COLUMN: Examining a few bills about to be taken up by General Assembly

Thursday, January 7, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 10:00 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This week, around the country, state and federal legislators returned to their seats to initiate, argue, reject and pass laws that will affect all. Missouri is no different.

Missouri permits proposed legislation to be filed starting Dec. 1. I chose a few based on one criterion – these are subjects deemed important enough for students to give speeches.

SB 616 – “Enacts provisions relating to faith-based community health centers.” For the most part, the bill is a good idea, allowing qualified non-profit health providers who offer fee-for-service care for individuals and low-income families to operate without being considered insurance companies. The bill will exempt 501(c)(3) organizations and medical professionals working for non-profits from “civil damages for acts or omissions unless the damages were occasioned by gross negligence or by willful or wanton acts or omissions by such health care provider under this section in rendering such treatment.”

The problem? Proposed section 358.315 appears to exempt volunteer medical professionals only if services are provided at a “nonprofit faith-based community health center.” It's a clear violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

SB 658 – “Creates a state and local sales tax exemption for sales of farm products made at farmers' markets.” This is a good thing. Only one thing appears to be missing from the list. The bill includes livestock products, which I assume are beef, lamb and pork, but says nothing about poultry other than shell eggs. Specify poultry and this bill works.

HB 1473 – “Revises the grade point average requirements for renewal of Access Missouri Scholarships.” I am a proponent of the Missouri Access Scholarship program. I am not an advocate that standards for eligibility be lowered. This bill will lower the grade-point average from a 2.75 to a 2.0 for part-time students. If anything, the bar needs to be set higher. Raise the standard to a 3.0 out of 4 points, a B average, for full- and part-time students to be eligible.

House Joint Resolutions (HJR) 52 and 53 – Proposed Eminent Domain Constitutional Amendments. HJR 52 adds a substantial portion to Section 28, Article I of the state Constitution, as well as adding defining language for Sections 26 and 27. Overall, these amendments protect the landowner and prevent transfer of land by the government to a private venture, as happened in New London, Conn. These are good changes.

HJR 53 is not. The change of Section A, Section 21, Article VI of the Missouri Constitution appears to take the power of eminent domain away from cities and counties. It would allow cities and counties to enact ordinances to impose liens on the property if the owner does not resolve any “public nuisance” violation and the city or county pays to remedy the situation. Though these liens would be enforced as a tax lien, this appears to take away an important and timely remedy from the city’s or county’s arsenal.

As of this writing, there are eight House and Senate proposed bills that deal with ethics rule changes. Though there are two proposals to limit political “robocalls” that will receive a lot of attention, SB 648, “to enact … four new sections relating to campaign contribution limits,” will prove to be controversial.

The question being brought to the House and Senate floors will not be the actual dollar limitations proposed but the idea of limitations. Should individuals and corporations who have seemingly unlimited resources be allowed to contribute any amount they want? Or should all, regardless of wealth, be restricted to donating to a maximum amount and how much should that amount be? Is this a restriction of First Amendment rights, or does it create fairness in candidate and issue campaigns to be on an equal and uncompromised financial footing?

I am not sure which is the right answer, but I can assure you that this will be a strictly partisan issue.

Is there a topic I have not touched here in which you are interested? Look it up on the state’s Web site and tell me your opinion: supportive, opposed or just plain confused. I am curious.

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of his commentaries at He welcomes your comments at

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John Schultz January 10, 2010 | 3:39 p.m.

David, HJR53 also takes away the ability for a city (like Columbia attempted) to use blight, which is not well-defined at all in Missouri, to take property and offer it to another party. I would much prefer that government protect my property by cleaning up a true nuisance, billing the owner, and protecting my property value, instead of using blight as a backdoor to seize land for the well-connected. Boone County currently handles public nuisances in such a manner, the city may as well but I'm not as familiar with their mechanisms.

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