By Susan Redden
NEOSHO, Mo. —
Joplin area lawmakers cited accomplishments and disappointments in the just-concluded Missouri legislative session during a brunch Friday sponsored by the Neosho Chamber of Commerce.
Measures benefiting veterans issues were addressed in the session that ended a week ago, along with work force and labor issues, lawmakers said. During a gathering held at the Farber Center at Crowder College, several also cited bills that didn’t pass they expect will become priorities next year.
Rep. Tom Flanigan, of Carthage, said the state’s infrastructure needs lost in the session because measures involving transportation projects and other capital improvements did not pass.
Flanigan, vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said he was disappointed a bill to seek voter approval of a 1-cent tax for transportation projects died in the Senate.
“It would have been up to the voters to decide and it would have been temporary,” he said. “Our roads are still out there crumbling and that’s a problem, especially in this area where the trucking industry is so important.”
Flanigan said he also was disappointed in the failure of a measure that would have authorized state bonds to be issued for capital improvement projects at colleges and universities, and at the Capitol.
He praised another measure that will authorize some capital spending in the state, including the design for a new Fulton State Hospital to replace a structure built in the 1880s.
Flanigan noted he handled a bill that would authorize $14 million in state funds for rebuilding Joplin infrastructure after the tornado.
“It’s on the governor’s desk; I hope he signs it,” he said.
State Rep. Charlie Davis, of Webb City, and chair of the House Veterans Committee, said issues involving veterans fared so well this session that he received a letter of thanks from the federal Department of Defense.
On the governor’s desk, he said, are measures that, if signed will give veterans academic credit for military training, protect the child custody rights of deployed veterans, ensure veterans overseas get ballots in time to vote, waive residency requirements for veterans who want to attend a Missouri college or university, waive residency requirements for schoolchildren who have to move in with relatives when parents are deployed, and allow for the creation of veterans’ courts.
A major accomplishment of the session was the passage of a fix for the state’s Second Injury Fund, said Rep. Bill Lant, of Pineville, who is chair of the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee.
“We got everyone on board,” he said. “I’ve been told by the governor’s office that he will sign it.”
A bill to ease prevailing wage requirements on smaller counties — and Newton County — also was passed and is on the governor’s desk, he added.
Rep. Bill Reiboldt, of Neosho, and chair of the House Agriculture Policy Committee, praised the passage of a bill that will ask voters to approve an amendment adding a “right to farm” provision to the Missouri Constitution.
Rep. Bill White, of Joplin, a former attorney with the Jasper County juvenile detention program, said he was pleased with the passage of several bills that will benefit juveniles.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t do anything on tort reform; we have to do that next year,” said White.
Rep. Mike Kelley, of Lamar, noted the passage of measures he sponsored, including one proposed at the request of the Missouri Department of Transportation. It allows cities to permit the use of four-wheelers on city streets.
“We already have a law that allows golf carts, but they weren’t thinking about farmers,” he said. “This is to allow a farmer working on a four-wheeler to run an errand in town.”
This year’s legislative session ended on May 17, but lawmakers will reconvene in September for a veto session to address measures vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.