I hope this finds everyone doing well. Now that session is over we all get to reacclimate ourselves back to “normal.” For me, it’s life back on the farm every day. As many of you know, agriculture is the number one industry in the state, and it is planting season. All of the rains and cool temperatures have put a damper on everyone, even if you are not a farmer, but it looks like Mother Nature decided to grant us sunshine and warmer days. For me, I have some corn I need to replant then get started with soybeans (the number one crop in Missouri).
My calendar is quickly filling up with different events across the district and state. One of those was this past Thursday when I had the pleasure of introducing Senator Roy Blunt when he made a stop in Marshall to listen to business owners with a myriad of concerns. If there is an event coming up that you think I should know about, feel free to email me and let me know. I hope everyone has had an enjoyable start to the summer.
My Legislative Assistant, T.C. Farrar, or I will be happy to assist in any way that we can. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve the 51st District of the Missouri House of Representatives.
Lawmakers Call for Special Session for Pro-Life Policies
One of the issues left on the table from the 2021 legislative session is the renewal of a tax on hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies that accounts for more than $2 billion in funding for Missouri’s Medicaid program. Now, as the governor contemplates calling a special session to address the issue, members from both chambers are asking him to include strong pro-life provisions in any bill considered by the legislature.
Thirty-eight legislators from the House and Senate signed a letter asking Gov. Parson to include “a general call to protect Missouri taxpayers and others from being forced to directly or indirectly fund abortion – such as by being forced to fund abortions or abortion access, to reimburse for abortion-causing drugs and devices, or to send tax dollars to organizations that perform or induce elective abortions and their affiliates.”
Missouri’s Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) program began as a voluntary program, but it was expanded and enacted into law as a provider tax in 1992. Hospitals provide funds to the state, and Missouri’s Medicaid program, which is now called MO HealthNet, uses these funds to earn federal matching dollars. The FRA is typically renewed each year by the legislature, but debate this session became bogged down in the Senate as lawmakers could not reach a final agreement on the inclusion of pro-life language.
The state has until Sept. 30 to approve a renewal of the FRA. The governor has stated he will not call a special session on the issue until lawmakers reach an agreement and have a plan in place to renew the tax.
The House Budget Committee Chairman said, “An FRA extension is critical to funding Missouri Medicaid, our state’s most expensive program. I’m interested in working with Governor Parson and my fellow legislators to reach an amicable solution as soon as possible.”
The letter from the group of pro-life lawmakers concludes by saying, “Gov. Parson, we urge you to exercise responsible pro-life leadership by making a general call for a special session to prohibit direct and indirect funding of abortion and abortion-related services — leaving it to the Missouri General Assembly to best craft pro-life legislation to be sent to your desk for your signature. To echo the words of President Reagan from 33 years ago, let us unite as Missourians to protect the unborn with legislation that would stop all Missouri funding for abortion.”
Discussion on Critical Race Theory Continues in Missouri General Assembly
Another issue that received extensive discussion but ultimately did not pass into law is a restriction on the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in Missouri schools. Now, the chairs for education committees in the House and Senate have issued a letter asking the governor to call a special session so lawmakers can pass a measure that will prohibit CRT and materials related to the 1619 project from being taught in public schools.
The letter notes that “Over the last several months many parents and public school employees have expressed concerns that their schools are actively incorporating changes to their curriculum by teaching critical race theory and/or ‘The 1619 Project’. These curriculum changes are divisive and unnecessary.”
The letter also notes there were attempts during the 2021 legislative session to add language that would “prevent or curtail the teaching of these radical concepts.” It adds that none of the efforts were successful.
Supporters of critical race theory say it is meant to help understand and address inequality and racism in the United States. CRT recognizes that systemic racism is part of American society and challenges the beliefs that allow it to flourish. Opponents of CRT say it poisons discussions on racism. President Trump banned federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training related to critical race theory. His administration called it “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”
States such as Tennessee, Oklahoma and Idaho have already passed laws to ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools. In addition to the call for a special session on the issue in Missouri, the state’s attorney general has joined with 19 other attorneys general from around the country to submit a letter to the United States Department of Education to oppose the teaching of CRT.
Missouri’s attorney general said, “American history, civics, and historical literacy are a crucial facet of education in schools across the state and country. Reframing that history through the flawed and harmful lens of critical race theory and the 1619 Project would be a disservice to Missouri students.”
Missouri Department of Agriculture announces 2021 Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Missouri seniors in many parts of the state will now have access to fresh produce thanks to the Missouri Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. The Missouri Department of Agriculture recently announced the program is now up and running for the summer.
The program assists low-income seniors in obtaining fresh produce that is grown in Missouri. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services and generates more than $200,000 for the farmers’ market community. Through the program, more than 4,100 households may benefit.
The director for the Missouri Department of Agriculture said, “We have focused on addressing food insecurity in creative ways and this is just one example of that work. By partnering with the state’s Area Agencies on Aging, we will unlock potential for Missouri agriculture. Our farmers’ markets offer a unique opportunity to not only benefit farmers, but also to support the local economy.”
Low-income seniors in the Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and mid-Missouri regions can apply to receive vouchers that will allow them to purchase eligible foods from an authorized farmer at a Missouri farmers’ market. A total of up to 10 vouchers worth $5 each may be issued to each qualifying Missouri household. To identify the regions that contained the highest number of eligible citizens, the Department of Agriculture worked with the Missouri Department of Social Services.
Seniors are encouraged to consider using a proxy to both apply for vouchers and purchase eligible foods at a farmers’ market. Each senior may designate one proxy on their behalf. The senior and the proxy must both sign the program application in order to receive the vouchers.
Seniors may apply for vouchers at the following locations:
- Springfield – SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging, 417-862-0762
- St. Louis County and St. Louis City – Aging Ahead, 636-207-0847
- Kansas City – University of Missouri Extension, 816-380-8460
- Columbia – Aging Best, 573-443-5823
Vouchers will be available through Sept. 30 and must be redeemed by Oct. 31. Farmers interested in learning more about eligibility and participation should email the Department of Agriculture at FarmersMarket@mda.mo.gov.