Wed, 02/10/2021 - 2:25pm admin
by Travis Smith (R-155)
What a great week at the Capitol! I was proud to Co-sponsor HB 85 the 2nd Amendment Preservation Act that protects us as state citizens and our firearms. Unfortunately, the present administration in Washington DC is bent on taking away our 2nd Amendment Rights. This bill will protect our rights here in the great state of Missouri.
I attended the committee this week regarding overpayments with Missourians in our great state. I can assure you that members of that committee are working diligently to help Missourians at this time. If you have gotten a letter regarding any kind of an overpayment from Department of Labor, please contact my office. We will do everything we can to help and continue to fight for you. Until next week, God Bless!
House Approves Second Amendment Preservation Act (HBs 85 & 310)
Members of the Missouri House gave approval to legislation meant to protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians against an overreaching federal government.
Known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act, the bill is meant to protect law-abiding gun owners from potential gun control legislation that could be passed in Washington, D.C. It states that laws and other actions that prohibit the manufacture, ownership, and use of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition within Missouri exceed the powers granted to the federal government. It also declares that all federal laws, acts, and orders that infringe on Missourians’ second amendment rights are invalid in the state.
The sponsor of the bill said, “If we fail to protect the Second Amendment rights from an overreaching government as a government entity, or as law enforcement, we have failed in our chief design; we have failed our constituents.”
Additionally, the bill declares it is the duty of the courts and law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and states that no public officer or employee of Missouri or any political subdivision of the state can have authority to enforce or attempt to enforce federal laws that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.
“We are not saying that these laws cannot be enforced by the feds. We are just saying that we are not going to do it as a state. We’re not going to use our resources to enforce their unconstitutional gun laws,” said the bill’s sponsor. He added, “Our citizens deserve and I think they demand us to protect their rights.”
With the approval of the House, the bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The House and Senate previously approved similar legislation (HB 436) in 2013. That bill was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. During the annual Veto Session, the House secured the necessary votes to override the veto, but the Senate fell one vote short of the votes necessary to complete the motion and put the bill into effect as law.
House Committee Investigates Overpayment of Unemployment Benefits
The House Special Committee on Government Oversight took testimony this week from Missourians who are being asked to repay unemployment benefits they received in error through no fault of their own.
The committee heard from Department of Labor Director Anna Hui, who told members the state issued approximately $150 million in “overpayments” that the state now wants back. Hui explained overpayments are “kind of built into” the unemployment system. The Department is expected to make an eligibility determination and get a payment out to an applicant within 14 days, generally based solely on information provided by the applicant. As additional information comes in, often from the applicant’s current or past employers, it could prove he or she was not eligible.
Hui told the committee Governor Mike Parson has made clear that he wants the Department to seek collection of those overpayments, viewing them as taxpayer dollars that went to ineligible individuals.
Several legislators said they have heard from constituents who have been asked to pay back thousands of dollars in state or federal relief, sometimes months after they received it. One constituent was asked to repay about $23,000.
One of the members of the committee said it is wrong for the state to ask people already struggling financially due to Covid-19 to pay back thousands of dollars.
He said, “Need I remind you of our median income in this state? Most people in my district make $26,000 a year, and you are asking for $11,000 payback? We are talking about keeping Missouri’s economy going. We are talking about equity and conscience. [It’s] taxpayers’ money, it is these people’s money, and frankly we are in a crisis. They need to keep it. Because that money’s already spent on mortgage, it’s already spent on food on the table, and frankly we have a responsibility to the common welfare here.”
Federal directives have given states the option not to require repayment of assistance from the federal government, which makes up the majority of the $150 million the Department overpaid. The labor director explained that Missouri is choosing to seek repayment of federal relief.
Members of the committee told the director that the state should not expend its resources to pull money from Missouri’s economy just to send it back to the federal government.
The committee also heard from a union that includes 500 school bus drivers and monitors. The union representative said many of them make salaries that would put them near the poverty level, yet roughly, 400 are being asked to pay back thousands of dollars.
“Now we want to take $9,000, $10,000 back from them? Where are they going to get it? These are hardworking individuals that did nothing wrong or fraudulent. They simply did exactly what was urged for them by the Missouri Department of Labor,” he said.
Members of the committee said the repayment situation is adding to already heightened stress for struggling Missourians. They want Missourians to know legislators are paying attention, and are looking for a solution.
As one member of the committee said, “I want people to know this: do not do anything dumb because the state has sent you a letter that says you owe them money. Do not do it. If you’re stressed out about it, stop being stressed.”
Several members have already filed legislation to address the unemployment overpayments and more are developing legislative solutions.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Travis.Smith@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2042.