Workforce Standards & Development - Chairman
Property, Casualty, & Life Insurance
Select Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations
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It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it, Black Friday is now in the history books. There has been quite a bit of speculation about "in store" sales being down because more and more people are shopping on line. Because everything is political, I've been asked more than once to co-sponsor legislation to levy Missouri sales tax on Internet sales. No doubt this would soon be followed by local taxes. Many states have already done this and truthfully, it would generate some much-needed additional revenue for our schools and roads. It would also keep the playing field level for our local merchants who are being undersold due to the addition of taxes to the cost of merchandise. The problem with this is that the public has yet to embrace the idea that it is a needed addition. States that have levied the tax have done so with voter support and as yet, we haven't seen much of that. I wrote a piece a while back dealing with the art of selling. Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly being sold the proverbial "bill of goods". If we are told something often enough, we tend to believe it. Before the voters are presented with an opportunity to levy a tax on Internet sales, they have to be convinced that it is the right thing to do. It is the same with any tax increase in our state. We definitely need to solve the road and bridge funding problem but as yet, there is not enough positive advertising to make the voters realize that there is truly a justifiable reason to raise taxes.
The news all week was about the Paris and Mali attacks and the refuge situation. I continue to receive messages and phone calls asking us to block refugees from Missouri. There has been so much call for this statewide that Senate Leader Ron Richard and House Leader Todd Richardson have called for a special hearing to look into the problem. There are a lot of questions surrounding the process of admitting people into our country. We have all seen the heartbreaking pictures of women and little children standing in lines waiting to leave Syria. By the same token, there are numerous pictures of hundreds of young men climbing over barricades and running past guards. Without more information we are expected to form our opinions based on the news report de jour. I do agree that there is little or no information available on the individual refugees. Any database or paper work on these people has been lost long ago and besides, whom are we going to ask to supply us with that information? Most of them have no valid form of ID and any process of determining if they pose a danger to us is relegated to an interview. Some of the richest nations on earth are located within a few hundred miles of Syria and yet they refuse to even consider letting them relocate in their country. We absolutely cannot be assured that a process of interviews will weed out men and women who are bent on destroying us. If we really want to help them to escape the horrors that confront them in Syria, We should endeavor to find a place in their part of the world to relocate them and supply them with financial help and protection. The majority of states have refused to accept the refugees but there are questions of whether we could be forced by the Federal Government to take them anyway. This isn't going to go away any time soon and unless the President and Congress can come up with a working plan, there is going to be finger pointing and politicizing going on for months.
We had a great Vision For Pineville meeting Monday evening. The Drury architecture students have really knocked themselves out doing their study of Pineville and Anderson and preparing the renderings for us to look at. The best thing that comes from this exercise is that it gets us thinking about what could be. I've said repeatedly that all of Southwest Missouri is ready to explode with growth. Of course, there can be some bad side effects from rapid growth. Many communities have failed to plan for large influxes of business and residential expansion and have been sorry later. The type of long range planning that the kids from Drury have done helps prevent those things from happening. Their focus was on beautification and improvement of our towns while providing plenty of room for economic development in the adjoining areas. Several of the students focused on "Green Areas" and walking and bicycle trails connecting our communities. There were considerations for retirement communities and youth activity centers as well. They have one more meeting planned in early December where both teams will present their final plans to us early next month. We will be able to display the renderings around the area for all to see. I think this is a great idea for Drury to work with our towns and I hope we can get them to do a couple more next year.
There's been an awful lot of information coming from Jefferson City in the past couple of weeks concerning our schools. Some of the local schools are near the top of the list on test scores, which is great news, but there is a lot of dissension about what we are teaching. I hear a lot about teachers "teaching to the tests". Well, of course they are. We are expected to attain certain scores or we are penalized in one way or another. Everything is tied in to funding in one way or another and our schools are all needing additional money to operate. There have been interim committees working on new standards to replace the dreaded "Common Core" but from what I've seen so far, there's not a lot of difference in what is being proposed. Now, I don't sit on the Education Committee and I'm not nearly smart enough to tell educators what to teach or what method to use to teach it, but I can see that things are dramatically different than when I started school in 1953. For one thing, there's a lot more history for kids to learn than there was 62 years ago! There have been gigantic changes in our world since then and we can't expect teachers to approach the education of our young people the same way they did then. Having said that, I do feel like we are missing out on some really important things with our modern curriculums. When I started school, most moms were not working and helped to prepare us for school. With the demands on households today, we expect our schools to pick up the slack and for the most part they do an admirable job. Some of the courses that we older folks took are no longer available though because there just isn't enough time in a school day to cover all the things they have to address now plus new demands coming from Washington all the time! For those of us who just can't stand to see our children and grandchildren grow up without learning some of the same things we did, there is a solution. My grandchildren range in age from 21 to 10 and they all enjoy hearing Jane and I tell them about historical events. If the school doesn't have the time to teach in depth World History, we can certainly tell the kids about world events. We can also show them alternate ways of doing math and go into details about why we fought the Revolutionary War or the Civil War. If they are not learning cursive writing, show them how and come up with some reward for learning certain things. Grandparents have always in the past had a special place in the education of children. Every culture has depended on the elders to pass down wisdom and knowledge to the young. Maybe we need to spend less time watching the Kardashians or Duck Dynasty and fill that role again.