A vanity license plate sporting the word JIHAD, paycheck protection, a $27.1 billion state budget, and antibiotic use on livestock...
A vanity license plate sporting the word JIHAD, paycheck protection, a $27.1 billion state budget, and antibiotic use on livestock — this is just a sample of the variety of topics that came up Friday when state lawmakers reported to business leaders about the 2016 legislative session.
State Sen. Ron Richard and State Reps. Tom Flanigan, Carthage; Charlie Davis, Joplin and Bill Reiboldt, Neosho, addressed the March Eggs and Issues, an event hosted by the Chambers of Commerce in Carthage, Webb City, Joplin and Neosho, about what has been accomplished at the half-way mark and what is still to do before May.
Richard was addressing the group for the first time since he was elevated to the post of Senate President Pro-tem. In that office he leads the Senate, putting Senators on committees, ruling on orders of procedure and deciding what bills should come to the floor of the Senate.
Richard is the first legislator to hold the posts of Speaker of the House then move to the Senate and be elected President Pro-tem in Missouri history.
Richard said the Senate, by nature, deliberates much more slowly, but he has changed things up, allowing committee chairmen more of a say in what bills make it to the floor for a vote.
Richard talked about some of his priorities, such as a legal reform bill to require courts to make sure people called to testify in cases as “expert witnesses” were experts in the topic they planned to talk about.
He also talked about the “paycheck protection” bill, which would make public employee unions get permission from workers annually before they can take dues from their paychecks.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vetoed that bill on Friday, but Richard said he thought the Senate had the votes to override Nixon's veto.
He said the Senate still had to take up a transportation bill.
• Flanigan serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee and is in his final year in the Missouri House because of term limits.
Flanigan said his focus has been on the state's $27.1 billion budget.
“We're on the schedule to get this done so we can take advantage of Amendment 10, which is the ability of the legislature to override the Governor's withholds or vetoes within the session,” Flanigan said. “The 2017 budget is balanced, the state's debts are paid, and we've met our obligation to education.”
Flanigan said the House version of the budget includes $3 million for Missouri Southern State University for its dental collaborative with UMKC, an additional $5 million for improvements to Reynolds Hall on the MSSU campus, $1 million for the Joplin Regional Airport for intermodal transportation and another $100,000 for the autism center operated by Freeman Health System.
It also includes a two percent raise for all state employees.
• Davis talked about his work for veterans and his efforts to have Interstate 49 designated a Purple Heart Memorial Highway in honor of veterans wounded in combat.
He also talked about his efforts, working with Richards, to force the Missouri Department of Revenue to recall a vanity license plate someone in the St. Louis area had ordered that spelled out JIHAD.
Davis said he and Richard threatened to cut a significant amount of the Department's budget before the director agreed to recall the license plate.
He also talked about his efforts to pass the Cronkite New Voices act, a response to the protest at the University of Missouri where a faculty member attempted to force a student journalist to quit videoing the protests that were happening on the lawn at the University.
He said the bill protects the right of student journalists to do their jobs on campus.
• Reiboldt talked about his efforts on behalf of farmers and the agriculture industry in Missouri.
He talked about legislation that was passed earlier this year to prevent the Missouri Tax Commission from increasing tax rates on agricultural land, saving farmers more than $2 million a year in taxes.
Reiboldt also talked about legislation regarding agricultural tax credits and the use of antibiotics on livestock.
He said the federal government is moving to require farmers to get a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in an effort to reduce antibiotic use in livestock.
“Livestock production has gotten a bad rap, I think, for antibiotic use, but this will perhaps put a stop to that,” Reiboldt said. “It's not going to be a good thing for farmers, livestock producers, and I tell livestock producers they need to have a good relationship with their veterinarian. The only problem is we're very short of veterinarians, especially here in Southwest Missouri, in large animal practice. This is why I think we need to at least get the talks started for a veterinary college at Missouri State.”