I hope everyone is having a good start to their summer. Make sure you stay tuned to my Facebook page for upcoming Town Hall Meetings where we will talk about our residential property assessments and my proposed legislation to help ease the pressure of skyrocketing property taxes.
I am also pleased to have co-sponsored the Second Amendment Protection Act which Governor Parson just signed into law this month. Please read all of the very good legislation that we were able to pass this last session to help protect our citizens of Missouri.
Second Amendment Preservation Act Signed into Law (HBs 85 & 310)
Lawmakers took action during the 2021 legislative session to protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians against an overreaching federal government. This week Gov. Parson signed the legislation approved by the General Assembly to create the Second Amendment Preservation Act.
The act 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.
Gov. Parson said the bill “draws a line in the sand and demonstrates our commitment to reject any attempt by the federal government to circumvent the fundamental right Missourians have to keep and bear arms to protect themselves and their property.”
The bill prohibits state and local cooperation with federal officials that attempt to enforce any laws, rules, orders, or actions that violate the Second Amendment rights of Missourians. Additionally, the bill is an acknowledgment that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental and inalienable, and that the nation's federalist constitutional structure limits the federal government's authority over states.
Under the bill, any person or entity who knowingly deprives Missouri citizens of their right to bear arms - as protected by state and federal constitutions - will be liable for redress and monetary damages of $50,000 per occurrence. Local law enforcement’s ability to assist federal officials in other instances remains unchanged under the new law.
Parson said the bill “puts those in Washington D.C. on notice that here in Missouri we support responsible, law-abiding gun owners, and that we oppose government overreach and any unlawful efforts to limit our access to firearms.”
Legislation to Improve Local Government Accountability and Transparency Signed into Law (HB 271)
Gov. Parson recently gave his stamp of approval to legislation approved by the General Assembly to ensure greater accountability and more transparency on the local government level.
One provision of the bill creates the Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database, which creates an easy to use, downloadable database allowing taxpayers to search expenditures and payments received and made by counties and municipalities. The new database will be housed on the Missouri Accountability Portal.
The bill’s sponsor said the database will make it easier for taxpayers to hold local officials and governments accountable for spending decisions. “When we shine a brighter light on how government spends the people’s money, it leads to better outcomes for Missouri taxpayers,” he said.
Another provision added to the bill is meant to provide oversight for the ability of local health officials to close businesses, churches, and schools during an emergency. Under the bill, political subdivisions may only issue public health orders that directly or indirectly restrict access to businesses, churches, schools, or other places of assembly for 30 calendar days in a 180-day period when the governor has declared a state of emergency. Orders may be extended more than once with a simple majority vote by the local governing body.
The legislation also bans so-called “vaccine passports” so that Missourians do not have to show proof of vaccination in order to access public transportation or other public services. It ensures that no county, city, town, or village receiving public funds can require an individual to provide documentation of a COVID-19 vaccination in order to access a public transportation system, services, or any other public accommodations.
New House Committee Launches Effort to Improve Broadband Access
A newly-formed committee is taking on the challenge of finding ways to improve access to broadband internet in Missouri. Formed by House Speaker Rob Vescovo, the Interim Committee on Broadband Development will spend the next several months gathering data and testimony as it works toward policy recommendations that will make high speed internet more available and affordable.
The chair of the committee said, “As we are all well aware, the recent pandemic demonstrated that high-speed, broadband internet can no longer be considered a luxury, it has become a necessity, a necessity that far too many Missourians have done, and continue to do, without. “
He added that the committee will “study where we are as a state in 2021, where we need to be, and what steps we will need to take as policy makers and appropriators to ensure that broadband internet is readily available to every Missourian who wants it.” He said the committee plans to examine three core areas: access, speed, and affordability.
During its first hearing on June 10, committee members heard from the director of the Office of Broadband Development, which works to expand and accelerate broadband deployment in Missouri. The director noted there are 392,000 Missourians who lack high-speed internet, either because it’s not available or they can’t afford it. Right now Missouri ranks in the bottom five for access to low-cost internet with only 55 percent of Missourians having access to a low-cost internet plan.
The committee will continue to meet each month throughout the interim to gather information from subject matter experts, Federal officials, statewide associations, internet providers, and from the general public. The committee will take written testimony, live testimony and remote testimony between now and December 1. Based on the information gathered, the committee will prepare a report and generate policy options and appropriations requests before the end of 2021.
Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer Program Returns
Families with children who qualify for free or reduced priced meals can once again apply for Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits. The benefits are meant to help cover food costs experienced by families while their student was not doing in-seat learning due to the pandemic.
“We heard from Missouri families how last year’s P-EBT benefit helped with the extra household food costs and I am very pleased Missouri can once more make the benefit available,” said the acting director of the Missouri Department of Social Services.
It’s important to note the P-EBT 2020-2021 program is very different from last year’s program.
Highlights of the changes include:
All families must apply to get the P-EBT benefit, regardless of whether they receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamp benefits.
Families do not need to apply for P-EBT benefits for children under age six. Families who receive SNAP with an eligible child under age six will automatically get a P-EBT benefit for that child added to the household’s existing EBT card.
A child may be eligible for P-EBT if the school was closed, not doing in-seat learning, or had reduced hours at least five school days in a row due to COVID-19.
P-EBT benefits are available for the months of September 2020 through May 2021.
The P-EBT benefit is based on the school’s report of how much of the month was not in-seat learning. If most of the school’s month was not in-seat learning, the monthly P-EBT benefit amount is $129.58. If only some of the school’s month was not in-seat learning, the monthly P-EBT benefit amount is $77.75.
Each eligible student will get an EBT card in his or her name with the lump sum P-EBT benefit amount for the 2020-2021 school year. Ineligible families will receive a denial letter.
Families can download the application at the following link: https://dss.mo.gov/covid-19/pdf/P-EBT-Application%20-%20English.pdf. Families can directly email the application to FSD.MOPEBT@dss.mo.gov or mail the P-EBT application to:
Family Support Division
615 E. 13th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
All applications must be received by July 31, 2021.
Please let me know If you have other concerns and suggestions. If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet locally, please call my office at 573-751-1487, or email my office at email@example.com.