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The economic importance of rail

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. to speak with Missouri’s leaders about how attracting businesses and achieving economic growth is reliant on a transportation network that can move Missouri goods around the world. Over the last few years, there has been much debate in the General Assembly on how, with tight budgets, the state should fund upgrades to our aging highway infrastructure. Yet while the General Assembly and Congress continues this debate, one industry is already doing its part. America’s freight railroads invested at record levels – over $25 billion in 2013 – to grow and improve the national rail network.

Think about that for a moment: privately owned companies are spending far more than most state departments of transportation spend on highways each year. That is staggering. And these are private dollars, not taxpayer money, going into infrastructure investments that benefit all of us. That is why I am pleased to include freight rail as a tool for building our economic future.

Consider the impact freight rail has in Southeast Missouri, where our farmers’ crops and manufactured goods are connected to the rest of the world by shipping on rail. With the SEMOPort and soon the new port in PerryCounty, we can load truck trailers or barge containers going in and out of our ports on the Mississippi and ship them for the long haul on rail. Freight railroads are connecting Southeast Missouri to the world.

Today, railroads, which operate under strict but balanced federal regulations, are reinvesting billions each year. To maintain that level of investment, it is important that Congress not change the current regulatory environment. We have a rail industry that is not only thriving, but driving economic growth and job creation here at home and nationwide. Both here in Missouri and across the nation, our economic future truly is riding on rail.

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House approves Second Amendment Preservation Act (HB 1439)

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives came together this week to stand in defense of the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. The House passed a bill that would enact the Second Amendment Preservation Act to protect Missourians from attempts by the federal government to infringe on their gun rights.

The bill is similar to legislation approved by the General Assembly last year that was ultimately vetoed by the governor. This year’s version invalidates federal laws that restrict or prohibit the manufacture, ownership, and use of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition exclusively within Missouri. The bill also declares that it is the duty of the courts and law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms and that a public officer or state employee cannot have the authority to enforce or attempt to enforce federal firearms laws declared invalid by the act. As the sponsor of the bill said, the legislation “allows this state and this government to be the first and foremost defender of Second Amendment rights.”

Also under the bill, Missourians 19 years of age or older could obtain a concealed carry permit. The current age requirement for a permit is 21. In addition, the legislation would allow certain school personnel to carry concealed weapons. These school protection officers would be designated by the district and would serve the purpose of protecting school children from any potential threats on school grounds. School personnel would have to obtain both a valid concealed carry permit and complete a training program approved by the director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety in order to qualify for the position of school protection officer.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which already has approved similar legislation.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this issue, and I will do my best to update you as this bill moves forward.

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