Legislative column

At the end of every legislative session, one deadline in particular looms large on the governor’s schedule. This is the bill action deadline – which was July 14 this year – that marks the final day the governor can sign or veto any bills the General Assembly moved to his desk for approval. Any bills the governor’s decided to not sign or veto automatically became law after that date.

I am very pleased to say that this was the case with my Senate Bill 613, which provides worker’s compensation insurance for volunteer firefighters. Because the governor took no action on the bill before the deadline earlier this month, SB 613 has become a new Missouri law, much to the benefit of the brave men and women of our state’s firefighting agencies. 

This is a positive and much-needed piece of legislation that will help ensure our state is doing whatever it can to provide for the dedicated souls who sacrifice their own safety for the safety of their communities and fellow neighbors. Senate Bill 613 permits volunteer fire departments to apply to the state fire marshal for grants to fund their volunteers’ worker’s compensation insurance premiums. The amount of each grant will be determined by the number of volunteer firefighters who received compensation in the preceding year for claims resulting from their fire control or underwater recovery duties.

While I am happy that the governor did not veto SB 613, and allowed it to become law, I am not happy with his decisions regarding withholds to the state budget. Earlier this month, the governor announced he would be withholding a proposed $115, 462, 959 million in budget cuts to over 130 programs and state agencies. Some of the most major withholds will negatively impact Missouri elementary and secondary education. These budget cuts include the cutting of a $5 million increase to K-12 transportation, which means fewer buses for our students (especially in rural areas), cutting an extra $2 million for charter schools and blocking a $537,750 increase for the Parents as Teachers Program, which works with families to improve parenting skills and support for early childhood education.

Senate Bill 641 is a piece of legislation that would create income tax deduction allowances for farmers and ranchers whose land has been damaged or destroyed by weather disasters and emergencies like flooding. The governor has held funding for this program hostage – around $50 million – unless the Legislature cooperates with his demands during the upcoming Veto Session on Sept 14. Other notable withholds that will affect residents of the 33rd District include blocking a $1 million increase for the Missouri Preschool Program, over half a million dollars for the Independent Living Center program, millions in withholds for programs affecting Missouri dairy and beef programs, decreases in new funding for firefighting agencies and many other areas of public interest. You can view the full list of temporary withholds at http://oa.mo.gov.

Mike Cunningham is a Republican member of the Missouri State Senate, representing District 33. Contact him at 573-751-1882 or www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham

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