By Susan Redden
Joplin area legislators scored some victories the last week of the Missouri General Assembly’s session, but if anyone is keeping count, the record has to go to Rep. Charlie Davis.
The Republican from Webb City has a popular “constituency” as chairman of the House Veterans Committee. Davis predicted as the session wrapped up that it could be the most positive in years for Missouri residents who serve in the military.
Lawmakers earlier had passed an overseas voting bill recommended by the Department of the Defense to ensure that deployed service members would get ballots in time to make their votes count. A measure was passed in the final week of the session to ensure the child custody rights of veterans while they are deployed. The protection is in a House bill sponsored by Davis, and it appeared to be repeated in a Senate bill Davis handled in the House that also would require Missouri colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition rates to honorably discharged veterans.
That provision was included, as an amendment, on two other measures that also were passed, Davis said, noting that the bill is one he’s been working for ever since he was elected and named to the Veterans Committee.
Bills giving veterans college credit, or credit by licensing boards, for their military experience also passed, Davis said.
“All of those bills had bipartisan support, and in talking with the governor’s office, we’re very hopeful all of them will be signed,” he said.
Though he didn’t sponsor the bill, Davis said he’s pleased with the passage of a measure that that would allow circuit courts to establish veterans courts that could refer participants to mental health or substance abuse treatment. Some state funds are available for the treatment, he said.
Davis said another measure that passed will encourage a final memorial for the cremated remains of veterans that have never been claimed by family members.
“It’s a sad story that you would never think about, but there are remains of veterans out there that are just sitting on shelves either because they have no families or their families don’t know they’re dead or don’t know how to find them,” he said. “This would allow funeral homes and veterans organizations to work together to address some of these situations.”
Davis said the measure will allow funeral homes to release information on veterans’ remains to veterans organizations that can help track down family members or take other steps.
“I already know of one instance where no family could be located and a veterans group stepped in and provided for the memorial,” he said.
Also passed in the final week of the session was a measure proposed by Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and handled by Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, to give $14 million in state funds to Joplin tornado recovery. Lawmakers also passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, under which voters would ballot on a “right to farm” amendment to the Missouri Constitution.
A bill closely watched by city and county governments that would reinstate local sales taxes on vehicles bought out of state also was approved in the last week of the session.
Lawmakers have passed versions of the measure twice before that have been vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.
The bill was in reaction to a Missouri Supreme Court decision handed down a year earlier that ruled as unconstitutional a long-standing practice under which local sales taxes were charged based on the address of the purchaser on vehicles bought out of state. Governments losing the tax revenues called for legislative action, saying the loss especially was affecting governments and car dealers close to state borders. Lawmakers attempted to reinstate the tax in the 2012 session, but the measure was vetoed. After a revised measure that passed this session was vetoed in April, lawmakers in the last week approved a third version that now sits on the governor’s desk.
SUSAN REDDEN is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at email@example.com or 417-627-7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.