Requesting Fair Gov’t from SoS Robin Carnahan

I believe it is vitally important that the people of Missouri have confidence that their elected officials make decisions based on the merits rather than their own financial interests or the financial interests of close family members.

Recently, an organization named ‘Renew Missouri’ submitted a ballot initiative to Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan which would create a new renewable energy mandate in our state. Their petition would require a transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars from Missouri’s electric ratepayers to renewable energy suppliers in our state. Secretary Carnahan’s brother Tom holds perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in renewable energy. (His company, the Wind Capital Group, received a reported $107 million in federal stimulus funds.)

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of renewable energy mandates, all Missourians should agree that the initiative petition process should be free from undue influence as a result of huge personal or family investments in an industry with such a large stake in the outcome of an initiative petition. As such, I’ve requested Secretary Carnahan to recuse herself and her office from its traditional role in initiative petition proceedings – and to allow the Attorney General to take over her office’s role.

It is my sincere hope that Secretary Carnahan will do the right thing. Regardless of her decision, however, the House Interim Committee on Gov’t Oversight will look into this issue in January.

My letter is linked here: Request for SOS Carnahan to Recuse from Renewable Energy Petition Process

How Wall St is Stopping Missouri from Long-Term Clean Affordable Energy

Why Noranda’s Wall Street Minders Oppose Long-Term Affordable Clean Energy for Missouri

On KWOS last week I was asked why Noranda Aluminum Company is so opposed to a new nuclear plant in mid-Missouri. My answer is linked above. In short, their opposition (and the opposition of their big business coalition members) is driven by short-term profit seeking to keep up with the demands of the quarter-to-quarter mindset on Wall Street that helped push our nation into our current economic malaise.

House Committee on Gov’t Accountability – Coverage from the MissouriNet

From the MissouriNet:

House creates committee to look into Mamtech (AUDIO)

October 30, 2011 By 

The House and Senate now both have committees on Governmental Accountability, both charged with looking into what happened to the Mamtech sucralose plant in Moberly.

Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) Photo courtesy of House Communications

In a time of budget cuts, the House Committee on Governmental Accountability says it wants to make sure no taxpayer dollar goes wasted. Committee Chair Jay Barnes says his committee is staffed by some of the most knowledgeable House members on the budget, like Budget Chair Ryan Silvey and Chris Kelly. Barnes says both of them are very thorough in their questioning, which could mean a lot of long meetings.

Barnes says his committee’s goal is not to craft legislation, but just to look at all the facts and hear from all the interested parties before making any decisions about what to do to stop something like this from happening again.

Barnes says his committee mirrors the Senate, but is acting independently. He says it’s important to have the committee in both chambers so that there are knowledgeable people in both the House and Senate on the issue, should a bill come up regarding it.

He says the committee will be calling its first meeting at the end of November, tentatively. He says he has requested a long list of documents and testimony for the first meetings, so he wanted to give all parties time to prepare.

Saving the Pro-Life Pregnancy Resource Center Tax Credit

Here’s today’s press release on saving the pro-life pregnancy resource center tax credit which, without the amendment, would have expired in 2015. Side-note: quick-thinking saved the day here. This was an amendment-to-another-amendment. The original saved the food pantry tax credit – which I support. As soon as debate started, I thought, “Whoa, why don’t we have an amendment to save the pregnancy resource center tax credit too.” Much thanks to the reps who killed time to give House Research enough time to draft the amendment to the amendment in the middle of debate.

Jefferson City, MO – Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) successfully amended the jobs bill under consideration by the Missouri House Thursday to save pro-life pregnancy resource center tax credits from expiration in 2015.

“Pregnancy resource centers offer assistance, comfort and support to mothers facing difficult pregnancies,” Barnes said. “These centers save and improve the lives of both Missouri mothers and children.”

The pregnancy resource center tax credits provide personal income tax credits to Missouri taxpayers who make donations supporting these life-affirming charitable organizations. Without Barnes’ amendment, the credits would have expired in 2015.

Stream-bank Erosion on the Maries River

These pictures are from today’s float trip on the Maries River. The gondolier in the front is Rep. Bill Reiboldt from Neosho. We had a great time. And thanks to the presentation by Rep. Tom Loehner, learned a lot about stream-bank erosion issues and the problems of land-owners on the Maries River.

Debating the Facebook Fix

Maybe I Should Have Turned Down the Third Cup of Coffee

Unconstitutional Balls of Wax

I heard from a lot of people this weekend about my quote in this AP article on the Facebook fix. Here’s the quote:

The only two House members to vote against the repeal Friday were Republican Jay Barnes of Jefferson City and Democrat Mike Colona of St. Louis. Both are attorneys. And both suggested that local school districts could end up adopting policies that still infringe on free speech, essentially multiplying the lawsuits that could be filed.

“We just traded one big unconstitutional ball of wax for 529 little balls of wax,” Barnes said.

Governor Nixon has not stated whether he’s going to sign the bill or not.

 

House Passes Huge Jobs Bill – Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act

The House truly agreed and finally passed the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act today by a bi-partisan vote of 94 to 48. I voted in favor of the bill because it has the potential to be a significant source of job growth for our state.

The bill’s goal is to encourage the growth of Missouri-grown technology businesses through investments that do not require any new taxes or budget money currently being directed to state general revenues. Instead, MoSIRA captures a portion of the increased taxes collected from science and innovation professions and businesses and directs it to a fund that will be used to help Missouri researchers commercialize their products.  Kansas has a similar law that has allowed to poach dozens of Missouri companies from the Missouri side of the Kansas City border.

Here are some examples of projects that have been funded in the past by the Missouri Technology Corporation, the existing entity that will be given better tools to help create jobs by this bill:

  • Missouri Plant Science Center in Mexico, Missouri – MTC worked with Mizzou and the city of Mexico to develop a 25,000 square foot manufacturing facility dedicated to health and nutrition products derived from soybeans – a huge crop for our state.
  • Animal Health Workforce Development Training Laboratory in St. Joseph, Missouri – MTC worked with Missouri Western to build the Kit Bond Science and Technology incubator providing students with hands-on training in bio-manufacturing.
  • Missouri Center for Advanced Power Systems Research in Joplin, Missouri – MTC worked with Missouri Southern to create a university-industry partnership on advanced battery development and manufacturing, resulting in what is believed to the first-in-the-nation minor in energy storage and battery technology.
  • SCD Probiotics, LLC in Kansas City, Missouri – MTC worked with the state Department of Economic Development, and local stakeholders in Kansas City to kick-start growth and expansion of SCD Probiotics line of “good bacteria” products for use in agriculture, health, and industry. MTC’s investment, which was leveraged with significant private investment, is expected to result in 62 new jobs for the state of Missouri.

Like anything worth doing, MoSIRA was not absent controversy. One group claimed that MoSIRA could be used to fund unethical stem cell research in our state. I disagree, and voted against that group’s amendment for six reasons:

  • The amendment was unconstitutional because (1) there is clear Missouri case law stating that the legislature cannot bind future legislators, and that’s what this amendment would have done; and (2) the amendment conflicts with Article III, Section 38 of the Missouri Constitution – adopted in 2006 through Amendment 2.  We take an oath to defend the constitution that I take seriously (see my vote on the Facebook bill). I opposed Amendment 2, but we have to recognize that it is now the law of our state. This amendment picks the wrong battleground. The appropriate place for this debate would be with a proposed amendment to our state constitution.
  • The appropriate place for this debate would be with a proposed amendment to our state constitution. The amendment merely referred to another state statute which says the same thing. I believe that other statute is likely unconstitutional because of Article III, Section 38 of the Missouri Constitution.
  • There was a non-severability clause in the amendment which meant that, if the amendment was found unconstitutional (as I believe it is), then the entire bill would have been declared unconstitutional – effectively killing this jobs bill at a time of nine-plus percent unemployment.
  • MoSIRA is not a “research” bill. It is a “commercialization” bill. Thus, there is no real threat of the fund being used for research purposes.
  • The Missouri Technology Corporation has never attempted to fund anything related to unethical stem cell research.
  • Every year the Missouri General Assembly passes budget bills which ban public moneys from being expended for this research. That’s the place where these pro-life amendments are necessary – and constitutional. I voted for it last year, and will vote for it again next year, and every year into the future.

Why I Voted No on the So-Called Facebook Fix

Last week, the Missouri Senate passed the so-called Facebook fix by unanimous vote. This morning, the Missouri House passed the bill by a vote of 139 to 2. I was one of the two. Here’s why:

The current law bans Internet communications, including Facebook, between teachers and students. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled it unconstitutional last month.  Everyone agreed the law had to be fixed. The right way to fix it would have been to just repeal the law. Instead, the so-called “fix” mandates that each of Missouri’s 529 different school districts adopt a policy of its own on “the use of electronic media” to “prevent improper communications between staff members and students.”

That’s a noble goal. But the devil’s in the details.

First, the vast majority most of the behavior this law attempts to stop is ALREADY illegal.  Elected officials have a tendency to react to bad things that happen in our society with an urge to just, “do something” to prove to the public that we care about the issue. The simple fact is that we can’t legislate immoral and criminal behavior out of our state by passing law after law to make it illegal. Making it criminal one time is enough.

Second, there’s a chance that this “fix” merely trades one unconstitutional state law for hundreds of unconstitutional local school board rules. My concern is for the teachers of this state who, rather than having to fight a single state statute now, may be left to their own devices to take on an unconstitutional rule at the local level. In addition, there’s the very real possibility that the “fix” will result in more litigation against school districts around the state on the same First Amendment issues that caused our state law to be struck as constitutional.

Does all this make me a stick in the mud? Probably. But I believe the First Amendment is the most important of all our constitutional rights, and it’s worth being a stick in the mud to defend the First Amendment rights of all Missourians.

Why I Oppose a No-Standards “Compete Missouri”

KRCG’s Kermit Miller interviewed me yesterday regarding “Compete Missouri,” part of the wide-ranging economic development proposal being considered in Special Session. My thoughts:

I hate cliches. Good writers never use them. But a cliche only becomes a cliche because its usually true. In this case, Lord Action once said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Compete Missouri seeks to consolidate six different economic development programs into one. The problem is that this program would be placed nearly entirely under the discretion of the Department of Economic Development – and hence, one person, the Governor. This would create what I believe to be a dangerous opportunity for corruption or, at the very least, the frequent appearance of corruption in Missouri government.

Major employers in our state frequently give campaign donations to every serious candidate for governor. Inevitably, a company that made a donation to the current or future governor would receive one of these subsides. Then the stories would start. We’ve recently seen this exact scenario play out with the SynCare contract.

Economic development programs should have clear, written rules that aren’t subject to the ability of one company or another to grease the skids with campaign donations or hire the slickest lawyers and lobbyists.

Gov. Nixon has honorable intentions in pushing for Compete Missouri. But the end result would be an invitation to corruption for future governors – Republican or Democrat. Regardless of whether anything corrupt ever occurred, allegations of corruption would loom over many decisions to award subsidies.