I have the privilege of spending an hour with the fourth grade classes at the Elementary Schools telling them about State Government. I try to explain the process by which a bill is presented and the things that must happen before it becomes a law. By the time of year that I am asked to visit, they already have a pretty good idea of the division of powers in government but I try to find a topic that interests them and let them help me through the process. I never know what to expect when I ask for questions after we have completed the exercise. They range from "have you ever met the President?" to "how do you impeach somebody?” Last week, at Southwest City, I believe I was asked the Grand Prize Winner! A quiet little girl sitting in the middle of the room asked me, "could you get our brownies back?" I said, "excuse me, I'm not sure what you're asking for" and her teacher explained that they used to get a brownie with lunch before Michelle's new school lunch rules. On the drive home I started thinking about school lunches when I was a kid. The cooks were always grandmotherly types that could make anything taste great! They had to use commodities provided by the government to keep the costs down, but the food was great, there was plenty of it, and we didn't have any problems with childhood obesity in my neighborhood. We played outside and had chores to do after school instead of sitting on the couch with an Xbox for five hours a day. Now I'm starting to sound like one of those grumpy old men!
The Governor announced a 46 million dollar withhold from the budget last week. Every Legislator I know, on both sides of the aisle, was surprised by this latest move. He is still sitting on nearly 325 million that was withheld from last year's budget. The explanation from his office is that the 50 million dollar tobacco settlement will not be coming our way therefore he has to take nearly 17 million from healthcare providers and the rest from education, law enforcement, the mentally ill, and disabled programs. The Budget Chairmen are telling us that this is, in all probability, an unconstitutional move due to the state bringing in revenue in excess of budget requirements. The problem is that Department Heads have to plan for what they know they are getting and by the time the Legislature and the Court get it sorted out, the damage is done. Some are saying that he will attempt to use the additional funds to circumvent the law and increase the Medicaid money. Stay tuned, this could get interesting.
The Missouri DNR is causing a stink with their proposal to spend 40 million on a new State Park in Oregon County. The money would be shifted from the fund to reclaim mining areas. Oregon County doesn't want a new State Park as the Government already owns over 1/5th of the county and the officials there contend that it is restricting economic opportunities already. Oregon County has never had any mining and those funds could be put to a much better use in our area where there are still open mines that need to be attended to.
I got a report from the Division of Children's Service last week that pointed out how serious a problem we had with our Foster Home program. We now have over 13,000 children in the care of the State and only 6,000 Foster homes. My committee and the Children's and Families committee are both very concerned about the dropping numbers of Foster Homes in the state. We plan to hold hearings on the issue and try to address the problem next session. The numbers of children being removed from the home because of abuse and neglect continue to swell, particularly in urban areas. This is a problem that all Missourian's need to be aware of and participate in finding solutions.