Jeanette Mott Oxford for State Representative 2010

Monday, January 22, 2007

JMO4Rep Update - Jan. 07

Friends, Allies, and Constituents,

Thank you for sending me back to Jefferson City as the Representative for the 59th Missouri House District! I am sorry for the delay in communicating with you since my election. The motherboard failed on my home computer, and it took about a month to shop for a replacement, get my files and addresses transferred, etc. I am glad to be back in contact with you now and will try to send at least a monthly update during the hectic days of Legislative Session 2007.

I was sworn in for my second term on January 3, 2007, along with 182 additional House members and 34 Senate members. The current party demographics for these chambers are 91 Republicans/72 Democrats in the House and 21 Republicans/13 Democrats in the Senate. Rod Jetton of Marble Hill was again elected as Speaker of the House, with Carl Bearden of St. Charles assuming the Speaker Pro Tem position. Michael Gibbons of Kirkwood was elected President Pro Tem of the Senate.

During January I am sponsoring and co-sponsoring several pieces of legislation to lift workers out of poverty, provide healthcare access for all, improve schools, protect civil rights, and create a state tax system that is fair, adequate, and sustainable. You can read the text of these bills by going to my webpage:

Childcare Eligibility a Priority for 2007 - One of my major priorities for 2007 is to see that we finally update the income eligibility guidelines for the subsidized childcare program. The State of Missouri last did a major updating of the income eligibility guidelines for subsidized childcare in 1991, more than 15 years ago! At that time, we furnished subsidies for workers below about 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL). By not addressing inflation in subsequent years, we now rank dead last in the nation in childcare subsidies. We cut off aid at only a little more than $8 per hour for a family of three, about $10 per hour below a family supporting wage according to a recent study.

Since the bill is more likely to pass with a lead sponsor from the majority party, I have asked Rep. Jeff Grisamore of Lee’s Summit to play that role. Sen. Chris Koster of Harrisonville has been recruited by my allies to take the lead in the Senate, and he has filed a bill identical to the one I had drafted two years ago. (The chair of the Children and Families Committee refused to hear my bill in 2005 and 2006 unfortunately.)

Speaker Jetton Exercises Power Grab - Over the strong objections of Democrats, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday enacted new chamber rules that concentrate unprecedented power in the hands of the House speaker. Under longstanding House tradition, each party is supposed to have representation on House committees that is proportional to its overall chamber membership. Democrats picked up five seats in the November elections to increase their share of House seats to 44 percent. However, Republican Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, slashed the number of committee slots to ensure that Democrats will have only 38 percent representation on those panels. Committees have great influence on crafting legislation.

In a press release issued late last week, House Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said, "By electing more Democratic representatives, Missouri voters sent a clear message that they disapprove of the policies enacted by the House under Republican rule. It is amazing that Republicans are using the rules to seize more power when the people of this state want them to have less."

Tradition also gives the minority leader the power to appoint minority members to committees. The new rules, however, convert a number of standing committees into so-called "special" committees and empower the speaker to appoint all special committee members, regardless of party. This is of grave concern to me, as the Speaker may choose to block me from committees on which I have been effective. For example, I was a strong pro-environmental voice on the Special Committee on Energy and Environment. Will the Speaker only allow members on that committee who give a green light to polluters to do whatever they want?

There will be a total of 49 committees, a record high, 26 of which are designated as special committees. When Republicans took control of the House in 2003, they proudly claimed they were making the chamber more efficient by reducing the number of committees, which they said had proliferated so previous speakers could award supporters. By increasing the number of committees – up from 35 – Republicans have abandoned their previous positions on efficiency and limiting the spoils available for the speaker to distribute.

Since the legislative assistants of committee chairmen are given a $2,400 pay bonus, the extra committees will cost taxpayers another $33,600. Special committees are also recognized as a fundraising strategy for the majority party, since many special interests that lobby the Legislature give generously to the campaign committees of committee chairs and vice chairs, and those legislators often then pass significant sums to their party's state campaign committee. I have long supported campaign finance reform to do away with corrupt practices such as this, no matter which party is practicing them. Money does not equal free speech in politics; it equals a megaphone! I will continue to fight for this change. Contact information from now until mid-May: To reach me Monday-Thursday in Jefferson City, call 573-751-4567 or the cell number below. I also welcome the opportunity to meet with you while I'm home on weekends.