On Monday, the University of Missouri Extension will honor local State Rep. Bill Reiboldt for his work in the recent passage of legislation allowing the extension districting option.

The extension districting option, which is intended to allow county extension councils to work together, was signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon on July 2, as part of House Bill 542.

The MU Extension will recognize Reiboldt at a dinner Monday evening at the Neosho Civic Center, where several state leaders, including Sen. Ron Richard and additional members of the state legislature, county officials, and members of the local extension council will be on hand.  

Jay Chism, regional director of the MU Extension, said the passage of the bill creates an opportunity for county extension councils.

“The extension district option allows local counties to combine,” Chism said, noting that there previously was not a legal way to do so. “They may want to combine offices, to make them more efficient or for better use of resources. It just allows a legal way for county councils to do that and then local decisions can be made about finances by those county councils.”

Chism noted the state extension council’s gratitude for Reiboldt’s efforts in getting the legislation passed, though the state representative says, while he is honored by the recognition, he was simply doing his job.

“Of course, we grew up with the University of Missouri Extension and their program here in Newton County,” Reiboldt said. “I’ve always been involved in agriculture and they’re a tremendous part of the life of a farmer. We’ve used so many of their good programs.”

Reiboldt said the districting option first came before the house agriculture policy committee in 2012, though it didn’t make it through the state senate.

However, when the latest session kicked off, Reiboldt, serving as chairman of the house agriculture committee, pursued the legislation once again.

“I asked if I could carry that bill this year, they put some confidence in me and it was one of my legislative priorities,” Reiboldt said. “I chair the house committee on agriculture policy and so it was my first bill that we heard right out of the gate.”

With the governor signing off last month on the house bill that includes the districting option, Reiboldt said extension councils will now have more options moving forward.

“It gives the extension a lot of tools to work with going into the future and that’s what’s really important and valuable,” Reiboldt said. “Going into the future we don’t know what will transpire as far as future funding, things look good but it gives multiple counties the option to come together and just gives them additional tools to work with.”

Chism noted that Reiboldt’s support of the issue reflected a need not necessarily of Newton and McDonald counties, who Chism said are supportive of local extension councils, but of other counties in the state.

“He really helped champion the legislation that will help extension offices that aren’t as fortunate,” Chism said. “The funding may not be as strong from some county commissions and this allows those counties to really work together. I think the state council really appreciates the extra effort. He saw the need even beyond his own district.”

According to the MU Extension, similar legislation exists in 26 other states, including Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.