Missouri legislators (at right) Sen. Dan Hageman (R-12) and Rep. TJ Berry (R-38) addressed a full house during a recent Civic and Legislative Affairs Committee legislative forum. Committee Chair Mike Chambers (standing) hosted the gathering of nearly 50 people.
Sen. Dan Hageman (R-12) and Rep. TJ Berry (R-38) engaged in an open discussion of the state session, which ends May 12.
Held in the EDC’s conference room, the meeting was led by long-time committee Chair Mike Chambers. The two legislators opened with an outline of major issues facing Missouri, then answered questions.
Both noted Missouri’s budget is one of the biggest questions, with funding shortages for everything from transportation improvements to education. Other topics included Missouri’s Right to Work law, awareness of science and technology in education, infrastructure spending and minimum wages.
Sen. Hegeman said he considered passage and signing of the right to work law a big success. “I think we’ve missed out on opportunities for years,” he said. “At least we’ll be in the game now.”
Rep. Berry said minimum wage issues include setting a state level or allowing municipalities to set their own levels. The problem is that people will travel to purchase goods and services that are lower because of taxes or wages. “People will travel to get things at a lower price,” he said.
The question and answer session was especially dynamic. Several noted that Missouri’s failure to comply with the federal “Real ID” requirement that will go into effect January, 2018 means that those who fly on airlines will need something besides their driver’s license for photograph identification, like a passport. Rep. Berry noted opponents have objected to federal requirements that involve extensive collection of data for organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security.
“Missouri is a sovereign state and they (opponents) believe that government shouldn’t be involved in everything,” Rep. Berry explained. “But others note that they (government) already has the data.”
The wide-ranging discussion also coverage areas from municipal permits for cell towers and similar structures and tort reform. Some of the issues had surprisingly local connections.
Several in the audience noted that funding for higher education is related to local issues like a Downtown Kansas City conservatory by the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Even closer is a possible branch of the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Clay County.
“Having access to world-class science and technology in our backyard would be huge,” noted EDC Executive Director Jim Hampton. “We see that as a critical factor going forward.”
Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte agreed. “That’s been one of the things we’ve focused on with economic development. This could be a game changer for Clay County.”
Health care was also on the table, and Sen. Hegeman said that sometimes such big issues are difficult to deal with because of term limits. “These long term issues aren’t addressed because legislators aren’t around long enough,” he said. “It’s become impossible to address them because everyone knows they won’t be there long enough.”