The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 15, 2013

Susan Redden, columnist: Long supports end to food stamp funding

By Susan Redden
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — U.S. Rep. Billy Long of Missouri’s 7th District voted with the majority last week when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a farm bill that eliminated food stamp funding as a long-standing element of the program.

The action came after months of delay on the measure in the House because of partisan disagreements on funding for the poor included in the bill. Democrats thought it was too little; Republicans thought it was too much.

Long supported the approved measure and said Friday in a statement: “The nutrition part of the Farm Bill never should have been part of it in the first place. The Farm Bill I supported yesterday (Thursday) is a good step in the right direction of separating these two issues. We need to provide certainty to our farmers who feed the nation. The next step Congress will be taking is addressing nutrition as a standalone item. We need to reform the food stamps program by closing loopholes that are abused to improperly access benefits to the detriment of those truly in need of help.

“It is imperative we make sure our limited resources are going to  help people who are struggling in this persistently bad economy.”

About 37,000 Missouri families used the food stamp program in May, according to the Missouri Division of Family Services.

State laws

Sunday marked the deadline for Gov. Jay Nixon to sign or veto bills passed in the last session of the Missouri General Assembly. Nixon also could allow bills to go into effect without his signature and that happened with House Bill 34, according to State Rep. Bill Lant, of Pineville, who is chair of the House Committee on Workforce Development and Workplace Safety.

The measure allows school districts to opt out of using prevailing wage requirements in school construction and repair projects, which will translate to saving tax dollars for school districts, Lant said.

“It’s the first bill we heard in committee, and allowing school districts to opt out is a big deal especially in our area, where those districts need all the help they can get,” he said.

The governor also signed a bill that has considerable local interest — one that will allow county commissions to issue burn bans. Jasper County commissioners discussed imposing such a ban in last year’s drought before discovering they lacked the authority to do so. The bill allows counties to issue burn ban orders that carry a penalty for a violation up to a Class A misdemeanor.

McCaskill honored

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was honored last week with the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award for her contributions to the Navy and Marine Corps as a member of Congress and the Senate Armed Services Committee.

McCaskill was presented the award by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus for her advocacy of fiscal responsibility, the F/A-18 program, suicide prevention and sexual assault prevention and response. The award is the highest honor that can be given to a non-Navy individual for actions that affect Navy operations.

She specifically was honored for addressing shortfalls in Navy aircraft after production delays in the F-35 aircraft program. She helped the Navy secure a multi-year contract to purchase F/A-18 fighters, which are produced in St. Louis by Boeing. A former prosecutor, McCaskill has fought to combat sexual assault in the military, pushing reforms that were approved last month by a Senate panel.

McCaskill, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she was humbled by the honor and would “continue to advocate for our troops, and always fight to maintain the greatest military in the world.”