By Susan Redden
WEBB CITY, Mo. —
Missouri senators may be pulling an all-nighter on Monday when they begin review of the proposed state budget.
That’s according to state Sen. Ron Richard, of Joplin, who, as majority floor leader, decides what gets debated and for how long.
“I’m telling everybody that I’ve ordered dinner, and we’ll stay for as long as we need to,” Richard said, in an “eggs and issues” legislative forum held Friday in Webb City.
He and other members of the Joplin-area legislative delegation reviewed activities in the closing weeks of the session during a brunch sponsored by the Webb City Chamber of Commerce.
Some discussion centered on the budget, and Richard said those involved in state-funded programs should not be alarmed about news of reduced funding in some activities.
“Nothing really happens on the budget until it gets to conference,” he said, noting the Senate-House conference committee that will meet and work out differences in the spending plans approved by the two chambers.
The committee will include Rep. Tom Flanigan, of Carthage, who is vice chairman of the House Budget Committee. He said some of the funding cuts are “negotiating tactics at this point.”
But Flanigan said other cuts include additional funding he included in the budget for public health and seniors’ meals-on-wheels programs.
“I’ll fight to restore what I put in,” he said.
In addition to budget work, Richard said lawmakers are continuing to look into revelations that Missourians’ records, including data on those with concealed-gun permits, have been shared with federal investigators. He said he thinks the Senate will issue more subpoenas in the probe.
The director of the Missouri Department of Revenue has resigned, and Gov. Nixon has announced that revenue offices will not scan and keep copies of concealed-gun-permit information.
“We don’t want anything scanned,” Richard said.
Rep. Bill Lant, of Pineville, reviewed work by the Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee he chairs, which has heard bills on right-to-work, prevailing wage and other labor issues.
He said he believes a ballot question on right-to-work will be put before voters next year. The last vote was in 1979, when he said there were far more unionized workers, including those in clothing and shoe plants in the area. Now, 7 percent of state’s work force are union members.
One of the right-to-work bills heard by the committee was sponsored by Rep. Bill White, of Joplin.
“I’ve sponsored this bill for three years; this is the first year a speaker has allowed it to be heard,” he said. “Now, I hope we can get serious about tax reform.”
Rep. Charlie Davis, of Webb City, also touched on that issue, and concerns Missouri is losing jobs to Kansas and Oklahoma.
“We need a regulatory and tax environment to encourage business,” he said.
Davis, chairman of the House Veterans Committee, said he is hoping for passage of several bills out of the committee designed to help veterans when they are deployed and return home.
Rep. Mike Kelley, of Lamar, who is a member of the House Education Appropriations Committee, said a priority this session has been to block legislation he believes will hurt local schools.
“They’re doing a good job,” he said. “We need to reform the problem schools and leave the rest alone.”
Rep. Bill Reiboldt, of Neosho, said he is hopeful the final budget will continue increased funding for University of Missouri Extension programs and the veterinary school at MU. He said he also is working on measures that would allow tax credits for agriculture, dairy operations and for biomass projects that produce electricity.
All budget bills must be on the governor’s desk by May 6, Flanigan said. The session ends May 17.