Jane and I were in Lexington, Kentucky last week for the Southern Legislative Conference. The Conference was founded in 1947 and is comprised of 15 Southern States. There are six standing committees, which provide a forum, which allows policymakers to share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues from across the South. The Speaker assigned me to the Committee on Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs. I also sat in on the hearings for the Energy and Environment Committee. There were over 1500 total attendees for the 5-day Conference and I have to tell you, Lexington is a beautiful place to visit. (In particular if you are fond of Race Horses) Those horses get taken care of a lot better than I do!
My Committee was focused mainly on the problem of aging road and bridge systems. Missouri is only one of many states that are finding their interstate systems in sore need of repair or replacement. The U.S has a 27,000-mile core network of interstate highways. Most of these roads were built in the 50’s as part of the Eisenhower Interstate System. In addition, we have over 4 million additional road miles in this country. Last year the Federal gas tax of 18.4 cents and the diesel tax of 24 cents raised $34 billion dollars. The Federal expenditures for the states was over $50 billion. The Feds are working on some different approaches to funding from their level just as we are. Many different approaches are being tried including outsourcing services such as mowing, and cost sharing projects between the Feds, the States and the Counties. We also explored the ways to increase tax revenues in our states by attracting new businesses, and sustaining and retaining our existing businesses. To attract new business, it is imperative that we have a trained workforce. This qualification is in the top 3 requirements of all site selection criteria. In 1973 only 28% of jobs required post secondary level education. Today 80% of jobs require college or vocational training for an entry-level job. Our Community Colleges and 4 year Institutions in this area have never been more important.
The Energy and Environment Committee was focused on three issues, The EPA rules on Carbon Dioxide emissions, the Waters of the U.S. proposal, and Cyber Security for our Nuclear Facilities. I’ll start with the easy one first. None of our nuclear plants are controlled by digital equipment. The only thing a cyber attack can do to them is take them off line. All of the controls for the plant itself are mechanical systems with multiple backups. The nuclear engineer presenting the program did a great job of explaining how the decisions were made long ago not to trust the safety issues to computers. Good call! I don’t trust the darn things either. The Carbon Dioxide emissions problem is much more complex. We currently have the cleanest coal burning plants in the world but the EPA continues to issue additional regulations that quite frankly, cannot be complied with. The regulators are getting far ahead of the technology and compliance is impossible. This issue will likely remain unresolved until we have a full complement of Supreme Court Justices to decide the case. The Waters of the U.S. proposal is another convoluted issue. This problem is an offshoot of the Clean Water Act of 1972. The 1972 rules are an offshoot of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 which defined a “Navigable Water” as one that is capable of” floating a log”. Now only bureaucracies of the modern era could redefine the law to include any stream of water anywhere in the country as falling under Federal Control. If the rain falling in your backyard flows into a ditch that drains into a creek that ends up in a larger creek that flows into a river, then the Federal Government has the right to stop you from landscaping your yard. We’ve come a long way from floating a log! Needless to say, Legislators on both the State and Federal level are fighting this lunacy. No one wants dirty air or polluted water, but some degree of common sense has to be applied. I saw a proposal yesterday from a World Health group that we impose large taxes on red meat because we are raising too many animals for food and they are increasing carbon dioxide levels (by breathing air and exhaling carbon dioxide) so we should grow more plants and fewer animals! You just can’t make this stuff up!
There is a lot of good work being done by Legislators throughout the country, but remember, we all have to choose our leaders wisely and hold them to the standards we expect of them. I am proud to represent this district and I welcome your comments and suggestions.
Remember how great it was last year when we provided the mechanism for the first tax cut for Missourian’s in nearly 100 years? The deal was, if revenue grew by $ 150 million the tax cut would become effective. We have been on track to trigger the cuts for the entire year. Last month our growth had reached $135 million plus! Our fiscal year ends on June 30 but something very strange has been occurring the last couple of months. This month there has been a huge drop in revenue growth and when the budget folks started looking at the cause they found that once again our Governor has found a way to juggle the figures! Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing illegal in what’s going on. This is way too well thought out to be illegal. The tax refunds for individuals and also corporate returns are up over 88% for the month of June compared to previous years. That figure represents $100 million dollars! Sure things will even out with a huge jump in revenue in July and by August we will again be showing substantial growth, but it will be too late to give Missourian’s the tax cut they well deserve. If the game he’s played with the tax break isn’t bad enough, now he is gleefully announcing that he plans “massive” withholds because revenues are below expectations. Historically, he withholds funding from schools, children’s programs, veterans and elderly benefits and then later in the year when revenues are shown as growing substantially, he calls a press conference and restores some (that’s some) of the funds and takes credit for saving the day! You see why I call this guy a schmuck! I can promise that veto session will be memorable this year!
The Governor did sign a few bills last week. SB 814 creates an income tax deduction for Missouri residents who are active duty members of the Armed Forces and stationed in Missouri. HB 1435 expands the ability for non-profits to receive refunds if they were incorrectly charged sales or use tax, HB 1582 allows businesses to file W-2 forms electronically, HB 1717 requires notice if a public water system adds or removes fluoridation, and SB 823 clarifies a state and local sales tax exemption for internet access. He also vetoed several bills including SB 591, which would have changed Missouri’s antiquated criteria for expert witnesses, SB 847, which would have caused stricter guidelines for insurance claims, SB 844, which provided protection against liability for farmers and ranchers when livestock got out through no fault of the owners, SB 641, which would end taxation of Federal payments for flood damages, HB 2030 which would eliminate capital gains on sales of employee stock plans (ESOPs), HB 1432, which would have caused the government to have policies limiting the process of “Administrative Leave” when employees are accused of wrongdoing, and HB 1713 which would cause the Clean Water Commission to place farmers, business owners and stakeholders on the Commission instead of government picked bureaucrats. Each of these vetoed bills would have decreased government powers and increased individuals’ powers. They would have relieved unfair tax burdens and enabled those who work for a living to keep more of what they earn. They would have caused the government to be more accountable. Some of them will be overridden during veto session, but we never seem to get them all done and we have to start all over next session.
We were at a ribbon cutting at the Freeman Clinic in Anderson on Monday. Freeman President, Paula Baker was on hand to show us the new Rehabilitation Wing. We met some great medical providers including my brand new Primary Physician, Dr. Zheng. My doctor had retired and I needed to find a new one and she fits the bill! Jane is delighted because she is already bossing me around telling me to wear sunscreen and stuff like that.
No report next week because I will be in Lexington, Kentucky for a Legislative Conference. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.
I spent a couple of days in Jefferson City last week. I invited the Stare Director for CASA to speak to our committee and answer questions about what CASA is and what they do. The answer to what they are is fairly easy. They are a group of volunteers comprised of caring and competent community individuals who are supervised and supported by CASA professional staff, and appointed by a judge, to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. What they do is a little more complicated. We provide a Guardian Ad Litem to provide legal representation for a child but CASA volunteers advocate for the best interests of the child. Where GAL’s typically represent many children, a CASA volunteer is generally assigned to just one or two children and accordingly can spend significantly more time getting to know the child and their family. Children who receive CASA help are more likely to be adopted than to linger in foster care, more likely to do better in school, half as likely to re-enter the foster system, and more likely to have a permanency plan. The thing that amazes me is that although it is proven effective, we are serving less than half the Judicial Circuits in Missouri. Last year we served 3,200 children in foster care. That left over 10,000 children without access to this valuable resource. Although we are fortunate enough in Newton and McDonald counties to have a great CASA group, all the counties surrounding us do not. This is an opportunity to help change a child’s life, think about becoming a volunteer.
The Governor was traveling the state last week signing bills. At the state fairgrounds he signed SB 665, which re-authorized the Qualified Beef Tax Credit. The main reason for this was to encourage meat processors to build a plant in Missouri. He also signed SB 657, which promotes the installation of more blended fuel pumps at gas stations. I have mixed feelings about this bill. While it is good for corn farmers, I’m not sure we need to continue to promote ethanol. The bill also had a provision to limit the liability of station owners if customers choose the wrong fuel mixture and damage their vehicle. SB 664 waives the requirement of farm families filing annual Corporate Registrations, SB 665 requires fertilizer dealers to test their mixtures to guarantee proper concentrations of chemicals. He also traveled to Springfield to sign HB 1562 which expands the crime of sex trafficking to include advertisement of minors and non- consenting adults and HB 1568 which expands access to Naloxone, a drug designed to block the effects of opioid use and overdose. While he was at it, he vetoed a few bills also including one I added to an omnibus bill. I imagine we’ll attempt to override him in September.
I had a great time on Friday at Golden Living Center in Anderson. Mrs. Zota Baker was celebrating her birthday and I was able to present her with a Resolution recognizing her as Golden Living’s Beauty Pageant Queen for this year. I also had a Resolution for Virginia Frisbie recognizing her as the Employee of the Year. We certainly have good reason to be proud to have that facility in our area.
It’s crunch time for the governor to sign bills. Last week he signed several pieces of legislation designed to make life better for Missourian’s. SB 635 requires the Department of Education to develop guidelines for the screening of students for Dyslexia. The same bill requires thirty minutes of training in hands only CPR and Heimlich Maneuvers prior to graduation. HB 1583 modifies the definition of bullying and requires school districts to include additional components in their anti-bullying policies. HB 1877 strengthens protections against child abuse and neglect. It helps to ensure that individuals convicted of child abuse are reported properly to the Central Registry and that victims are seen by appropriate medical professionals. It also adds child pornography to the list of crimes that require placement on the registry and requires child abuse investigations of children 3 and under to include an evaluation by a Forensic Examination-Child Abuse Resource and Education provider. It also creates the Missouri Task Force on the Prevention of infant Abuse and Neglect, requires Children’s Division Investigators to receive four hours of training on medical forensics yearly, allows foster parents to make reasonable decisions regarding their foster children’s extracurricular activities, and gives more clarity to the courts when determining when a child over 18 is allowed to return to foster care. I carried HB 2355, which creates within the Office of the State Court Administration the Missouri Juvenile Justice Advisory Board to provide recommendations for best practices within the juvenile court system and juvenile officer standards. If you think maybe we are spending too much time working on child abuse issues, 102,100 Missouri children suffered from abuse or neglect in 2014 according to statistics from Children’s Division. These numbers are not growing smaller, they are increasing! We’ve got a lot of work to do.
SB 997 dealing with higher education issues was also signed last week. Among other things, this allows any two-year college to offer course options to high school students. A process is developed which will certify a Higher Education institution as a dual credit provider. The act even provides a Scholarship opportunity for qualifying students to be reimbursed for up to 50% of the tuition costs. The bill establishes a concurrent enrollment program where students may be enrolled in a two and four year institution at the same time to streamline the path to degree completion. It also establishes a financial aid benefit to wartime veteran survivors. We are serious about providing better opportunities for our High School and college students.
On Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting with the New-Mac CASA group. Tamera Boyt, the Program Director assembled Board Members and volunteers for a question and answer session. I explained the purpose of our Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and asked them for input on how we should direct our efforts next session. We all agreed that there is a need for more volunteers and also a pressing need for more Foster homes in our southwest Area. One great suggestion that I promised to follow up on was to work on a way to speed up referrals to the CASA office when a child is removed from the home. Enabling electronic filing of reports was another project they recommended. I don’t think I have ever met with a group that wanted to help kids more than the New-Mac CASA. I invited anyone who wished to attend our Committee hearings to come and participate.
My hat’s off to MoDot! Highway 59 is open! The contractor has done a great job of getting it open well ahead of schedule. It sure didn’t come any too soon. The traffic on H was fierce at times and I know the campgrounds will be sighing in relief to be able to move their campers and canoes quicker and safer.
Please keep an eye out for your older neighbors during this extreme hot weather. Every time there is a heat wave like this there is a tragedy involving seniors. It only takes a minute to make a call or drop by and check on them and it could be a life saving gesture.
I’m off to Jefferson City this week for a Committee Hearing. I’m also anxious to see how the Capitol Building repairs are coming along. I’ll let you know next time. Until then, I am and remain in your service.
With campaigning in full swing, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in Jefferson City last week. The Governor signed a few bills into law, one of which allows people who possess credit card information to be charged with theft before they actually use the card numbers. Through a loophole in the law, account numbers could be stolen and as long as they weren’t actually used, the thief wasn’t charged. This gives law enforcement another tool to stop credit card theft. Another issue that’s been getting a lot of publicity recently is the change in federal regulations allowing law enforcement to confiscate property on suspicion instead of waiting for a conviction. This smells bad to me, as several states have already taken steps to stop enforcement of the regulation. I’m sure we will hear more when Session starts in January.
This transgender issues continues to get media coverage. Why on earth our President feels like something that only affects one tenth of one percent of the population deserves to disrupt the country to this extent, I will never know. If school districts aren’t burdened enough already, now the Administration threatens the loss of Federal funds unless they allow free access to whichever bathroom or shower a student “feels like fits them”. As more information begins to swirl around, some troubling facts start to surface. There have been numerous suicides of school age children because they have been suddenly shoved into the spotlight. Psychologists are warning that irreparable harm can be done to young children when parents try to guide them to “change their sex”. One of the Psychiatry Associations has even suggested that trying to change a child’s sex is nothing less than child abuse. Just last week the LGBTQ Nation, the largest gay advocacy group, called for the cessation of transgender bathroom discussions. Even they know that it’s ridiculous to make a big deal out of using the john. Simply use the facilities that match your God given equipment!
There are battling issues this November on the ballot to raise cigarette taxes. Neither of these issues are Legislature initiated. I will attempt to explain these initiatives and give some insight. The first issue would raise the tax by 23 cents a package and the money collected would be used to fund transportation infrastructure projects. It is projected to generate around 8 million additional dollars for transportation if sales numbers remain steady. It is highly supported by the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association because it is the lesser of the two evils and would keep Missouri taxes considerably cheaper than adjoining states. The other proposal is named Raise Your Hand for Kids and increases taxes by 60 cents per package to be used for Early Childhood Education. It would also close a loophole that smaller cigarette companies use to evade paying into Medicaid. Naturally, the big companies like R.J.Reynolds are in favor of this proposal as currently the small companies can under price them. Missouri Right to Life opposes the initiative because it alleges that some of the wording in the bill could be interpreted to fund emergency abortions. The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, etc. are all opposed to both initiatives because the increases are too small. Let’s face it, the true reason behind both initiatives is prevention of profit losses. The same people wrote both bills and their aim is to get something passed before the Legislature passes something worse. You just can’t make this stuff up. I’m voting no on both of them!
Meanwhile, Missouri University, who has had more than their fair share of time in the spotlight, made news again. Audits have turned up over $750,000 dollars missing from the Agriculture Department. A lack of fiscal oversight and accountability by the Southwest Center and the College Business Services office was cited. The money went missing over several years. An employee set up several fake accounts and businesses into which she diverted University funds. Some of the money was from Federal grants and were intended for Dairy research.
I am looking forward to a meeting with our local CASA representatives this week in preparation for our Joint Committee Hearing on the 21st. I’ll tell you all about it next time.
We began the week’s activities in Stella at the Veteran’s Park for a Memorial Day commemoration. Rebecca Hall gave a great speech and R.J. Bailey of the Patriot guard spoke on their organization. The Neosho ROTC gave their great missing soldier performance, and as always, Bill Beckett did a wonderful job of setting it up and running it without a hitch. Their park looks better every year. It’s really an inspiration to see a little town like Stella put so much time and pride in their Veteran’s Park.
Tuesday afternoon Jane and I drove to Jefferson City for a Wednesday morning board meeting of the Children’s Trust Fund. The CTF is Missouri’s Foundation for Child Abuse Prevention. It is funded by donations from Marriage licenses and Specialty License Plates, (the ones with the child’s green handprints), and a grant from the Feds for Community Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs. McDonald County Project Care, administered by the Alliance of Southwest Missouri is the recipient of one of their grants as is Children’s Haven in Joplin. Stephanie Thies, the Executive Director of Children’s Haven gave a presentation on their work during lunch. The Trust Fund does some really great work on a very limited budget and I would encourage everyone to consider ordering one of the specialty plates to help out.
Bob Ziehmer, the Director of the Missouri Conservation Department held a lunch meeting in Joplin on Wednesday. Bill Reiboldt, Charlie Davis and I were there along with Dan Fuller, Russ Hively with Friends of the Fish Hatchery, David Hendrix, the Project Manager of the Hatchery, Larry Cole, and Andy Ostemeyer from the Globe. We had a great discussion on the Hatchery and the Department of Conservation working together to provide special fishing days for kids, elderly, and Vets. We got updated from both the Hatchery Manager, Dave Hendrix and Bob Ziehmer about what their future plans are. Bob has a concern about our poaching laws not having harsh enough penalties to prevent abuses. He mentioned several instances of both fish and wildlife poaching that resulted in very small fines. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Legislative attempt to fix the problem next session.
Thursday evening I was honored to take part in an Eagle Scout presentation for Devin Dawson and again on Saturday for Scott Herberger. Both of these fine young men belong to troop 95 at Anderson. I had Resolutions for them from the Missouri House commemorating their work in earning the honor.
The results are in from McDonald County High School’s first year of participation in the SAFE Program. Seat belt usage increased by 7% the first year! According to the Kansas State SAFE Coordinator Laura Moore, who is helping us evaluate our results, that is a great number for the first year of participation. In case you missed the column explaining the program, SAFE stands for Seatbelts Are For Everyone. A group of students hand out pledge cards to everyone in the High School. They are to agree to wear their belts at all times. At an assembly at the end of the month, 12 cards are drawn from the box and the winners receive a $25 dollar gift card. Surveys are done at the beginning of the year and again at the end. Over the past 10 years Kansas has reduced roll over deaths in high school age drivers and passengers by nearly 70%. Our goal now is to get the program in other area schools. I’ll be writing more about this, you can bet on that!
Tuesday morning at Crowder’s Wright Conference Center the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce held their annual Eggs and Issues breakfast meeting for Legislators. The purpose of the meeting is to get an end of Session update from the Legislators. All five of us that represent Jasper, Newton, and McDonald Counties were there and gave a brief synopsis of our activities last Session. This is the one meeting that allows people from business, education, and industry to hear what has been going on in Jefferson City and get their questions answered about our successes and failures in passing legislation.
Wednesday afternoon Jane and I went to Branson for the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association’s Spring Educational Conference. I was surprised with an award for my participation in helping create the new Statewide Standards for the Administration of Juvenile Justice. It came as a complete surprise to me but I was really honored to be able to work with some amazing people from the JO Association the last couple of years creating the new standards. While I am on the subject of kids, we are starting our new hearings on the foster and adoption procedure in Missouri. We’re kicking it off here at home on the 16th of June with an informational get together with our local CASA representatives. On the 21st we will be in Jefferson City where the Executive Director of CASA will provide a presentation and question and answer session for the Committee. The Children’s Division in Missouri is an extremely complex operation and every person involved has an awesome responsibility to the children of our state. Our intent with the Joint Committee is to determine what is working well and what is problematic, and then find solutions to make the system work better for the children and the Division Workers. Sounds easy if you say it fast!
Thursday evening the Republican club had a soup dinner to raise additional funds for their scholarship program. Over $500 dollars was added to the fund, which is used to help area kids pay for tuition, books, etc. One of the questions I was asked during the meeting had to do with the new I49 extension. At this time there are no immediate plans by MoDot to finish the extension. Arkansas is working on two lanes and will eventually be ready to hook up to the Missouri side. There were funds set aside for several years waiting for Arkansas to start work but the last several years MoDot has had inadequate funds to maintain our existing roads and bridges and until we can find a way to increase their funding, there will probably be no new road construction. The funding stream for them has been slowly decreasing compared to the costs of maintenance and materials. This is not an easy dilemma to face. According to the Missouri Constitution, taxes cannot be increased by the General Assembly. Any additional tax for MoDot must be approved by the voters. There were several proposals last year to solve the problem including adding taxes to cigarettes. One measure to increase gasoline tax by 6 cents made it through the Senate but wasn’t brought up in the House for lack of support. In my opinion, we have to find a way to solve the problem but it may have to involve two or three different things to make it acceptable to the voters. Some of the solutions include toll roads for some areas, a small increase in fuel taxes, and even returning control of some routes to the counties. One thing is assured, there are no easy fixes, it promises to get interesting!
Saturday afternoon found us at the 60th Wedding Anniversary celebration of Edward and Lila Colleen Haddock at Goodman. I had a Resolution for them and they had a great celebration with family and friends. It’s always fun to hear the stories that couples have to tell on each other on those occasions!
We started the week with an invitation from Dr. Pierson at Noel Elementary School to attend the unveiling of a mural. It seems that the ART FEEDS group had been working with the school administrators to have the children create a mural showing the great diversity in the Noel Elementary School. There are currently at least eleven different languages spoken in the school. After being told of the project, the children got their heads together and approached the teachers with a question. They wanted to know why they had to show their diversity when they would rather show how they were alike. Pretty simple huh? Leave it to the kids and they’ll blow your mind every time. The result is located on the side of a building on 303 Main Street in Noel. I’m no art critic but I know what I like and this mural is amazing. Not only did they represent all eleven flags, but they depicted the landscapes, buildings, types of clothes, and animals found in their countries. (the shark is really cool!) The School Motto is “Every child, every day, whatever it takes” and my hat is sure off to the educators who deal with language and cultural barriers everyday and still manage to do a great job with our kids!
Tuesday evening I was the guest of the Newton County Cattleman’s Club at the Crowder Ag Center. We had a great meal and heard a short Legislative update from Senator Mike Parsons from Bolivar. I then gave a short talk on the changes in Agriculture over the last 60 years. In 1950 our population in this country was 150 million people, today it’s 310 million. The world population was 2.5 billion and today it’s 7.5 billion. That’s a lot of additional mouths to feed. U.S. farmers and ranchers have responded to the challenge by doubling and in some cases tripling their output. To accomplish this they have brought into use nearly all the usable farmland in the country and by the use of fertilizers, chemicals, and selective breeding, they have met the challenge. Today however, there are forces both within and outside our government that wish to regulate and eliminate the use of the very methods that have made it possible for us to produce this food supply. Taken by itself, this is a very serious problem, but multiply the problem with the predictions that world food needs will double within the next 35 years and we have a disaster looming. Let’s hope that those kids in Noel that have figured out how to work together will solve this mess for us!
Friday and Saturday we were at the State Republican Convention in Branson. The worst part of going to Branson is keeping Jane away from all the shopping. When she told me she needed the car keys for a while I knew I was sunk! The Keynote Speaker at dinner Friday evening was John Ashcroft. I greatly admire him for his service both as a Governor and as Attorney General. He and several of the other speakers over the weekend highlighted the importance of Political Parties working together to achieve their common goals. Maybe we should have had those kids from Noel speak to us. My calendar for this week is full also; I’ll fill you in later.
Session came to a close at 6:00 P.M. last Friday. Many of the bills made headlines because of the controversy surrounding them but there were dozens of bills and amendments that most people will never know about that have the potential of making Missouri a better place to live and work. One of my favorites was SB588. It allows certain felonies to be expunged from the records. In the case of young people who make a mistake and get convicted of a felony, they are able to apply after repaying their debt to society and 5 years of good behavior, to have the felony record removed. It can still be accessed by law enforcement but will allow them to apply for and hold jobs that are now out of their reach. There are certain felonies that do not apply, but for many offenders, there is now hope for a normal life. SB711 was also a personal favorite for me. It provides that schools provide training in CPR. This is one of those little changes that will save innumerable lives in the future. SB997 deals with dual credits for high school students taking college courses, HB1936 allows Sheriffs to assist in other counties in emergency situations, HB1646 requires civics to be taught in all public schools, and SB700 allows volunteer firefighters to be covered under Workers Comp.
HB1599 allows adopted children to access their birth records upon request. There were several emotional testimonies highlighting the importance of a person being able to track their birth parents. There are certain requirements but finally there is a pathway for them to ascertain their past without a long, expensive ordeal. My HB2355, which establishes a Board of Directors to oversee the implementation and enforcement of the new Missouri Standards for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, passed with nearly unanimous support in the House and Senate.
Now for the big issues. We passed 3 bills dealing with ethics reform. The “Revolving Door” for legislators to become lobbyists has been closed. Elected officials acting as paid consultants will no longer be allowed, and campaign funds will be banned from ex legislators acting as lobbyists. The Speaker announced that our first bills next session will deal with campaign finances. Voter ID measures passed both the House and Senate by a wide margin and will eventually be placed on the ballot. Another balanced budget was passed with NO New Taxes! We provided record funding for K-12 education as well as a 4% increase for Higher Ed. We banned public funding for abortions, and added $500,000 to the Alternatives to Abortion program. We also were able to give state employees a 2% raise. We passed two Tort Reform measures and three Agriculture bills including one that clarifies that an animal owner is only liable for damages caused by an animal if they are found to be negligent. We passed a welfare reform measure that allows us to hire outside firms to verify applicants and recipients of state aud. This has been proven to be highly successful in other states and is sorely needed in Missouri. SB656 drew a lot of heat but passed by 114-36. This bill further protects our Second Amendment rights by allowing a person to carry a concealed firearm anywhere that isn’t expressly prohibited by law without a permit. It also contains a provision commonly referred to as “Stand Your Ground” law. This removes the requirement that a person who is any place that they are legally allowed to be can use force without first attempting to retreat. I have no doubt that the Governor will veto this measure but I’m confident that we will override him in September.
We also had a few failures. After passing the “Paycheck Protection” measure in the House and Senate and successfully overriding the Governor in the House, the Senate failed by one vote to override. We were also unsuccessful in passing Prescription Drug Monitoring making us the only state in the U.S. that hasn’t. Our attempt to designate a fetus as “Human” also died in the Senate but all these measures will be back next session as will the attempt to provide a guaranteed revenue stream for MoDot. The entire world of politics, both in the State and Federal Government, will be different by January when we re-convene.
On Tuesday the Seneca High School Championship Wrestling Team were at the Capitol. We had resolutions for Max Roark, Dalton Hembree, Jesse Rhoades, and Trey Smith for their individual championships as well as one for Coach Jeff Sill for his great job of coaching them. The Goodman Elementary 4th Graders were also visiting. They made a business plan and then raised $1600 dollars to pay for their trip! What a great week for District Schools!
Lots on the schedule for this week but at least I don’t have to drive to Jeff City!