* One of the most hotly debated bills, House Committee Substitute HB 110, this early in session applies to filling elected-office vacancies. The immediate case-in-point regards the vacancy of the office of Lt. Governor Peter Kinder should he fill the U.S. Congressional seat vacated by Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson.
Each political party has a State Legislative District Committee, a State Senate District Committee, a Judicial District Committee and a Congressional District Committee that have an established process to fill vacancies when those occur. However, among offices such as Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasurer and U.S. Senator there is no similar established procedure. Currently the Governor appoints who will fill these positions. The voters should have the ultimate authority to decide who represents them in the halls of government; this bill makes our law clear that the voice of the people should be heard when filling a vacancy for a statewide-elected office. This measure is an example of the common-sense government the people deserve.
This bill ensures that the power to select statewide office holders remains in the possession of the people. The current system--based on precedent, not law--excludes the people from the process. In the past, the governor has been allowed to select an individual to fill a vacancy in the office of lt. governor. HB 110 simply clarifies our law to say that the governor can fill a vacant office on a temporary basis only. That appointee would then serve as the formal placeholder until the time of the next general election, upon which the people would then elect the individual to fill that particular statewide seat.
Furthermore, this legislation stipulates that the governor must call for the special election to coincide with a scheduled general election. This is an important change that would give the people a say in the process without creating additional financial burden for Missouri taxpayers.
Now that this bill has passed the House, it is up to the Senate to give the legislative "thumbs up" so it can go before the governor for his approval. Upon the governor's signature, it would immediately become law because it contains an emergency clause.
This bill also changes election rules for third-class cities by allowing them to eliminate by order or ordinance, any primary election for the office of mayor and councilman that is currently held in February. A person wishing to become a candidate for one of these offices must file a signed statement of candidacy with the city clerk in order to be placed on the ballot in the next municipal election for the office.
It also moves the date of the presidential primary election to one month later in any given year.
*Some legislation is simply a no-brainer. This is the case with Chloe's Law reflected in House Bill 274. This bill establishes Chloe's Law which requires newborn screening to include critical congenital heart disease screening. Chloe Manz could have died had not her mother sensed and insisted to the nursing staff that something was "not right". This screening currently is available only by order of an attending physician. Were it to be required, this simple and lost cost screening has the potential to save dozens of newborn's lives.
*This busy week at the Capitol included my appointment to the Republican Floor-Whip team. This position has been part of the political process since before there was a United States of America. Whips play a vital party role in presenting a unified front.
Here is an interesting piece of history regarding "Whips" that comes from Articlesbase.com: The term 'Whip' derives from the 'whipper-in' at a fox hunt; a name given to the rider at the rear of the hounds who cracks the whip in order to keep any straying dogs in line. A parliamentary whip is responsible for ensuring that members of their party attend and vote as the party leadership wishes. They have a particularly important role when the voting strengths of the main parties are close.
*SCHOOL BOARD APPRECIATION WEEK: I want to take this opportunity to thank all school board members -of both public and private schools- for their dedication and commitment toward creating strong and effective schools. A well-functioning school board plays a vital role in the welfare of school staff, teachers and students.
*STATE-WIDE NEWS: Fifth-grade students invited to enter Earth Day slogan contest -The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is once again sponsoring a slogan contest for Missouri fifth-grade students. Students are asked to create their slogan ideas based on the theme "Energy Efficiency." The student submitting the winning entry will be honored at the Earth Day 2013 celebration, April 19 at the Capitol in Jefferson City. Deadline for the slogan contest is Feb. 29. The winners will be announced in March. The slogan contest winner will receive a $50 gift card donated by Central Bank in Jefferson City. In case of a duplicate slogan contest entry, the winner will be determined by the date the entry was received. The April 19 event will also include a number of stage shows and contests. Although geared toward upper elementary school age students, the event is free and open to the public.
For additional information, a slogan contest entry form, rules and details go to the Department of Natural Resources' website's webpage: "Earth Day 2013", or call 800-361-4827.