I just came from the kickoff breakfast for Seneca Bright Futures.

I just came from the kickoff breakfast for Seneca Bright Futures. For those of us who don't know much about Bright Futures, here's a partial explanation. The schools are overwhelmed with students, especially younger ones, who are in need of basics. By that I mean that there are 54 percent of the children in Seneca who are on free or reduced lunches. There are 76 students classified as homeless. We send 80 backpacks with canned goods home over the weekend in order for children to have food until Monday.

Bright Futures is a volunteer group of local businesses, faith-based institutions, and willing friends and neighbors who step up and help children in their communities. If you talk to a teacher you will find that most of them spend hundreds, if not thousands of their own dollars, buying essentials like shoes and coats for needy children in their classes. Bright Futures is in need of volunteers, mentors etc. from the Seneca area who will volunteer some of their time to help our children in need. The contact in Seneca is Brad Storrs at 776-4525. Watch the paper for the next meeting place and come get involved.

The house speaker, Tim Jones, was in Joplin on Tuesday morning on part of his tour of the state manufacturing facilities. We took a tour of the Bemis packaging plant and then gathered for lunch and heard his comments on his priorities for the upcoming session. His priorities are economic development, energy, and education. He didn't go into great detail on each subject but did say that one thing we absolutely had to address was tort reform. When the court ruled against our malpractice limits, they just encouraged more doctors to leave our state. We are already feeling the effects of this in rural areas where we didn't have enough primary care to begin with. I would expect this to be one of the first priorities in January.

We started Wednesday morning in Pineville with Sen. Blunt taking a tour of the old courthouse. Raylene Lamb did a great job of explaining the progress in restoration of the building and our future plans for the museum. She emphasized the need for sponsors for the upstairs courtroom restoration and hinted that the senator might help us find some willing souls. We then traveled to Joplin's East Middle School, where the senator and Rudy Farber, along with other dignitaries, unveiled I- 49. It was pointed out that additions to the interstate system are a rarity and that I-49 had been in the works since 1970. The designation will help our area with economic development now and in the future. The section opened this week was from Kansas City to Pineville. I-49 will eventually stretch from Canada to the Gulf.

Friday, I was privileged to teach a group of fourth grade students a little about Missouri government. We were at Tri-Way Elementary in Stella and I was able to hold their attention for about 20 minutes explaining how an idea becomes a law. We started with the idea of making it legal to chew gum in school, and after explaining the entire process of committee hearings and floor debate in the House and Senate, we arrived at the Governor's desk where he vetoed the bill! The kids were disappointed, but the teachers sure got a kick out of it.

We traveled to Jeff City Monday for our first caucus meeting. Speaker Jones will be spelling out his plan for the next two years. We still don't have our committee assignments but they should be coming soon. I'll have a full report next week. Until then, 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 bill.lant@house.mo.gov.