I hope everyone is having a good week! I have been in Seattle, Wash., for the National Conference of State Legislatures--Legislative Summit and Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force meeting. It has been a productive gathering, and always a pleasure to meet with legislators from other states. This capitol report has a few notes from the meeting and some other statewide news.
Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force
As I am writing, I am finishing up a meeting in Seattle with NCSL Military and its Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force.
This year the emphasis has been on veteran health and workplace transition.
We had several presentations in the Task Force concerning veteran suicide, which has risen to 22 a day. This problem is overwhelming veteran health care, but some responses are being made. A few states have enacted legislation requiring mandatory suicide prevention training to enhance the ability of medical professionals to recognize the signs of depression and suggest paths of preventative care. Also, there are several non-profit groups helping veterans readjust to civilian life and transition their military skills to the civilian workforce. These organizations vary greatly in their focus of adjustment, but all concentrate on making life meaningful after military service.
Notes from Washington
Two noted speakers joined us in Seattle, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and journalist William Kristol. Both gave their perspectives on several issues including military cutbacks. It is fair to note in summary that both are very concerned about the long-term effects of these cutbacks on military readiness. This has been a theme for many at this conference, not just these two speakers, and will certainly prove to be an issue, along with the Iranian nuclear treaty, for Congress when they reconvene after Labor Day. The spending will be a point of contention with the new budget, and this appears to be another tough fight over money on Capitol Hill.
Legislators Ask Governor to Arm National Guard
Following the tragic shooting in Tennessee that took the lives of five soldiers, legislators in Missouri called on Governor Nixon to allow members of the National Guard to be armed. Lawmakers stressed the importance of allowing National Guard members to defend themselves and their families on American soil. They also noted that governors in several other states, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana, quickly moved to allow the members of the National Guard in those states to be armed.
Access Missouri Scholarship Funding Increased
Some good news finally comes for families with children heading off to college, as the Governor has released funding to allow for increased scholarship awards. The governor released funding from the fiscal year 2015 budget that will allow scholarship amounts for the Access Missouri program to increase. The maximum award will increase for students who attend two-year schools to $850 from the current level of $660. For students who attend four-year colleges, the amount will increase from $1,500 to $1,850.
Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday
Finally, just a reminder that this weekend is the state sales tax holiday for back-to-school items.
This year's three-day period, Aug. 7-9, allows parents to buy such items as clothing, school supplies and computers without having to pay the state sales tax of 4.225 percent. Additionally, some local governments have also chosen to participate in the holiday, which means parents in these areas will be able to save even more in sales tax.
This sales tax holiday is a great way for Missourians to stretch their dollars by making the cost of going back to school a little more affordable. However, it is important to note that the school supply tax exemption has a limit of $50 per purchase, while the clothing exemption has a $100 limit, and the computer tax exemption has a limit of $3,500.