As in past years, Neosho, Newton County and Southwest Missouri got mixed results from action in the statehouse — with some positives, some negatives and with the eventual impact of some bills in question.

As in past years, Neosho, Newton County and Southwest Missouri got mixed results from action in the statehouse — with some positives, some negatives and with the eventual  impact of some bills in question.
But there was one huge bright spot for the region, according to several Southwest Missouri lawmakers who addressed a Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored “Eggs and Issues” legislative wrap up briefing session on Tuesday morning at Crowder College.
The college and another institution of higher education in the region, Missouri Southern State University, fared exceptionally well, according to a couple of the lawmakers and Mike Franks, who served as master of ceremonies for the event.
“The truth of the matter is that higher education had the best year it has had in years,” Franks said in summing up the long term and positive impact legislation had on those two institutions and others across the state. He thanked the lawmakers for their service and thanked people attending for taking an interest.
“It is vital for us to see how our government is run,” Franks said. “This enables each of us to take the future in a direction we want it to go.”
Between Crowder College and MSSU there are about 12,000 students extending their educations. Franks said number needs to be higher.
“Our goal in Missouri to move our number of people being degreed from about 40 percent to 60 percent,” Franks said.
Representing the 163rd House District, Republican Tom Flanigan, who is retiring after this session, told the audience he was pleased with the state’s budgeting process.
“This is something we work on all year,” he said. “We ended up with an awesome product” in the final version of the state budget.
Flanigan said higher education in the state, including Crowder College and Missouri Southern State University, came out on the winning end of the budgeting process. He said Crowder College had its core funding increased by $5.6 million while MSSU saw about a $25.3 million increase in its core funding from the state.
“Folks, that is money that is not going away for those institutions — it will make them make them better,”
On the issue of mental health, Flanigan said lawmakers budgeted about $200 million to address mental health issues across Missouri.
State Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-District 160, said he felt good about his role as chairman on the Missouri House Select Committee on Agriculture. He was involved in getting three key agriculture bills through the recently concluded legislative session.
“Ag-wise, we have three bills on the governor’s desk and I feel good that two of those will be signed while the third will probably get vetoed,” Reiboldt said.
On another bill that ended up being positively handled, Reiboldt said lawmakers were able to block measures that would have increased property taxes on farmland.
On a bill unrelated to agriculture, Reibolt said the bill he supported making it
Rep. Bill Lant, R-House District 159, said the legislative session was a success in the arena of juvenile justice and the handling of child abuse and neglect cases.
“There are different challenges our juvenile officers from all across the state face,” Lant said. “We took testimony and brought all the stakeholders together — even the lobbyists.”
The final product resulted in rules that will bring Missouri into compliance with U.S. Department of Justice rules, he said.
Missouri residents and consumers came out on the short end of a paycheck protection bill Lant and the majority of other legislators supported. He said it was passed in both the Missouri House and Senate before being vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Both chambers of the legislature attempted to over ride the veto, but Lant said the House came up one vote short in overriding Nixon’s veto.
Looking to the future and the 2017 Missouri Legislative session, Lant said the direction bills take will depend heavily on the outcome of the governor’s election race. Being a Republican, he feels more positive about progress if a Republican is elected governor.
Lant said there are several workforce related bills that he would like to see enacted.
“We need to see some changes (on workforce issues) to get Missouri growing again,” he said.
Rep. Bill White, R-House District 159 in Joplin, said a bill dealing with Missouri health insurance transparency finally gained traction in the statehouse after years of “door slamming” on the issue.
“What this does is require all (health insurance) companies to file their rates with the state,” White said. “Nationally, health insurance rates are 13 percent lower when states do rate reviews and all other 49 states already had reviews and rate filing.”
Rep. Charlie Davis, R-House District 162 from Webb City, said state veterans fared well in the legislative session. One measure passed made active duty military personnel exempt from state sales taxes, he said.
Previously they were only exempt if they were serving in the Mideast war zone. On another measure, Davis said Interstate 49 from the Arkansas border north to Kansas City will be designated the “Purple Heart Highway.” He said efforts are in the works to get signs up later this year — at no cost to state taxpayers since a businessman has offered to foot the $30,000 bill for those signs.