Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, March 25, 2013
Improving Absentee Voting for Our Soldiers

Legislative Update

This week, the Missouri Senate approved Senate Bill 116, which would make it easier for members of our armed forces to vote by absentee ballot. The current process for absentee voters living abroad, particularly those serving in the military, is lengthy. It can take weeks just for the request form to be received, and then additional weeks for the voter to get the ballot. Then it has to be sent back.

The whole process can take more than two months to complete, and that’s if everything goes right. It’s not uncommon for an overseas voter, especially those in the military, to have their ballot invalidated because it wasn’t received in time.

Senate Bill 116 makes it easier for overseas Missouri citizens to vote by allowing eligible voters to request an absentee ballot online, among other provisions. This change alone will cut the wait time for a ballot by a third.

Our troops sacrifice much to defend our freedoms. It’s unacceptable some of those soldiers are robbed of one of our most important rights because of a slow, outdated system. The bill awaits debate in the House.

District News

The Missouri Folk Arts Program recently announced that Joe Hijoe, of Carthage, is one of the recipients of this year’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Programs (TAAP) awards. The program pairs master folk artists with apprentices to pass on traditions to the next generation. Mr. Hijoe received the award to teach Navajo silversmithing, an art he’s practiced for more than 40 years. He currently owns a small business in Carthage. I’d like to congratulate Mr. Hijoe on receiving this award for his efforts to keep a beautiful tradition alive.

The Missouri 4-H Homegrown Community Leaders Program (MOHOCOLA) provides grants to fund youth-led, adult-guided action on community issues affecting their area. In Dade County, the program has focused on raising awareness and promoting action on hunger among school-age students.

Members of 4-H in Dade County created a number of programs to address this issue. The Brown Bag Buddy Program is a weekend backpack program that provides needy children with nutritious, ready-to-eat food for the weekends. They also established the Greenfield Community Garden, which in 2011 provided 13 families with nearly 100 pounds of free vegetables and held a community forum addressing hunger among school children. The group is currently working on creating a portable greenhouse for the elementary school to teach students about growing their own food.

4-H is a wonderful program that has positively impacted the lives of thousands of children. I’m proud of the youth in our area for their dedication in tackling a very serious issue and thank them for all their hard work.

District Events

The Missouri Department of Conservation is holding a number of outdoor events in our area this spring. These programs provide fun, affordable activities for families. I encourage my constituents to consider attending.

The following events will be held in our area in late March and April:

  • Incredible Bird Eggs
    Location: Walter Woods Conservation Area (five minutes south of Wildcat Park)
    Date: Friday, March 29
    Time: 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

    Participants will see a variety of egg sizes, shapes and colors during this program, including the life of “Jane” the wild turkey and her journey from egg to laying eggs in the storybook “See How the Turkey Grows.” After, children will go outside to search for turkey egg replicas hidden among the grasses and leaves. Registration required.

  • Earth Day Nature-Scaping/Rain Garden Event
    Location: Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center
    Date: Saturday, April 20
    Time: 9 a.m. to noon

    Discover the beauty, diversity and hardiness of native vegetation during this workshop. Conservation and Audubon officials will share basic designs of Missouri flora, handouts, tips and more. Each participant will receive a selection of free seedlings, shrubs and flowering plants to take home. Recommended for ages 12 and up. Registration required.

To register for these events, call (417) 629-3423. For more information, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website at www.mdc.mo.gov.