The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 17, 2013

House committee hears testimony at meeting in Joplin

By Eli Yokley

JOPLIN, Mo. — A Missouri House of Representatives committee tasked with downsizing state government met in Joplin on Wednesday, but while its meeting did not draw a large crowd, members said their statewide swing is bearing results.

The committee meeting held at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce drew about a dozen people, a contrast from other meetings that have drawn larger crowds, said Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, who is vice-chairman of the committee.

In the 17-minute hearing, Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, spoke up to call on lawmakers to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income-tax cut passed by lawmakers earlier this spring. House Committee on Downsizing Government Chairman Paul Curtman, R-St. Louis, said the issue was beyond the scope of his committee, but said he supported a veto override.

“If we find ways to make government more efficient, the less (tax dollars) they need,’’ Curtman said.

Joplin was the fifth stop on the committee’s nine-city tour this week. Curtman said at each stop, members heard from people who support overriding Nixon’s veto.

The other topic that arose was the issue of marijuana decriminalization. The topic arose on Tuesday at the committee’s meetings in St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, as well as earlier on Wednesday in Springfield, Curtman said.

The issue came up on the last day of the session during a brief committee meeting this spring, but did not make it to the floor for debate.

Curtman, a former Marine who campaigned for libertarian-leaning Republicans like Ron Paul and John Brunner during the 2012 election, was noncommittal when asked whether he thought the decriminalization issue would move forward in Missouri, but was happy to hear the input.

“I think it is great that they’re younger people and they’re involved,’’ he said.

At other meetings, Curtman said, people have suggested cutting back on the size of the General Assembly or implementing some sort of tracking site to measure the effectiveness of state appropriations.

“If nothing else, it helps us get the pulse of the public. What are their ideas? Financial issues or bureaucratic policy?’’ he asked, adding people who were unable to attend could submit input to his office or via Twitter using the hashtag “#DownsizeMOGov.”

Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, who also serves on the committee, said he was interested in issues like regulations from the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s implementation of federally requested, state administered common core standards in schools.

Following the Joplin stop, Curtman and Kelley finished their day at another meeting in Independence. They will wrap up their tour today with stops in Columbia and Jefferson City.