization. The legislation would also require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to conduct at least two public hearings regarding the accreditation status of a school district. These hearings would consider community resources that could be used to help the school district regain its accreditation.

I am very excited about the committees that I am on. Listening to testimony regarding bills before committee is an important step in the legislative process. Through committee work, senators have the opportunity to ask questions of bill supporters and opponents before the legislation receives a vote to move on and be debated by the full Senate body.

To learn more about my background, view a list of constituent services or to keep up with the work in the Missouri Senate, visit my website at www.senate.mo.gov/libla. It's important to me to hear from you.

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Senator Doug Libla - District 25
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Serving the citizens of Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon and Stoddard Counties.
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