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Starting Session with an Emphasis on Accountability

Starting Session with an Emphasis on Accountability

I hope you all had a safe and joyous New Year full of time with your family and friends.

The start of the new year provides us the opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of the previous year and make the changes necessary to strive for an even better year ahead. With the new year also came the start of the 2014 legislative session, which began January 8 at noon.

Over the interim, I chaired two committees tasked with delving into a variety of pressing issues and generating ideas for legislative solutions to improve the policies and operations of Missouri’s government. As session gets underway, I am preparing for the budget process and examining if any of these recommendations would be best implemented through changes to statute or departments’ appropriations.

The Appropriations – Health, Mental Health and Social Services Committee, which I chair, and the House Budget Committee will continue questioning executive agencies on many of the issues identified by the interim committees.

The Joint Interim Committee on St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area Governance and Taxation held hearings in the St. Louis area to hear from local officials and residents about their concerns with the region’s taxation system and government structures. Many citizens testified against what they believed to be the committee’s purpose, studying a merger between St. Louis City and County, but the committee clarified that this issue was not within its purview.

While discussions about a City-County merger surface every ten to fifteen years, this committee was created to commission an independent study on governance and taxation issues in the St. Louis region. Previous interim committees, which I was also asked to chair, identified a need for further research in these areas.

The committee fulfilled its mission as outlined in House Concurrent Resolution 25 by commissioning an independent study on St. Louis County’s sales tax pooling system, municipal service delivery, tax increment financing and the St. Louis Boundary Commission.

The study will be complete by mid-May, but the committee’s report, which has been submitted to the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate, contains a summary of the testimony presented at the hearings and recommendations from government officials and members of the public.

The Interim Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness and Efficiency was created to evaluate whether or not departments are effectively and efficiently meeting the needs of Missourians. After identifying problems with departments’ accountability and transparency, the committee developed recommendations to improve the responsiveness of our state government. These recommendations and summaries of the hearings have been submitted to the Speaker of the House in the committee’s report.

One of the committee’s primary concerns is that executive departments consistently fail to develop performance measures to validate the effectiveness of initiatives. When developing new programs, departments need to define the outcomes they will achieve and put measures in place to determine whether or not they meet these goals.

I travelled to Jefferson City on Monday to prepare for the first Appropriations – Health, Mental Health and Social Services hearing of the year, which was held on January 7. The departments under the committee’s purview were asked to present outcomes for their new programs from the past two years. As these departments request funding increases during the upcoming appropriations process, it is vital that we be able to determine which initiatives are providing reasonable returns on taxpayers’ investment. These discussions will continue at the committee’s next hearing on January 14.

The legislature will use the beginning of this new year and the 2014 session to take stock of the challenges our state faces and begin working toward solutions. By implementing the recommendations identified by the Interim Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness and Efficiency and demanding transparency from departments during the budget process, we can ensure that state agencies serve the people of Missouri more effectively and responsibly.

To view the General Assembly’s session schedule and a list of upcoming committee hearings, visit www.house.mo.gov. Our schedule has been adjusted to have technical sessions for the first and second readings of bills. You can find more information on this process here. Having technical rather than regular sessions saves taxpayers $16,000 a day. Every bit of savings helps the government serve Missourians more efficiently.

Friends and constituents wishing to visit our office in room 303 of the Capitol are welcome and encouraged to call 573-751-9765 to make an appointment.

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