This past week saw the conclusion of both my interim committees — education and agriculture.
For the Interim Education Committee, we held 12 hearings in 12 different cities across our state. These meetings gave us an opportunity to visit 11 Missouri colleges and universities. The focus was current education issues faced by our K-12 schools. Some of these issues will, no doubt, be revisited when session begins in January. By far, the most controversial topic we heard statewide was Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
The CCSS began as an initiative that was sponsored and accepted by the National Governor's Association (NGA) in 2009, though the actual standards weren't released until 2010. The CCSS core education standards are intended to be a guide used by schools to govern student instruction. Standards for the four core subject areas — English, math, science, and history — are to be written and adopted by schools in 45 U.S. states by 2014 for the purpose of unifying nationwide education instruction across the country. Five states never accepted CCSS and a host of other states are now considering opting out of it because of the controversial nature of the program.
The Common Core State Standards initiative was accepted by Gov. Nixon in 2009 without going through the legislative process. Today, some are saying that the Legislature may not even get the opportunity to vote on this controversial, expensive program because our state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will accept it, regardless.
DESE has asked for $18.5 million in the January supplemental budget for testing expenses related to Common Core — or as it is now being termed, Missouri Learning Standards. DESE is also asking for $6.5 for the unaccredited (failing) St. Louis school districts. This, and the entire Common Core topic, will most certainly be topics that are discussed and debated extensively in the months to come.
In addition to the education committee, our Interim Agriculture Committee held three hearings this fall, one each in Harrisonville, Springfield, and Savannah. The main purpose of the committee was to explore ways to help the struggling Missouri dairy industry, an important part of our state's economy. Since approximately 2008, Missouri has consistently lost milk producers. Today we are importing from neighboring states about 60 percent of the milk used in our state. A major concern is that if we continue to lose dairies and milk production, we will lose our industry manufacturing base, which is another vital component of our state's economy. Lost productivity and lost processing facilities translates into lost jobs for Missourians, something we are trying hard to avoid.
Last session, I carried a tax credit bill for Missouri dairymen. This bill passed in the House but did not pass in the Senate because, at that point, the Senate was refusing to pass additional tax credit bills. (Unfortunately, we even lost the wood products tax credit at that time.) Consequently, the new legislation that we will introduce in the upcoming session will not be in the form of a tax credit. What we are looking at is a marginal insurance program, similar to the existing crop insurance programs we now have in place. However, our legislation hinges on the federal farm bill being passed.
Page 2 of 2 - We also met with the Missouri Cattlemen's Association to discuss trichomoniasis infection and prevention in livestock. This disease impacts reproduction in cattle and can be economically devastating to cattlemen because of lost calf crops. We are working with the association and the Missouri Department of Agriculture to help develop plans and methods to eradicate this problematic cattle disease. We will be meeting again with both the cattleman and the Department of Agriculture before session begins for further discussion on these and other issues.
The Missouri House is the House of the people. Taking these committees to different towns and communities and giving individuals the opportunity to voice their concerns proved to be very beneficial to us and appreciated by those attending the meetings. One of the most frequent things we heard as we traveled about the state was, "Thank you for coming to our town."
If I can be of help to you with these or any other state matters, please do not hesitate to contact me by one of the following means:
Mail: Bill Reiboldt, Office 235-BB, State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101. Telephone: (573) 751-9781. Personal cell phone: 417-456-0441. Email: email@example.com. My website is www.billreiboldt.com. Find me on Facebook at facebook.com/morepbill or follow me on Twitter @MORepBill.
Bill Reiboldt represents the people of Newton and McDonald counties in the Missouri House of Representatives.