The week began with a trip to the Capitol for our yearly veto session.
The General Assembly is given the opportunity each year to vote by a two-thirds majority to over ride the governor’s veto of legislation passed in regular session. Although we would have liked to overturn all his vetoes, there were only two that we gave serious consideration to. Since it takes 109 votes in the House and our majority is only 104 members, it is clear that we need help from the other side of the aisle. The “conscience bill,” which deals with an employer being able to refuse to pay insurance to employees for contraceptives or abortions, passed the House with a large bi-partisan margin. When it comes to thwarting a governor, those of his political party are very reluctant to cast their votes against his wishes. Because of this, we were not able to count on very many votes from the other side. We did have enough votes to do the job with 109 total voting to override.
The other issue dealt with our fix to the Supreme Court’s ruling on county and city sales tax on vehicles purchased out of state. Those in favor of an override argued that the law was in place since 1949 and along with losing much needed revenue, there will be a loss of jobs as dealers on the border areas will certainly lose business to our neighboring states. After much discussion, it was decided that because of the retroactive clause in the bill, it had little chance. We will probably see an attempt to write a new bill that fairly addresses those issues next session.
The Speaker appointed me to an interim committee on local governance. We are to meet a minimum of five times prior to January and report on several local government issues. Although most of the issues concern St.Louis, there were a few things that I brought up for discussion. One thing that I thought might be helpful to smaller counties was the ability to adjust a budget down.
This would be most helpful in the event of unforeseen expenses like McDonald County had when the state demanded repayment of some sales tax dollars that were collected unknowingly over a long period of time. The state wanted all the money repaid in six months, and it really played heck with that year’s budget.
The question of a county being able to issue and enforce burn bans was brought up by a represenative from the Boot Heel. It seems there were numerous violations of local burn bans, but no way to impose a penalty to discourage violators. We also discussed giving county commissions the ability to pose tax issues on the ballot without prior state legislation being passed. This is another attempt to return control to the counties and cities, where it should be in my mind. I’ll keep you posted on future meetings.
Page 2 of 3 - There is quite a discussion brewing on the Department of Agriculture and their obvious attempt to thwart the intent of the Legislature in regard to kennel operations. After the General Assembly provided a fix to Proposition B, the various groups who wished to shut down all kennels within the state started pressuring the head of the Agriculture Department to continue harassing operations within the state. Now don’t get me wrong, I am certainly against “puppy mills,” but the laws were changed drastically and those operations just don’t exist anymore. The remaining kennels are clean, well maintained, facilities and are checked regularly to make sure they stay that way. What I am referring to is the department now singleing out “rescue centers” and local pounds for their over regulation. They now require pounds to have a veterinarian vaccinate all dogs and cats for rabies. A pound cannot transfer an animal to a rescue center or to another facility in a larger city until this has been done. The end result of this new requirement is small pounds simply euthanize instead of going to the additional expense. I’m not sure, but I don’t think this is the result most of us want. When asked about the new requirements, Dr. Hagler just laughs it off and says he is enforcing the law. I sure hate to tackle that issue again, but when appointed department heads become unwilling to comply with the intent of the legislature, it may be time to take action.
Several of us were comparing notes on our districts and I was bragging about how lucky I am to have a rural district with several small towns. We in rural areas have a unique set of problems, like water supplies, livestock issues, etc. We don’t have the revenue base that large metropolitan areas do, but we have so much more to make up for it. When we see a need, we find a way to fill it. The recent hay auction in Seneca was a good example. It seems like there is a fundraiser of some kind or another going on all the time. That’s a good thing!
We are more than willing to reach out and help others in need and although I joke about all the pie auctions, they serve a great purpose. Practically every community I serve is poised to grow. I read some comments last week by Josh Dodson, the Chamber President at Seneca. His comments were that Seneca is on the move. There are new businesses coming to town and existing store fronts are being remodeled and spruced up. People don’t spend the time and money to do those things unless they are proud of their communities and want them to grow and prosper.
Page 3 of 3 - Noel is trying to work with MoDOT to build a “river walk.” How cool is that? Southwest City has a new library and culture center. Stella has a great veterans park. I could go on and on! The point is, that we are extremely lucky to be in a part of the country where neighbors care about each other and are willing to work together to make it better for every one of us!
Hats off to Jim Graham and Josh and all the others who care enough to give of themselves to make stuff happen.
Until next time, I am, and remain, in your service.
Bill Lant represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Missouri House of Representatives. Contact him locally at 437-8223 or at his Jefferson City office at (573) 751-9801 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.