Prohibiting Cell Phones in Prison

Greetings Friends of the 144th Legislative District!

It was nice to have Heather Michalek and Brian Parker, both from Iron County visit me at the Capitol this week. Heather was there for Western Governor University Advocacy day and Brian was there with Prosecutors Association lobbying for particular bills that affect their profession. If you are ever in Jefferson City please stop by and visit me. I have had several bills in committee and on the floor this week. Brian was able to attend a committee hearing where one of my bills was being voted on that he has assisted me. House Bill 1293 passed out of committee and will be heard on the floor this week. 

House Approves Bill to 

Prohibit Cell Phones in Prison (HB 1296) 

The House has given first-round approval to legislation that would prohibit prisoners from having cell phones in a prison or jail. The bill is necessary to prevent illicit communications between inmates and other individuals. Cell phones in prison are a problem and are often used for drug deals. This is a bill I have worked on for the past couple of years and former Rep. Fitzwater worked on it before me. 

We currently have an issue with cell phones and sim cards getting into our prisons and prisoners being able to have unmonitored conversations that put our Department of Corrections employees and our communities at risk. 

Under current law, it is unlawful to possess, deliver, deposit, or conceal certain items in a prison or jail. Prohibited items include guns, knives, or other weapons. The bill approved by the House would add two-way telecommunications devices and their component parts to the list of prohibited items.

I am very hopeful, with it being early in session, that this bill will make it over the finish line this year. The bill now awaits another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

Missouri House Moves Forward with Plan to Implement Hyperloop System (HB 1963)

The members of the Missouri House have given initial approval to a plan that would help make Missouri the first state in the nation to develop a high-speed Hyperloop system. Lawmakers supported legislation to add the “tube transport system” to the list of projects that are eligible for a public-private partnership.

Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation that is meant to move freight and people quickly and safely. Passengers or cargo would be transported in a Hyperloop pod and accelerate via electric propulsion in a low-pressure tube. The pod would float above the track using magnetic levitation and glide at speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour. A Hyperloop system in Missouri would allow users to travel from St. Louis to Kansas City in approximately 30 minutes. 

Last year House Speaker Elijah Haahr formed the Special Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop to study the viability of developing the tube-based transportation system in Missouri. The panel produced a report that outlined specific steps to establish Missouri as the global epicenter for research and development of the core Hyperloop technology. The bill passed by the House is one of the steps necessary to allow Hyperloop to become a reality in Missouri. 

The bill would enable the state to partner with private organizations for the project. An amendment added on the House floor would ensure the power of eminent domain is not used to obtain land for the construction of the Hyperloop system. I believe this was a very important amendment and was glad to see it added. 

Supporters hope to build a 15-mile track to test the feasibility of Hyperloop transportation, which would take 3 to 5 years to build. If successful, Missouri could begin construction on a full commercial route between St. Louis and Kansas City in 7 to 10 years.

The bill now requires another vote in the House. If it is given final approval it will move to the Senate for consideration.

Improving Security at the State Capitol (HB 1521)

House members gave their initial stamp of approval to legislation that is meant to create better safety and security in the State Capitol building and the state office complex. The bill would establish the Capitol Police Board to provide for public safety at the seat of government and for the safety and security of elected officials, government employees, and their guests.  

The Capitol Police Board would consist of the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, or their designees, and the chair of the State Capitol Commission. This board would be housed in the House of Representatives for administration purposes. It would hire a chief of police and establish all necessary rules and regulations. 

Legislators Approve Bill to Increase Accountability for Public School Retirement System (HB 1934) 

Lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would ensure greater transparency and accountability for the Public School Retirement System (PSRS). 

The bill’s sponsor noted that of the 16 retirement systems created in statute only PSRS does not currently have to follow transparency requirements with regard to their salary benefits. It is critical for all systems like PSRS to be as transparent as possible so the general public has confidence in those controlling those systems.

The bill exempts information pertaining to the salaries and benefits of the executive director and employees of the Board of the Public School Retirement System of Missouri from being confidential. The bill will require the Public School Retirement System of Missouri to report the salary and benefits information of the director and employees of the system in the same way all other public employee retirement systems in the state already do. This bill passed out of Pensions and Rules Administrative Oversight committees with no opposition. 

House Sends Bill to Senate to Improve Local Government Retirement System (HB 1467)

The House has approved legislation to modify the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement system (LAGERS) member employer contribution elections for retirement benefit funding. Currently, an employer can elect to cover the full cost of funding the retirement benefit of its eligible employees or require all eligible employees to contribute 4 percent of their gross wages to help pay for the retirement benefit. The bill would expand the available contribution options by allowing employers to additionally elect a 2 percent or 6 percent contribution rate that all eligible employees would make to help pay for the retirement benefit. The bill will allow employers who are members of the LAGERS system to have additional choices for developing a retirement plan for employees of the employer.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112. 

Chris Dinkins is the area’s state representative for the 144th Legislative District. She can be reached by email – Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by telephone:   573-751-2112.  

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