Bipartisan Committee Wraps Up Investigation into Department of Revenue Scandal
A bipartisan committee charged with investigating the document-scanning scandal that occurred within the Missouri Department of Revenue is wrapping up its work and hopes to have a final list of recommendations to the Speaker of the House by September’s Veto Session. During the last several months, the committee has met to receive testimony from witnesses from within the department and throughout the executive branch in an effort to get the full picture of why the department implemented a policy to scan, retain and share the personal information of more than 160,000 concealed carry permit holders in Missouri. While the process wasn’t always easy with some witnesses originally refusing to testify, the committee was able to complete a thorough investigation that will provide a clearer picture of what we need to do as a state to ensure this kind of invasion of our privacy doesn’t happen again.
One of the more interesting discoveries that came to light during the committee’s investigation is the extent to which the department was working to comply with the Federal Real ID Act. For those who aren’t aware, our state passed a law in 2009 to prohibit the implementation of this act that many believe would create onerous burdens that would infringe upon our civil liberties. While the department claimed it wasn’t implementing the Real ID Act, many of the policies implemented on a state level closely mirror provisions in the federal act. In fact, despite the law prohibiting it, the department has implemented 32 of the 34 provisions of the act. As the committee looks at final recommendations it will likely propose statutory changes that would prohibit specific practices tied to Real ID.
The committee also plans to look at changes that would empower the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to have more authority to oversee the rules changes proposed by state departments and agencies. The idea is to have that extra level of oversight that would prevent something similar to the document-scanning scandal from happening again in the future.
The committee plans to meet again in the coming days to work on its final report. I will be sure to keep you updated as we receive more details about the committee’s final recommendations. As always, our goal is to protect your rights and your privacy.
Joint Committee on Education to Hold Public Hearing on School Transfer Issue
Members of the Joint Committee on Education will meet in the state Capitol in October to discuss what has been the most talked about issue in education this year – the student transfer policy. This statute, which has been law for 20 years, allows students to transfer out of unaccredited school districts and into better-performing schools. It became an urgent issue in June of this year when the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the transfer law in a St. Louis-based case. That decision opened the floodgates for more than 2,500 students to leave the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens School districts.
This is an extremely complex issue that on one hand involves giving young people an opportunity for a better education, which is something we all want, but on the other hand creates numerous hardships for both the unaccredited and receiving school districts. Consider that the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts will lose some $35 million in funding this year because of the loss of students leaving for other districts. Also keep in mind that the receiving districts are placed in the position of trying to find classroom space and teachers to accommodate the influx of new students. The situation is one that is not ideal and now has legislators discussing what we can do to help.
The Joint Committee on Education’s hearing will be an important step toward taking effective legislative action in 2014.
The committee wants to hear recommendations for the upcoming session with the goal of addressing both the immediate needs of students and families in the sending and receiving school districts, as well as long-term solutions to the overarching problem of failing schools. While this situation is a major issue right now in St. Louis, it also has the potential to impact Kansas City depending on a court ruling that is still pending in a separate but similar case to the one ruled on earlier this year in St. Louis. This is undoubtedly a statewide issue and one we will seek to address when we return in January to being the legislative session.
House Speaker Asks for Citizen Input for Inductees into the Hall of Famous Missourians
The third floor rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol is home to more than 40 bronze busts of some of Missouri’s most famous and influential citizens. This Hall of Famous Missourians pays tribute to the men and women who have forever impacted our state, our nation, and even our world in a profoundly positive way. Some of the outstanding individuals already honored include Mark Twain, Harry Truman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Walter Cronkite and George Washington Carver.
While new inductees are selected on a semi-annual basis, the decision making power is traditionally solely that of the Speaker of the House. However, this year our current House Speaker has decided to open up the process to allow Missourians to provide their suggestions for new members who will be added to the Hall next year. Citizen suggestions will ultimately be used to form a top 10 list from which citizens will be able to vote with the top two vote getters receiving the honor of being inducted. The suggestions process has already started and in just the first few days we have seen many outstanding suggestions including Missourians such as Adolphus Busch, Tennessee Williams, Yogi Berra and Dick Van Dyke.
If you have suggestions for our next inductees, I encourage you to participate in the process. Visit our Missouri House of Representatives website at www.house.mo.gov to submit your suggestions for the next famous Missourians. The Speaker will accept suggestions until September 13 and will assemble his top 10 list. Citizens will then have the opportunity to vote until October 13. Shortly thereafter the Speaker will announce the two Missourians who will join the likes of Walt Disney, Susan Elizabeth Blow and J.C. Penney in the Hall of Famous Missourians.
I do appreciate your input on matters of importance to you, your family, and community. If, at any time, you have questions, concerns or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for Missouri citizens, please feel free to contact me at 573-751-1459 or e-mail me at email@example.com. Thank you for taking an active role by voicing your opinions on our state and national government issues.
Thank you for the honor to serve the 35th District, Gary L. Cross, District 35