Session got under way this week with the announcement of committee assignments. Speaker Vescovo assigned me to serve on Professional Registration and Licensing, Corrections and Public Institutions, and Agriculture. In addition to serving on these committees, the speaker also named me as Vice Chair of Professional Registration and Licensing committee and Vice Chair of Corrections and Public Institutions. Entering into only my sophomore year, I am extremely honored that Speaker Vescovo has the faith and confidence in me to help lead both of these committees. As vice chair of these committees, I will work with the chair to preside over committee hearings and work with committee members to determine the fate of all legislation assigned to the committee.
General Assembly Convenes for 2021 Inauguration
As the week began, members of the House and Senate convened for a joint session on the steps of the Missouri State Capitol building to attend the inauguration of Missouri’s governor and other statewide officials. Lawmakers were present as Governor Mike Parson was sworn in to a full term as the 57th governor of the state.
Following the swearing in ceremony, Parson delivered a brief address thanking Missourians for putting their trust in him. Also sworn into office during the ceremony were Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, Secretary of State John R. Ashcroft, and Attorney General Eric Schmitt. The ceremony included musical selections performed by the 135th Missouri Army National Guard Band and Missouri State University Chorale. Additionally, the Missouri National Guard performed a 19-gun salute, and a B-2 Stealth Bomber performed a fly-over.
The ceremony concluded with a special salute to Missouri signifying its entry as the 24th state in the United States 200 years ago. The ceremony also included a number of COVID-19 precautions to ensure the safety of all those in attendance. The traditional inaugural ball that coincides with the event was postponed until a time when guests can attend safely.
The House Committee on Children and Families met Tuesday afternoon to discuss and approve two pieces of legislation that would reduce the financial burden for foster parents and families interested in adopting. The two bills are priorities for House Speaker Rob Vescovo, who called for the policy changes in his Opening Day address.
Speaker Vescovo was blessed to have loving parents who adopted him out of the foster care system and gave him a stable, nurturing home. I want to see every child in Missouri have similar opportunities. These pieces of legislation represent common sense reforms that will allow more families to provide love and support to young people in need.
HB 429 would authorize an income tax deduction for the expenses related to providing care as a foster parent. The bill would authorize a deduction of $2,500 for an individual and $5,000 for a married couple if foster care is provided for at least six months. HB 430 would expand the state’s existing $10,000 tax credit to any adoption. Currently the credit applies only to those who adopt special needs children. The bills would continue to give priority to special needs adoptions.
The sponsor of the bill, who has been a foster parent and who adopted one of the children she fostered, said the state can make a wise investment in young people with the tax breaks for families. I believe it is a great investment by the state to support parents who are willing to provide young people in need with a stable, safe environment where they can grow into productive adults in society.
As a caucus and as a party we believe in fighting to protect the lives of the unborn and to promote the health and well-being of all children in our state. We want every child who is born in Missouri to have the support they need to lead happy, healthy, productive lives that will allow them to make good on their vast potential.
Vescovo has said the two bills will be the first out of the House this session as he hopes to put them on the fast track to legislative passage. They are scheduled to be debated and approved on the House floor next week. As I mentioned previously, I have filed HB 493 which would require foster care cases to be moved to the top of the docket above criminal cases. I hope this bill will be referred to committee next week.
Missouri House Approves Historic Censure Motion (HC 1)
For the first time in its history the Missouri House of Representatives has voted to censure one of its members. With a bipartisan vote of 140-3, the members of the House voted to censure state Rep. Wiley Price for ethical misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a state legislator.
Price had been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for an alleged inappropriate relationship with a House intern and for intimidating his assistant for performing her duties as a mandated reporter. During the course of the investigation the committee also found that Price had worked to obstruct the committee’s investigation by attempting to coerce a witness and by committing perjury.
The Ethics Committee conclude that Price’s actions compromised the ability of the House to provide a respectful, professional work environment. The committee found his actions to constitute ethical misconduct unbecoming of a state legislator of sufficient severity to warrant censure. Censure is, in effect, a formal statement of disapproval from the body.
With the censure, Price will also have no supervisory authority over any intern during his time as a member, and any employee assigned to him will be under the direct supervision of the chief clerk. Price will receive no committee assignments and will not be allowed to hold any leadership position. He will also pay a fine of $22,492.25 to reimburse the House for costs related to the investigation of the complaint.
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. Please do not contact me via social media. These messages are easy to overlook and may not be responded to in a timely manner.