The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Columns

July 31, 2011

Susan Redden: House panel calls for use of Rainy Day Fund

JOPLIN, Mo. — A special legislative session being planned for later this year is to include a recommendation that Missouri tap its Rainy Day Fund to pay for costs of dealing with tornadoes, including the EF-5 on May 22 in Joplin, flooding and other natural disasters in the state.

Members of the House Interim Committee on Disaster Recovery signed off on the recommendation on Friday, according to Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, who is vice chairman of the panel.

“We made that recommendation to the speaker, and we met with the governor on it,” said White. “We want an oversight committee of members from the House and the Senate to make sure it (money from the fund) is used appropriately.

“But the comment that kept coming up again and again is that if we’re not going to use it after the kind of year the state has had — with three tornadoes and two floods — why do we have it?”

White said he will propose a change in current rules that would allow money borrowed from the fund to be repaid over a period of five or seven years, rather than the current three-year requirement.

The Rainy Day Fund currently stands at about $500 million. If it’s used to cover emergency spending, the governor must make an emergency appropriation request and the General Assembly must pass a motion to use the fund, including the specific amount to be borrowed, by a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

The amount borrowed cannot exceed half of the total fund balance, and it must be paid back, with interest, in at least one-third increments in successive fiscal year budgets.

White said other recommendations will come later from the House panel, whose other local members include Reps. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, and Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage. The Senate has its own disaster recovery committee; Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, is the chairman.

Also last week, 7th District U.S. Rep. Billy Long joined with U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt of Missouri in sending a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency asking the Obama administration to fulfill Joplin’s request for a two-week extension of a 90-10 percent cost share for the city’s expedited debris removal effort.

“Joplin has taken on a huge task of removing unprecedented amounts of debris and continues to work quickly and diligently to clear the entire emergency area,” according to the letter from the three lawmakers.

“The devastation and destruction throughout Joplin is unprecedented by any standard, and the federal response must meet that level of need.”

Amy Winehouse

Often, when you hear the name of a rock star linked with a politician, it’s because some political campaign has appropriated a popular song, and the artist is saying stop or a suit will be filed. And, I am old enough — and I admit that reluctantly — to remember when Linda Ronstadt dated Jerry Brown when he was California governor the first time around.

You wouldn’t see U.S. Rep. Long and Amy Winehouse as a pair, but the two were linked last week when Long tweeted about the British singer. After news of her death became public, he posted a Twitter message comparing her substance abuse problems to Washington’s “addiction” to spending more than it takes in.

“Can anyone reach Washington before it’s too late? Both addicted — same fate?” Long tweeted.

The posting brought criticism from some, then reports found their way into national media and newspapers in the United Kingdom. Long issued a statement apologizing to anyone who had been offended by the post.

“Although I do believe spending 42 percent more than we take in is an addiction, I certainly meant no disrespect to Amy, her family or her fans,” Long said. “She was one of the few true artists to come along in a long time. What happened to her was a senseless tragedy, and drawing an analogy wasn’t meant to minimize the loss of life. If anyone took offense, I sincerely apologize.”

Susan Redden is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at sredden@joplinglobe.com or 417-623-3480, ext. 7258.

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