Legislative Column for the Week of March 2, 2015

Lawmakers Committed to Keeping Military Jobs in Missouri

On Monday evening (3-2), I joined fellow legislators, U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, and statewide elected officials at a Community Listening Session at the Ft. Leonard Wood Army Installation in Lebanon, Mo. We were there to speak in opposition to the potential loss of 5,400 military and civilian jobs over the next five years. The proposed cuts are part of the U.S. Army’s larger plan to reduce their current number of forces by as much as 150,000 by 2020.

Fort Leonard Wood is Missouri’s 5th largest employer, supporting 36,400 direct and indirect jobs. This year, Fort Leonard Wood’s military construction program will inject another $264 million into the local economy. This is an economic growth engine we cannot afford to lose.

As a Legislature, we are dedicated to keeping these jobs in Missouri. I sincerely hope the presence of so many legislators, state department officials, university representatives and community members demonstrated to the federal government how committed we are to the future of Fort Leonard Wood.

Legislative News

Our Founding Fathers created Article V of the United States Constitution to empower the states against future abuses of power by the federal government. It was their intent the states would have a way to check the federal government if they ever felt it was necessary. Fast forward to today, and our country is facing some very serious problems.

On Wednesday, the Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee, of which I chair, heard four different measures calling for a convention of states, provided for under Article V, so constitutional amendments may be proposed. Those measures included: Senate Concurrent Resolution 19, Senate Concurrent Resolution 21, Senate Concurrent Resolution 23 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 24.

Similar resolutions are also currently being considered in the Missouri House. The resolutions call for amendments imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, limiting the terms of office for officials and members of Congress, and addressing campaign finance reform.

As in so many other states across the country, these measures represent a united effort on the part of Missouri legislators to address the serious concerns facing our nation’s government. The Constitution requires that two-thirds of the states must have a consistent call for an Article V Convention in order for one to be held. At this time, 24 out of the required 34 states have already issued this call.

In other news, legislation addressing how schools would be funded for the next several years was heard on the Senate floor this week. Senate Bill 424 would delay, until July 1, 2017, the requirement that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) prorate payments to formula districts if the foundation formula is not fully funded. The foundation formula is a complicated equation that determines how much funding each of Missouri’s 524 school districts receives in a given school year.

Last year, the Legislature passed HB 1689, an education bill requiring DESE to adjust the State Adequacy Target (SAT) in any year the foundation formula isn’t fully funded. The SAT is the average amount spent on each student per year. The funding amount for hold-harmless districts was not affected. Unless addressed, the provisions of HB 1689 are set to become effective on July 1, 2015.

Of course, the problem now is that unexpected decreases in gaming and lottery revenue have left the state with a funding shortfall to the tune of $50 to $75 million dollars. Because of HB 1689, the approximately 319 formula school districts would have their funding prorated for the 2015-2016 school year to compensate for the budget shortfall. This would likely result in a significant loss in funding for formula schools, while hold-harmless districts would continue receiving the same budget.     

As legislators, it’s our responsibility to make sure we do everything possible to give all of our 800,000 public school students a quality education. The last thing we want to see happen is for some students to succeed at the expense of others. While SB 424 is a temporary fix, it does keep the rug from being pulled out from underneath hundreds of Missouri’s school districts by ensuring their funding levels remain constant, at least for the foreseeable future.

Area Conservation Events

Throughout March, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is hosting several events and programs in southwest Missouri. The following is a list of some of the upcoming workshops at the Springfield Nature Center, Wildcat Glades Conservation Center, Andy Dalton Shooting Range and the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery and Visitors Center.

  • Woodcarving Demonstration

Location: Springfield Conservation Nature Center
Date: Saturday, March 7, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Visit with members of the Southern Missouri Woodcarving Artists as they share information with the "wood-be" carver, demonstrate carving techniques and show works in progress. No registration required.

  • Discover Bluebirds

Location: Springfield Conservation Nature Center
Date: Wednesday, March 11, from 11 a.m. to Noon

While your younger kids are enjoying Story Time with Ms. Ladybug, older children can learn about bluebirds in the auditorium. Afterwards, all ages can enjoy bluebird activities in the lobby. No registration required.

  • Bluebird Workshop

Location: Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery and Visitors Center
Date: Saturday, March 14, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Join us to make a bluebird nesting box. This is a great way to learn about the state bird of Missouri. Limit one house per family, and each family must call to make their own reservation. In addition to building the house, you will discover where to put it and what to expect. Bring a hammer. Call (417) 334-4865 ext. 0 for reservations and directions.

  • Crappie Fishing For Beginners

Location: Springfield Conservation Nature Center
Date: Thursday, March 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Ages: 12 and up

Whether you fish for crappie during winter or wait for them to spawn in the spring, crappie can be caught throughout the year. Join Table Rock Fisheries Biologist Shane Bush and Outdoor Skills Specialist Greg Collier as we explore when, where and how to catch one of the Ozark’s favorite panfish. Registration begins March 3. Call (417) 888-4237.

  • Bird Banding

Location: Springfield Conservation Nature Center
Date: Saturday, March 21, from Noon to 3 p.m.

Here is your chance to see some of our avian friends up close. Join us for a winter bird banding demonstration with the Missouri River Bird Observatory. Birds will be captured around the feeding stations and then banded in a location for easy viewing. Stop by anytime. No registration required.

  • Tree Selection and Planting Workshop

Location: Wildcat Glade Conservation Center
Date: Thursday, March 26, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Before you select and plant a tree, you need to ask several questions to evaluate your planting site. This is a decision that lasts a lifetime or longer. Learn to make informed decisions about your trees by attending this program. Call (417) 629-3423 to register for this program or find out additional information.

  • Discover Nature: Turkey Hunting Basics

Location: Andy Dalton Shooting Range
Date: Saturday, March 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Join us to discover the basics of turkey hunting in the spring. We will cover safety, scouting, calling, proper set-up, shotgun ballistics and much more. To register, call (417) 742-4361 or email daltonrange@mdc.mo.gov.

  • Introduction to Missouri's Raptors

Location: Springfield Conservation Nature Center
Date: Tuesday, March 31, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Ages: 8 and up

Raptors, also known as birds of prey, are an endlessly fascinating group of birds that are adapted to eating meat. Join expert birder and Missouri Prairie Foundation Technical Advisor Jeff Cantrell as he shares photographs, interesting life history information and helpful identification tips about these majestic Missouri birds. Registration begins March 3. Call (417) 888-4237.