By Marie Lasater
The guest speaker at the regular monthly meeting of the Texas County Republicans was our State Representative for the District 142, Robert Ross.
Taking a moment to discuss the resignation of Governor Greitens, and moving forward with Mike Parson at the helm, Ross stated, ”There were things I agreed with (regarding Greitens), and things I disagreed with. I feel very confident about the direction Mike Parson is going to take our State. The new Governor will be great for rural Missouri and agriculture. At the end, Greitens had not one friend in the Senate – not the case with Parson.”
He continues, saying, “This past session was the most successful legislation session I’ve seen in my six years, with 2,800 bills filed. The House and Senate passed 142 bills, with Greitens signing 77 of those just before he left office.”
Ross reviewed a few recent bills in the legislative hopper, beginning with the ELD mandate, an Obama era regulation that essentially aids large trucking companies to force the smaller companies out of business by requiring electronic driving logs. Large companies already have these logs, but they are cost-prohibitive for the smaller companies. HR 5213 was filed by Ross to get rid of the original resolution and was passed on April 3, 2018.
Another bill sponsored by Ross is reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools Act, HR5214, which supplements funding for schools in communities with Federal Lands. Tax-exempt federal lands greatly reduce state and local property taxes that support local school districts, impacting those in our area.
As an active member of the budget committee, Ross has consistently fought to prevent any tax money going to Planned Parenthood for abortions. A previous bill introduced by Kurt Shafer in the Senate and Ross in the House required forms to be sent out to the various entities certifying that they ware not performing abortions, but Planned Parenthood apparently set up separate corporations in the same building to deny that they were the ones performing the procedure. Missouri lawmakers this year wrote the state budget blocking funding from going to “any abortion facility” and “any affiliate or associate thereof.” This language was added by floor vote in the House and remains in the final budget. Ross is confident it will get passed.
Another bill on the table involves Worker’s Compensation premiums for volunteer firefighters. In order to fund this compensation, one million dollars added into the budget last year, but was withheld by Greitens due to projected diminished state revenues. Ross feels sure Governor Parson will fund the effort this year.
Ross also discussed the amount of taxpayer dollars being expended on behalf of the Missouri Department of Conservation, including a $70,000 per year advertisement at Busch Stadium.
“Why would a state agency have to tell you what a great state agency they are with our tax dollars?” questioned Ross.
They are currently spending about two million dollars annually, and Ross is seeking prohibitions placed on that spending in the budget.
The decision earlier this year to defund all but $1 per year for sobriety checkpoints was mentioned. Led by Republican Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, the chamber voted for the second year in a row to strip all but $1 from the state funding of checkpoints, meaning the cost will essentially be borne by money the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) receives for drunk driving prevention efforts that is earmarked for “saturation patrols;” money they receive from the federal government through The National Highway Safety Act. A saturation patrol is a law enforcement tactic in which a large number of officers are concentrated into a small geographic area to spot crime, as opposed to “having checkpoints on both sides,” possibly a violation of Civil Rights.
As the Chair of the Professional Regulations committee, Ross feels that sometimes these regulations are not related to safety and health concerns, but can be used to drive others out of business. A classic example was the previously required $15,000 worth of education to be a licensed to braid hair in Missouri. “We can’t regulate an occupation that isn’t currently regulated, and if needed, starting with the least restrictive (is indicated),” stated Ross.
One overly restrictive law in Missouri was modified, reducing the penalty for boating with no life jacket from a Class D misdemeanor to an infraction. Also, during the past few months, over 400 unnecessary board appointments from over 200 state boards have been eliminated. Many of these seats have remained unfilled for a period of time. Ross also discussed getting rid of the state merit system, which “killed morale, and made it hard to get rid of bad employees.”
Regarding the prevailing wage bill, that Ross supports, but says, “It’s not as good as it should have been,” has been limited to projects of $75,000 and under. According to Ross, prevailing wage statutes make local wages artificially higher, with “Fort Leonard Wood rates higher than St. Louis or Kansas City.” In regard to Right-To-Work, Ross stated “I voted for it every time, and will do so on the August ballot.”
Questions were posed to Ross regarding the legality of the appointment of a Lt. Governor (Mike Kehoe). According to Ross, the statutes on the issue are unclear or conflicted, and a previously proposed special election requirement was vetoed in the past by then Governor Jay Nixon. Parson “is on pretty solid footing making that appointment,” declared Ross.
When queried regarding the current fence around our State Capitol, Ross had this to say, “We have a magnificent State Capitol. Best in the nation. It is fenced off now for two years as improvements are being made, including cutting stone from the original quarry for renovations.”