The first of four Eggs & Issues, hosted by the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, was held Friday morning at the Grace Pointe Assembly Church.
Carthage citizens and leaders, business representatives and school administrators met with state legislators to hear what lawmakers are doing and take advantage of a chance to ask questions of their representatives.
“I am very pleased with the turnout and the information presented this morning,” said Mark Elliff, Carthage Chamber of Commerce president. “We are fortunate to have the group of representatives we do for southwest Missouri. You can truly see the cohesiveness of they have in working together, which not only helps our area but the state of Missouri as a whole.”
State Sen. Ron Richard hit on topics such as closing loopholes so that citizens could not abuse unemployment benefits, protecting vocational education, public employees not being forced to pay union dues, underground data storage and the Right To Work bill.
Richard, who was elected Majority Floor Leader of the Senate this year, said the Missouri Senate is functional and it has passed more legislation so far this year than at this point at any time in the past 15 years.
As Majority Floor Leader, Richard said he acts as something of a traffic cop, deciding what bills will be brought up on the Senate floor and how long senators will debate those bills.
State Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, who was selected this year as vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the House is considering a $24 billion state budget as opposed to the $25 billion budget proposed last week by Gov. Jay Nixon in his State of the State Address.
Flanigan said Nixon’s proposed budget includes expanding state Medicaid at a cost of about $900 million, but the House proposal does not include that provision.
He said while the federal government would pay for the Medicaid expansion for the first three years and pay for most of the expansion until 2020, lawmakers are concerned about paying for the expansion in those years after the feds stop paying for it. They are also concerned that a change of heart in Washington could pull the Medicaid money, and the affect the expansion will have on the federal budget deficit.
Flanigan said the state will have more revenue than it expected to have when the budget was prepared last year, but it’s still not enough to fund all the proposals that will be considered.
“Suffice it to say that the Missouri budget this year is going to be a very testy process,” Flanigan said. “We do not have the funds we thought we were going to have, but we have more than we had in December, if that makes any sense. We started off the budget process in July of last year about $225 million behind the curve. By the time December rolled around, we were looking at more likely a $200 million surplus.”
Page 2 of 2 - State Rep. Bill Lant, R-Neosho, said he was in favor of the 1 percent sales tax to help fix fast-deteriorating roads and infrastructure.
State Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, reported his current focus was on three bills: helping soldiers with child custody while serving overseas, creating college credit for education in the service, and waiving residency requirements when veterans are seeking a home after their service.
State Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, spoke on the importance of Right To Farm / Right To Raise Livestock bill that would protect farmers and ranchers. The cattle business is the number one industry in the state of Missouri, and Reiboldt said the industry is threatened. Reiboldt said the bill will be on the ballot in 2014.
The next Eggs & Issues events will be March 22 in Joplin; on April 19 in Webb City and the last meeting will be in Neosho sometime after the legislative session ends in mid-May.