Sen. Jay Wasson’s Legislative Column for the Week of May 22, 2017

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Honoring Our Nation’s Fallen Heroes

State lawmakers returned to Jefferson City this week for a special session to consider legislation that could bring upwards of 500 well-paying jobs to the New Madrid area in Missouri’s Bootheel. The region has been severely economically depressed since Noranda Aluminum closed its smelter in early 2016, and more than 900 Missourians lost their jobs. In fact, the 8th Congressional District, which encompasses southeast Missouri, is one of the poorest districts in the entire country. Things might finally be looking up, however, as two manufacturers are considering moving their operations to the Bootheel.

In addition to a new steel mill, a Switzerland-based company is looking at re-opening part of the old Noranda smelter. House Bill 1 will authorize the Public Service Commission to offer lower electric rates to aluminum smelters, steel mills and other facilities that consume large amounts of electricity. If signed into law, this measure will open the door for these manufacturers to bring hundreds of jobs back to Missouri.

Although these companies will not be located in the 20th District, the overall economic benefit of so many jobs returning to Missouri will extend well beyond the Bootheel region. Good jobs are good for the entire state. We must also remember we’re talking about the livelihoods of our fellow Missourians, who were laid off and who have since found themselves struggling to make ends meet. These are hardworking, highly skilled folks who are ready and able to fulfill the jobs that would be created, and I was happy to vote in favor of HB 1. Passing with bipartisan support in both chambers, the measure is now on its way to the governor’s desk.

While special session was indeed the main event at the Capitol this week, I returned home to the 20th District on Thursday to fulfill an important commitment I’d made to one of our area families. It was my great honor and privilege to be the keynote speaker at a ceremony to commemorate the life, service and legacy of Special Agent Sergeant Joseph Michael Peters, who was just 24 years old when he and three of his comrades were killed by a series of improvised explosive devices in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan in October 2013.

A 2007 graduate of Republic High School, Sgt. Peters earned his certificate in electronic media production from Ozarks Technical Community College, before going on to serve in the United States Army in Criminal Investigation Command, commonly known as CID. At the time of his death, Sgt. Peters was assigned to the 286th Military Police Detachment in Vicenza, Italy. He was on his third deployment in support of the Global War on Terror, with the first two being in Iraq. Sergeant Peters was the first CID special agent to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

During the ceremony, Sgt. Joseph M. Peters’ Heroes Way sign was unveiled. It will now be placed at James River Freeway/Highway 60. Many of you reading this are sure to drive by Sgt. Peters’ sign at some point — perhaps every day. When you do, please remember it means a tremendous sacrifice was made by a brave and courageous United States soldier.

Finally, on Monday, Americans throughout the country and overseas will observe Memorial Day. And while it’s certainly okay to enjoy the warm weather and extra time with family and friends, please don’t forget that this holiday weekend is first and foremost about remembering and honoring all the men and women in uniform who, like Sgt. Peters, made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation, our citizens and our freedom. Each is an American hero, and we are all indebted to them.

As always, it has been an honor representing you. If you have any questions or comments about this or any other matter regarding your state government, please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-1503; you are also welcome to e-mail me at