Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, Feb. 17, 2014
Senate Tackles Tough Issues This Week

Legislative News

The Missouri Senate took on two high profile measures this week relating to gun rights and the waiting period to receive an abortion. Both of these topics involve highly personal stances and can evoke strong emotions. I was proud to see senators debate both proposals with the utmost respect for their fellow colleagues’ opinions. The upper chamber remains a place marked by civil discourse and fair and honest discussion of the issues facing our state.

Shown above, Sen. Ron Richard, right, testifies with Rep. Charlie Davis on Senate Bill 718 during the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014.

Over the last year and a half, the federal government has attempted to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of everyday Americans. Congress has blocked these efforts. In response, the president has offered numerous executive orders dealing with gun rights. Meanwhile, states across the country are creating incredible burdens on those who wish to purchase or own a firearm.

It now falls to the states to protect individuals’ liberties. In Missouri, we’ve worked hard to create legislation that would protect the gun rights of Missourians, regardless of whatever unconstitutional measures the federal government adopts.

On Monday, the Senate perfected Senate Joint Resolution 36. If approved by voters, the legislation would enshrine in our state constitution the right of law-abiding Missourians to keep and bear arms. The bill guarantees the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of our state.

We also debated Senate Bill 519, which would extend the current waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours. Currently, a woman seeking an abortion must wait 24 hours before obtaining the procedure. The time limit was put in place as a way to ensure that this life-altering decision is not done in haste and is thoroughly thought through.

However, an abortion is an irreversible and sometimes traumatic medical procedure. Many people believe 24 hours is not nearly enough time to make a choice of that magnitude. During the committee hearing on the bill, one witness testified about the immense regret she felt after receiving an abortion, and how an extended waiting period would have given her the time to make the right choice.

Abortions are often the result of “crisis pregnancies,” which can be highly stressful and emotional. It can lead to decisions a person might not otherwise make. Giving women considering an abortion an extra 48 hours to think about their choice could prevent many of these procedures from happening.

The bill in no way prevents a woman from having an abortion. It only gives them a chance to truly weigh the consequences of what is an invasive procedure from which there is no going back. The legislation will likely be brought up again this session.

In other news, the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee conducted a hearing on Senate Bill 718, which I’m sponsoring. The legislation would allow volunteer labor on public works projects. Prevailing wage laws currently prevent this. My bill would let upstanding citizens, who want to help out their community, donate their time and skills to public works projects, such as repairing our roads and maintaining our school builds. . I was proud to testify on the importance of this bill with local Rep. Charlie Davis and thank him for his support.

District News

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is holding a number of events in our region this month. These free, educational programs are a wonderful opportunity for families to learn about the wildlife in our great state. The events include:

  • Prescribed Burn Workshop
    Location: Wildcat Glade Conservation and Audubon Center
    Date: Thursday, Feb. 20
    Time: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

    This workshop will help landowners understand the value of using fire to enhance habitat structure on their property utilizing safe burning techniques. The training is required to participate in many U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) landowner programs, as well as to receive assistance from the USDA and the MDC in writing burn plans. Call (417) 629-3423 to register.

  • Introduction to Trout Fishing
    Location: Walter Woods Conservation Area
    Date: Friday, Feb. 21
    Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

    Participants will learn the basics of trout fishing in this introductory course, including locations to fish in southwest Missouri, what equipment and bait to use, and how to clean and cook a catch. To register, call (417) 623-3423.

  • Vulture Venture
    Location: Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery
    Date: Saturday, Feb. 22
    Time: Noon to 5 p.m.

    The Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery will host its 18th Vulture Venture event this weekend. This unusual event features these misunderstood birds and allows visitors to get up and close to a live turkey vulture. After the live vulture presentation, participants can take part in a variety of activities, including the opportunity to see one of the largest winter vulture roosts in Missouri. Volunteers will set up spotting scopes to help see the large numbers of vultures along Lake Taneycomo. The event is free and requires no reservations. All participants will receive a free vulture print made just for this event. For more information (417) 334-4865, ext. 0.

The Department of Conservation also holds regular winter and spring hunter education classes. To view a list of classes, click here or visit www.mdc.mo.gov. The department recently revised its curriculum to enhance student convenience and emphasize mentorship and hands-on trainings.

I also urge local schools to look into the Aim Straight with the Missouri National Archery in the Schools program. The Missouri Department of Conservation helps train teachers, provides funds for archery equipment, and organizes regional tournaments and the state tournament.  The Department provides a $500 grant, with the help of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, to help with the purchase of equipment. 

The program teaches basic archery skills and is often taught during the physical education class for grades 4-12.  For more information, call (573) 522-4115, ext. 3295.