The Constitution of the great state of Missouri requires three things of the General Assembly.
We must allow the Governor to address the Assembly on the state of the State, allow a Justice of the Supreme Court to address the Assembly on the state of the Judiciary, and for the Assembly itself to submit and pass a budget.
The House has now fulfilled all its Constitutional requirements. In January, we were given the Governor's idea of a budget. It would have been impossible to maintain and was terribly out of balance with the priorities of hard working Missourians. Our budget is balanced and is in line with what our constituents want and deserve. We have removed the unsustainable programs and stripped nearly $1 billion in promised dollars by the Governor that would have had the potential to bankrupt our schools and dramatically increase your tax burden.
Our budget provides for an additional $65 million for the foundation formula, $2.4 million increase in Bright Flight scholarships, $1 million increase for Missouri Financial Assistance program, and added 2.5 million for teaching programs in urban areas.
We restored Missouri National Guard tuition assistance programs after the President's sequestration cut. We restored the Governor's cut of $1.5 million to the Cyber Crimes Task Force to reduce the incidences of identity theft, especially for senior citizens, and added $13.8 million for the Developmentally Disabled in the Department of Mental Health. We had a total of nearly $200 million increase for mental health programs. We were also able to find an additional $1 million for Autism programs, and $1.4 million for library grants.
Most importantly, we have kept the budget balanced and maintained our AAA Credit Rating. We continue our tradition of ensuring that our children and our grandchildren will not have to pay for our actions. Don't you wish they'd learn this lesson on the federal level? We also provided some additional funds to our Institutions of Higher Learning. Missouri Southern received $23 million and community colleges over $132 million. Now, if we can keep the Governor from messing with it as he traditionally does, our colleges have some much needed help.
I was really pleased last week to have a lot of visitors from home in the Capitol to visit. The Anderson Middle School made the trip up on Tuesday and I was able to visit for awhile and get a great picture opportunity. The White Rock Junior High also visited and we were able to introduce them in the Chamber.
Not to be outdone by the kids, I was pleased to host a group of adults from Newton and McDonald Counties who came up for a round table discussion and lunch with the Speaker. There were 16 in the group and the Speaker laid out his agenda for the next two years and then fielded questions from the group. This is a relatively new thing for the Speaker to do and I'm already signed up for another one. I think it's really important for people to get an idea of who our leaders are and what their plans for the State are.
Page 2 of 2 - I also had a visit from Andrea Buening who was at the Capitol to lobby for funding and support for brain injuries. When people are willing to spend hours and even days walking the halls of the Capitol soliciting support for worthy causes, it sometimes helps to know that they have made a difference. Believe me, Andrea and people like her can make a huge difference. There are literally thousands of bills proposed every year and unless someone calls our attention to a particular cause, it can be lost in the overwhelming mountain of paperwork. Thanks Andrea for your dedication.
We had a lively debate Thursday on the question of limits on medical malpractice. The Supreme Court decided that the law limiting damages to $350,000 was unconstitutional because of some of the wording. This takes us back to unlimited damages and gives Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas a huge advantage when it comes to attracting doctors.
Ironically enough, we also heard in committee a bill allowing nurse practitioners to operate clinics in rural areas. This was hotly contested by doctors, many of whom would never come to rural areas to practice. I'm telling you, you just can't make this stuff up!
I'm sure I'll have more exciting things to confuse you next time, until then, I am and remain in your service.
Bill Lant represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Mo. 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.