Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, March 11, 2013
Legislature Passes Two Measures Before Spring Recess

The General Assembly sent two bills to the governor this week. Senate Bill 20, which includes a provision based on legislation I filed this year, renews and extends the sunset on a number of important benevolent tax credits. These programs help support organizations that provide critical aid to Missouri families. I was happy to see this bill pass so quickly out of the Legislature. It contains an emergency clause, which means it will go into effect upon executive approval.

We also sent Senate Bill 10, which I co-sponsored, to the governor’s desk. The bill creates a tax incentive to attract amateur sporting events to the state. These events are a huge economic boost to the communities that host them.  I would like to acknowledge Jim Frazier, Past Director of Joplin Sports Authority for his efforts regarding this bill.  He has worked hard so Joplin can compete in hosting these events.

The Missouri Senate approved a handful of measures this week, including Senate Joint Resolution 16, which, upon voter approval, would implement a temporary one cent sales and use tax to fund transportation. We also approved Senate Bill 29, which gives members of public unions more freedom in choosing how their dues are collected and used.

A resident in Stoddard County recently filed a lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Revenue over the alleged collecting and scanning of private documents for residents seeking concealed carry gun permits. The documents were then sent to a private company which specializes in partnering with state and federal governments.

This news was disturbing, to say the least. State law prohibits this information from being shared with the federal government. Lawmakers were justifiably concerned, but when we inquired at the department about the issue, we were assured this wasn’t taking place. We now know we were misled.
We have also been informed the private company collecting the data has had problems keeping these documents secure.  During committee, it was discussed that documents in Texas and Virginia have been stolen and, in turn, millions of identities have been taken.

Citizens have a right to their privacy, and we should be wary of any kind of intrusion from federal or state government. While it’s too early to come to a conclusion, this is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed. We will continue investigating these charges until we know exactly what’s going on and can take the necessary steps to stop any inappropriate actions.

On Monday, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced Webb City will receive a $12,000 grant through the federal Historic Preservation Fund. The city plans to use the funds to register three historic districts in the downtown area. Preserving state history is of the highest importance, and I was glad to see Webb City receive this grant.

I was privileged to hear a speech given in the House this week that I would like to share:

Today I saw a very handsome man and I wished I were as handsome as he. When suddenly he rose to leave, I saw him hobble down the sidewalk. He had one good leg and used a crutch, but as he passed, he smiled. Oh God forgive me when I whine, I have two good legs, the world is mine.

I stopped to buy some candy. The young man who sold it had such charm I talked with him, he seemed so happy. If I were late, it’d do no harm. And as I left, he said to me, ‘Thank you, you’ve been so kind. It’s nice to talk with folks like you, because you see, I’m blind.’ Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two eyes, yes, the world is mine.

Later, I saw a child I knew. He stood and watched the others play, but he did not know what to do. I stopped a moment and I said, ‘Why don’t you join them, dear?’ He looked ahead without a word. I forgot, he couldn’t hear. Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two ears to hear, the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I’d go, with eyes to see the sunsets glow, with ears to hear what I’d know. Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I’ve been blessed, indeed, the world is mine.

This story is altogether too true for many of the veterans who have shed their blood in defense of this great nation. They have come home with missing limbs, eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear.

The United States has been involved in 10 major wars. During these periods of conflicts, our veterans have served with pride. The American Revolution saw 250,000; the War of 1812 saw 286,000; the Mexican American War saw 80,000; the Civil War saw 2 million; the Spanish American War saw 306,000; World War I saw 5 million; World War II saw 16 million; the Korean War saw 5 million; the Vietnam War saw 9 million; the Gulf War, including Afghanistan, is approaching 1 million.

There is not a town or city across the United States or its properties that hasn’t been touched by these wars, burying over 1.2 million neighbors, friends and family members. In addition, 1.4 million Purple Hearts have been issued, and all but one-tenth of one percent went to the living. So, you can easily see, this medal is usually presented to the next of kin.

Loss is not new to mothers and fathers of the men and women in our armed forces who have fallen in combat. Their loss is still as painful as when President Lincoln spoke these words to a grieving mother who had lost all five of her sons in the Civil War:

I feel how weak and fruitless must be the words of mine which should attempt to deprive you from the grief of loss that is so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray our heavenly Father may calm the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memories of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.

It is fitting that we gather here today to honor all patriots who have shed their blood. This signage will be a lasting tribute to them. Thank you to all who have had a part in this.

Patriots, you may unveil the signage.

This speech, which was given prior to the unveiling of a sign honoring veterans, shows us the importance of appreciating what we have. It’s something we could all stand to remember more often, especially when we think of our veterans, who sacrifice so much for our freedoms.

The Missouri Department of Conservation continues to help the communities of Joplin and Duquesne replant trees in areas impacted by the May 2011 tornado.  This project has been a joint effort involving a multitude of donors, volunteers, and agencies.

This year the department is helping provide free trees to the homes of Joplin and Duquesne.  Applications for trees can be picked up at the Joplin Park Office at 3010 W 1st and Duquesne City Hall at 1501 South Duquesne Road or apply online at www.joplinmo.org.

For more information on volunteering, or if you have questions, please contact the Department’s urban forester, Jon Skinner, at (417) 629-3423 ext. 27.

Next week the Senate will stand in recess for our annual spring break. We will return on Monday, March 25, for the last half of the 2013 session.