The Joplin stop for a Missouri State legislative committee on a statewide tour to talk about downsizing state government came at an awkward time for most people who work for a living, possibly explaining the sparse attendance.
State Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Lamar, said attendance at previous meetings of this committee in Springfield earlier Wednesday and in St. Louis on Tuesday were standing room only, with dozens of people speaking out and giving suggestions on how to streamline government.
Only one person spoke at the Joplin meeting, which was held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, and his question was regarding bringing legislation to relax marijuana possession laws before a committee earlier in the session.
“This meeting here had the lowest attendance we've had, but that doesn't get me down or anything,” said State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, chairman of the interim committee on downsizing state government. “The point is we're trying to make ourselves available and accessible and sometimes it's inconvenience because it is the middle of the day and we're holding three different meetings in a day.”
A few others trickled in after the meeting was adjourned and before the lawmakers left Joplin for their meeting in Kansas City and spoke to the legislators.
Kelly, a member of the committee along with State Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, said the ideas coming from the public are eye-opening.
“We've heard examples of waste in (the Department of Social Services),” Kelly said. “For example, we had one that was brought up where a person had been receiving assistance. His wife had gone back to school to become a nurse and after she finished she said okay we no longer need this, cut us off and they said DSS was almost argumentative with them. We can still get you for another six months or this or that, he said it was almost like a fight to get them to take me off the rolls. That was one example that really just jumped out at me.”
Curtman, during his introduction, said the committee was seeking and had heard about examples where state agencies were duplicating services offered by other state agencies or by private businesses or instances where the state was competing with private businesses.
He told of testimony by a woman who owns a campground, but has to compete with campgrounds in state parks and is regulated and has to pay taxes to the state with whom she competes.
“We're looking for some good ideas for legislation of substance that will actually have a positive impact on our government and people alike,” Curtman said. “We'd like to get some information from people who have first hand experience who can tell us how to streamline government, things they think we might be able to do to make government less costly to operate and just be more responsible.We're also looking for those area where we might have to scale back bureaucracy because it's becoming too intrusive.”