As representatives of the taxpayers of Missouri, it is vital that our government live within its means, and not impose any greater burden than that which is necessary to maintain an efficient operation. Efficiency requires both transparency and accountability, so that those in power are held to account for their actions. Efficiency also requires trimming unneeded and outdated items—sometimes regulations, sometimes rules, and sometimes even agencies—so that the government is not bogged down by a morass of items that no longer serve a valid and useful purpose.
In order to deliver a more efficient government to you, the people, the Missouri House spent the majority of its time this week on debating and passing two bills, HB 1140 and HB 1135. Both of these bills help protect taxpayers and promote efficiency by providing transparency and cutting obsolete items from our rulebooks.
Currently, information about state spending is available online at the Missouri Accountability Portal, or MAP. Through the MAP, taxpayers can view salaries for every state employee, how each state agency spends their money, who receives tax credits, how the federal stimulus was spent—even which businesses have had their licenses revoked for failure to remit sales tax back to the state government.
However, this is applicable only to state agencies and departments. When a taxpayer wants to see how county or city dollars are being spent, they often have to struggle with their local governments to find their budgets, expenditures, and other items on how their local governments operate. HB 1140 provides another much-needed layer of transparency by including local governments and school districts to the list of entities required to submit reports for posting on the MAP. Through the language of HB 1140, your local entities will submit their debts and holdings to the Office of Administration, giving taxpayers a tool to keep track of their local governments from home and thus expanding the information available to them.
But efficiency doesn’t stop with transparency. It also requires the ability to move fast and quick to address the needs of the people. However, current law allows agency rules and regulations to stay on the books indefinitely—without review, without thought, and sometimes without concern from those who operate those agencies. HB 1135 brings accountability into the discussion by doing two things.
First, the bill requires that each agency review their rules whenever an individual requests adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule. Within 60 days of receiving the request, the agency must send a written response to the petitioner and to oversight agencies that contain not only the agency’s decision, but a summary of the reason for the decision. Additionally, the oversight committees may also refer such comments or recommendations to the General Assembly for further action. Requiring these reviews and forcing the agency to explain their decision ensures that agencies are forced to look at what is and what is not needed, and gives the public a method by which to determine if they are satisfied with not only the agency’s decision, but also their thought process for making that decision.
Second, HB 1135 puts all current administrative rules and regulations on a timetable for sunset based on when they were implemented, and creates a new provision which requires any new regulations from this point forward to sunset 10 years after the date they were adopted. This ensures agencies are looking at the necessity, purpose, scope and intent of statutes, and determining whether the rule is not only necessary, but also narrowly tailored enough to accomplish the purpose of the statute and nothing more. This reduces the regulatory burden on citizens and helps improve the speed at which government can operate efficiently and effectively, but in the most limited manner possible.
In a time of economic crisis where states are falling behind, seeing taxes raised and credit ratings lowered, I am proud to be a member of a body that has worked diligently to protect taxpayers without raising one tax, without having one credit rating lowered, and while keeping a balanced budget as required by our Constitution. Our citizens should be proud of this fact as well—that while other states might fall behind, Missouri leads the way in keeping true to how government should be run.
But that is not a static outcome. Fluctuations occur, and we here in Jefferson City must remain ever vigilant to ensure we keep our standing among the states, to ensure that citizens are given maximum opportunity to live and work their lives free of government entanglement, and to effectively do what Washington, DC cannot. Now, more than ever, we need to keep government as lean and efficient as possible so we can keep more money where it belongs, in the pockets of taxpayers. By improving transparency and government accountability, you can serve as a watchdog for government waste.
I welcome and look forward to hearing your opinions on the issues of the day. Please feel free to contact me by phone or by email to share your thoughts with me. And, as always, I remain in your service.
Working for you,