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May God bless you - Representative Bill Reiboldt
Perhaps most Missourians can readily tell you that our state’s number one industry is agriculture, but not all Missourians are aware that our state’s number two industry is tourism, nor that in 2015, our state’s tourism industry brought a record 40.4 million visitors to our state, visitors who spent more than $12.4 billion here that helped support more than 297,000 Missouri jobs.
This past week at the Missouri State Fair, I could see how agri-tourism works together to provide good opportunities for Missouri residents. Our fair is a showcase of agriculture, with an emphasis on youth in agriculture. It should make us all proud that many of our local and statewide youth had projects on display in the 4-H building, while others had prize livestock filling the various barns and pens at the fair. Their hard work and their talents were on display for thousands to admire.
The Obama Administration recently decided to keep marijuana on its list of dangerous drugs, stating that there is still more research needing to be done, especially in the area of medical usage. In Missouri, the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative and the Recreational Marijuana Legalization Initiative will not be on the November ballot. For whatever reason, these ballot initiatives were not certified for the 2016 election. The medical marijuana initiative would have allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes and would have created regulations and licensing procedures for its usage. The major complaint about medical marijuana is its high potential for abuse, with little to no accepted medical benefits. The other initiative—the Recreational Marijuana Legalization Initiative—seeks legalization for those 21 years of age or older in order to allow its use for recreational purposes.
In the 2016 session, a proposal to legalize medical marijuana was defeated twice in the Missouri House. Members in support of the measure portrayed the bill as a more restrained approach to any proposed constitutional amendment being pursued by those pushing an initiative petition for the 2016 ballot. This legislation would have allowed doctors to recommend marijuana for their patients suffering from certain debilitating illnesses. The proposal would have regulated the licensing for commercial marijuana growers and retailers, along with creating a system to track the drug from seed to sale.
On July 26, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled by a 4-3 vote that HB 150, an unemployment reform bill that had been decided on a veto override, was invalid. The court stated the process by which HB 150 was passed was unconstitutional.
During the 2015 legislative session the Missouri General Assembly approved HB 150, a bill crafted with hopes of reforming our state’s system of dealing with unemployment insurance. The intention of the bill was to strike a balance to ensure Missourians would have access to unemployment benefits, but at the same time protect our state’s job-creators from excessive taxes and fees. It was needed to help bring financial stability to a system that had gone insolvent after the 2008 economic downturn.
The insolvent system resulted in Missouri having to borrow money from the federal government to cover unemployment benefit claims, and employers were required to pay millions in interest alone on the borrowed funds. Though several other states were faced with this same problem, Missouri’s unemployment fund was especially unstable. In fact, we are the only state who had to borrow funds from the federal government to provide benefits to unemployed workers during the last five economic downturns.
As most of you are aware, Representative Bill Lant was injured in a one-vehicle automobile accident early last week. His car hydroplaned on wet pavement and struck a road sign in McDonald County, as he was leaving for a committee hearing in Jefferson City. He is still in a Joplin hospital recovering from his injuries. The family will appreciate your thoughts and prayers but are requesting there be no visits at the present time.
It appears the 2016 political campaign is off to a mud-slinging start, and many are asking, “As bad as it is now, could this possibly be the most negative political campaign ever experienced?” I think history can answer this question for us with a resounding, “No!” We read of political races in the past which have been so hard fought and so emotionally stressing that even in the aftermath of the election, anger and deep hurt remained.
Even though the Missouri General Assembly concluded its 2016 session in May, many members of the House Appropriations Committee for Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources continue to meet throughout the interim.
The House Appropriations Committee has held multiple meetings to help prepare for the 2018 budget, a process which begins in January 2017. It was decided by committee members to meet monthly during the interim to discuss and to investigate numerous issues, ranging from water quality and wastewater treatment to the outstanding maintenance cost for the Missouri state parks system, items that fall under the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Another item the committee has discussed is how the Department of Agriculture has been affected by the recent governor withholds, legislation which includes many of the items that this committee had worked on so diligently to get funded.
The July 14 deadline to take action on 2016 legislation has now passed. Governor Nixon signed 115 bills into law, a number that includes 16 budget bills. He allowed three bills to become law without his signature but chose to veto 23 complete bills and portions of 2 budget bills, withholding a total of $115,462,959 in FY 2017 as “expenditure restrictions.” Members of the Missouri House and Senate will now meet to decide which of the 23 vetoed bills they will attempt to override in September.
One of the bills the Governor signed into law was HB 1599, legislation designed to strengthen the rights of adoptees in Missouri. The Missouri Adoptee Rights Act is meant to provide an easier process for an adopted individual to obtain a copy of his or her original birth certificate. Under current Missouri law, files and records that provide identifying information about an adoptee’s biological parents are closed except by order of the court or by mutual decisions of the birth parents and the adoptee.
Missouri’s state parks system is celebrating 100 years of service to our state. Throughout their history they have sought to protect Missouri’s natural resources while providing recreational opportunities to our state’s citizens. As the park system has grown, public support and interest has grown as well.
Several important dates in the history of the park system are as follows:
1917 - State Parks Fund officially created; revenues come from the old Missouri Fish and Game Dept.
1937 - creation of the MO State Park Board
1945 - drafters of the new MO Constitution establish a mill tax to help fund state parks (approved by voters when they approved the new state constitution)
1974 - park system re-organizes under the newly formed MO Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR).
1984 - park system grows and needs a permanent source of funding; voters approve a state sales tax of 1/10 of 1 cent, with 1/2 going to Missouri State Parks and the other half going to MO Soil and Water Conservation Program.
Select Committee on Agriculture - Chairman
Appropriations - Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources