51st District resident and FFA State President Abrea Mizer addressed the full House of Representatives on Wednesday. FFA members were also among the group of students from the Saline County Career Center along with students from DECA and Skills USA. (Contributed photo)
We have been very busy at the Capitol this week.
During his State of the State Address the governor outlined a spending plan that is in no way sustainable based on our current rate of revenue growth. Rather than try to begin our own budgeting process on his unrealistic proposal, our House Budget Chairman this week filed appropriations bills based on last year's budget (which was the largest in state history). With this we take a fiscally responsible approach based on real world revenue numbers. From this baseline we will work together to find the areas of need in our state and wisely allocate taxpayer dollars in a responsible manner to meet these needs. The final budget will be one that will represent the best possible investment of taxpayer dollars rather than the governor's plan filled with empty promises of revenue that does not exist.
In Education Appropriations we are considering our new budget. There are many areas of concern, and too much money promised by the governor. Our priorities as a committee are being sorted out now as we walk the line between what we want and what we can afford. Many of the priorities are givens, such as programs that have been around for several years and include federal funding. I have spoken with the chairman about equalizing some of funding disparity between 4-year and 2-year colleges so that this does not become a widening gap in our budget. Both serve vital missions in Missouri, and I am supportive of funding both at adequate levels.
Also the House approved a proposed change to our Missouri Constitution that would provide a new funding source for our veterans homes and cemeteries. If approved by voters, the amendment will require the State Lottery Commission to develop and sell a Veterans Lottery Ticket by July of next year. The funds raised through the sale of this new ticket would be solely dedicated to the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund, which provides funding to the seven veterans homes currently operating in Missouri.
This has been an issue of discussion in recent years as our veteran's homes have experienced a funding crisis. While the legislature found a new stream of revenue two years ago to keep the homes in operation, additional funding is still necessary for improvements and for the eventual construction of new homes. Right now the existing homes provide service to 1,350 residents, but the need for more is great as another 1,690 veterans are on a waiting list for admission. Supporters, such as I, are hopeful voters will approve a new lottery ticket that would provide funds not only for the homes, but also for veterans cemeteries and for outreach efforts to help veterans access available benefits.
In another bill, the House approved legislation that would create a state database to monitor and track the purchases of prescription drugs. Currently Missouri is the only state in the nation that does not have a monitoring program in place. Supporters of the idea say that such a program is effective in preventing individuals from engaging in what is referred to as "doctor shopping" where they go from physician to physician to obtain prescription drugs with the purpose of using or selling them for illicit purposes. The sponsor of the bill said Missouri's lack of a program has made our state the "doctor-shopping capital for the country." Those who spoke against the bill raised concerns with the private information that would be maintained in the database and the potential for the information to be hacked and shared. I considered the balance of right to privacy versus control of dangerous drugs and voted in favor of the proposal.
On a lighter note, I had the pleasure of greeting several guests to the Capitol this week. Among them were the SFCC Dental Hygienist students, students from the Saline County Career Center and the Warrensburg Area Career Center, as well as the Warrensburg High School Climb High class. It is always a great pleasure to have guests at the Capitol and I am looking forward to many more visitors in the coming weeks.
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 and Missouri. 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 with me to make Missouri a great place to live.