Some of the members of the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs.
Saturday I flew to Denver to participate in the National Conference of State Legislatures Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force. I traveled with our House Veterans Committee Chairman Charlie Davis. We were both quite impressed by the presentations of several vendors and fellow legislators at the roundtable discussion.
- military base adjacency issues and land usage;
- the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones);
- department of Defense (DOD) updates, including treatments for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); and
- updates of veteran legislation from participating legislators (Hawaii, Kansas, and Nebraska among others).
Chairman Davis and I discussed several issues in Missouri. We agreed that perhaps the most important legislation passed this year concerned child custody for deployed military personnel.
When we returned, we both served on the conference committee for SB117 which included the child custody features. Under the bill, any deployed military person has the right to attend a hearing modifying visitation rights to a child. Also, the hearing must allow 30 days before such a hearing can be conducted after the affected person returns home from deployment.
Finally, communications between parent and child are maintained even during the deployment. These are all important considerations for anyone in the military and experiencing the misfortune of being deployed during a divorce or estrangement.
On the continuing education front, Chairman Davis and I learned quite a bit about the use of drones and preserving privacy. This Missouri legislature is concerned with private property rights, and now both the chairman and I feel much more prepared to deal with the issue in the future.
Upon our return home, the General Assembly spent the week finalizing the budget for the state. The budget is nearly $25 billion for the year, and is required to be balanced.
We are experiencing an increase of revenues after several very bad years, so some increases were incorporated into the budget for the coming year. We also took action to reign in some behavior that has not pleased the legislature.
The recent cover-up and denial of retaining and sharing of the private information of Missouri citizens holding CCW permits compelled the General Assembly to take action.
Until questions are answered and procedures are changed we will intercede for the people by withholding a portion of the funding for the Department of Revenue.
The governor tried to down-play the seriousness of the violation of Missouri law by calling it a "kerfuffle". Now he has attempted to shift focus by calling the legislature "irresponsible" for taking swift and serious action to demand answers and to stop the violation of state law and individual privacy.
In response, we are using one of the checks and balances we possess, the budget. When the bureaucracy fails the citizens it serves, it must be motivated to responsible behavior.
Unfortunately, as a method of control, we must withhold DOR funding. The money is appropriated, but a significant amount will be withheld by the legislature until we find answers to the recent database debacle.
In response, the governor has threatened layoffs at DOR.
The governor's attempt to distract and shift blame to the blame to the legislature is unconscionable. On Wednesday the governor claimed we would force his hand and threatened that he is prepared to reduce the workforce at DOR. This is not necessary.
The General Assembly has appropriated all the money DOR needs to operate for 2/3's of the year. After that, so long as they continue to act within the scope of Missouri law they will receive the final 1/3 of their budget in plenty of time to avoid any layoffs.
This might be tough love, but it is necessary to insure compliance with state law.
Finally, Speaker Tim Jones announced an interim committee to investigate the DOR situation in-depth. They will work throughout the summer and finalize a report when the legislature reconvenes in September for the veto session.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working me to make Missouri a great place to live.
Serving the Constituents of the 51st District
State Representative Dean Dohrman