With a month now already gone by in session, business at the Capitol has ramped up.  Much of my time earlier in the year is concentrated on the state budget.  Later in the report, I’ll also highlight a few other important issues being talked about in the news.
I’m working in the Budget Committee again this year, and we have been meeting in committee and subcommittees several hours each day.  Each Department submits and discusses its budget request line-by-line first in House budget.  This is a demanding job.  At the end of the session if you were to stack the budget books one on top of the other, the books stack about 3 feet tall (one of my office mates did that last year).  It’s also a difficult job keeping the focus on funding the most important government functions.
The budget will be tight this year as the state absorbs the start-up cost of Medicaid expansion approved by voters as well as a reduction in state revenues caused by COVID related unemployment.  Last year, we started the year with the lowest recorded unemployment rate in Missouri for over 50 years, but the year ended not so good.  On the positive side, Missouri is one of the fastest states recovering from the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic.
Another issue in Missouri news is ongoing administrative attempts to recover non-fraudulent unemployment overpayments (which overpayments were not caused by the person receiving the unemployment pay).  Several bills are being debated in the Missouri House to help these folks.  
Over the last year a lot of money was paid into the Missouri unemployent system by the federal government to substantially increase those benefits on a short term basis.  Usually, the state unemployment fund is funded not by tax dollars but by employers (both large and small) contributing to the fund, and if claims go up for whatever reason, the contribution rate for businesses then also goes up to keep the fund in the black.  These bills focus on protecting both innocent citizens and businesses from having to repay federal and state mistakes in making overpayments.  I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on fixing this problem.
Another bill that my fellow legislator (and friend), John Black, and I have been working on is a religious freedom bill.  This bill seeks to protect fundamental religious freedoms at a time when those rights are constantly under attack.  One bill provision would prohibit state and local authorities from closing or suspending services in established churches without a court order.  Under this bill to close a church or suspend its services, the evidence must prove both that closure or suspension does not violate fundamental religious freedoms and that any act to close or suspend is necessary to protect public safety.   Important constitutional rights of citizens must never be limited by government without a  substantial and compelling reason.  I hope that we can do a better job protecting our churches.
On the other hand, atrocities can occcur, and a compelling reason to close a “church” or claimed religious facility is using religion as a front for commiting very bad acts like child abuse.  Another fellow House member and friend as well, Rudy Viets, has filed a bill to weed out and prohibit even the possibility of sexual predators claiming religious status as a cover for preying on our children.   Everybody agrees on this, but the wording is tricky to protect against unintended consequences.  We have to preserve all of the great religious based programs that help people and help kids across the state, but strike down the bad.
I’ll try to come back to these bills in later reports and also to discuss both “hunting and fishing” and “second amendment” protection bills that I’ve drafted and am sponsoring.  These bills are different than another bill recently covered in the press, and I think provide stronger protections for both citizens and law enforcement.  
I’ll close by mentioning that I recently attended the State of the State address given this year in the Senate  by Govonor Mike Parson.  Among many other topics, Govonor Parson talked about several planned infrasture projects across the state.  He also announced approval of a new railroad overpass in West Plains.  When completed, this overpass will cross over the railroad on Independence Drive next to Leonardo DRS.   This is a project city leaders have been working on for several years, but approval in his address was a pleasant surprise as it had not to my knowledge previously been publically announced.  
Missouri House leadership has shown strong leadership this year, and  I look forward to continuing the work in the House to protect our way of life.   Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your state representative in the 154th District.
If you have other concerns and suggestions, please let me know.  I look forward to continuing to represent your common sense, conservative values.  If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet locally, please call my office at 573-751-1455, or my office email at  

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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