As a member of the Missouri House Committee on Corrections, I want to join Governor Jay Nixon and Director of Corrections George Lombardi in expressing my appreciation to their staff, supervisors, and inmates who responded quickly to help with sand-bagging efforts around the state. The hard work from these individuals during the disaster made a profound difference in saving various properties in areas where they worked. Also, I want to express my personal gratitude and appreciation to all Newton County law enforcement, firemen, and first responders who helped in rescue efforts. At this time, I believe Missouri has recorded 22 deaths from flooding. Sadly, reports are that well over half of those lives could have been saved if drivers hadn’t attempted to drive through high water. It’s always wise not to drive into water covering roadways, since it is difficult to determine what the real situation is in and under those waters. Unfortunately, we also received reports that some individuals actually moved warning barricades, resulting in others unknowingly driving into high and dangerous waters. Though we do not have specific figures on how many disasters were a direct result of the moved barriers, the potential for tragedy is huge.
Shoal Creek that runs through Newton County saw record flooding. One older gentleman told me this was the highest he had ever seen it in his lifetime. Many along the creek’s pathway saw major damage to their property; from water getting into homes, to fences being completely wiped out, to other personal properties suffering substantial damage, this flood will be one to remember. I have been in communication with the State Emergency Management people as well as the Governor’s office on possible financial aid to flood victims. Those who have experienced damage are urged to keep all records and receipts for repairs they have made. It will
also be helpful to have pictures of the damages, along with a cost estimate for the losses. Copies of this information need to be taken to the Emergency Management office on Brook Street in Neosho where It will be processed and sent on to the state and then on to the federal government to see if Newton County qualifies for disaster payments from FEMA. Generally, only counties that have experienced substantial damages qualify for federal assistance.
Wednesday of this week is opening day for the second half of the 98th General Assembly. As always, the passing of a balanced budget will be priority one as we look at the following:
• keeping the Consensus Revenue Estimate (CRE) low to prevent additional withholds from the Governor,
• continuing the process of joint hearings between the Budget Committee and the Appropriation Committees,
• passing a budget early in session in order to have time to override any governor veto before the regular session ends,
• increasing oversight of state departments, and
• expanding the transparency of state spending.
Besides budget and transparency issues, this session most likely will find the General Assembly looking into the new St. Louis Stadium proposal. Governor Nixon, the stadium task force, and the stadium authorities have all moved forward on their own without public input or a legislative vote on the facility. Should a new St. Louis river front stadium be in our state’s future, taxpayers need to be aware of the following:
• the State of Missouri will be on the hook for new bond payments totaling $345 million,
• state tax credits will total $89 million (Brownfield and MDFB),
• state payments will go through 2051, and
• any construction cost overruns will be the responsibility of Missouri taxpayers.
The state of Missouri is still paying $12 million a year on the Jones’ Dome, with nine remaining years to pay. The main reason given for moving out of the Jones’ Dome is that it is not a first-tier stadium; yet NFL representatives explained in December that the proposed new stadium plan is also not a first-tier stadium either, though it carries a price tag of $1.1 billion. Owners of the football Rams have given no indication that they will remain in St. Louis, even with a new stadium.
It is interesting that the City of St. Louis’ leaders favorably voted on their portion of the plan, yet state legislators have yet to approve any funding. In my opinion, most state legislators are opposed to this plan. However, it still has to go through the appropriation and budget process.
I will keep you abreast of legislative happenings as the new session begins. Have a Happy and a very safe New Year.