This week I traveled to back to the Capitol City to have two meetings regarding the feral hog issue that has plagued our area. Our farmers are suffering tremendously because of these invasive animals.
Those who are outside of the affected areas do not have a thorough understanding of what our locals are dealing with. Currently 23 counties, all of the Southeast Region and South Central Region County Commissions and 65 Representatives have signed resolutions in regards to keeping the Mark Twain National Forest open to hunting hogs.
Representing our area at the meeting with the Governor’s office and Farm Bureau were Rick Thomspon (Farm Bureau Feral Hog Study Group member), Joe Loyd (Presiding Commissioner Reynolds County), James Gracey (TRC adj professor, Degree in Forestry w/Wildlife Management Emphasis) Rob Elder (Land Owner), and Jeff Reed (Farmer). This was a diverse group that was able to share the feral hog issue from many different perspectives. I feel like the Governor’s office was very open minded and concerned with the issue. The discussion was a very good one.
Farm Bureau stated that they did not have a position on the hunting ban in the Mark Twain National Forest. They said their members would be making those decisions at their December meeting. However they did ask that I state their policy on the feral hog issue.
“Here is MOFB’s current policy regarding feral hogs: We believe feral hogs are an unacceptable risk to both humans and livestock and support federal and state eradication efforts. We support increasing the penalty in Missouri from a misdemeanor to a felony for the intentional release of any hogs on public land or private land without acceptable confinement. We also believe it should be a felony to hold alive or transport feral hogs without a special permit from the Missouri Department of Agriculture.”
School Start Date Change to Take Effect Next Year (HB 604)
Many young people across the state are heading back to school this week, but beginning next year their school start date will be moved to later in August. With an emphasis on promoting tourism to generate additional revenue, the Missouri General Assembly approved legislation this year to give families more time to vacation in August. Tourism is the number 2 industry in our state and we must capitalize on what resources we have to strengthen our economy.
The bill approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Parson will require that school districts set a starting date of no earlier than 14 calendar days prior to the first Monday in September. Current law says schools can’t start earlier than 10 days before the first Monday in September, but also allows schools to start earlier if their school board votes to begin sooner. The new law takes that option away from school districts. For most school districts, this will not be a change of more than 3 days.
Supporters of the change say many schools have pushed their start dates to earlier and earlier in August over the last several years. The original sponsor of the change said in 2003, many schools started on September 3 but now some are starting as early as August 10. He said that in areas of Missouri that rely on tourism, businesses have seen a loss of revenue because of the earlier start dates.
“Whenever it comes to tourism in our state, the revenue that is being lost is significant, and that revenue helps us fund these schools,” he said. Our district has 8 State Parks and 2 Corp of Engineer Lakes, tourism is a major industry for our area. Businesses in our area depend on tourism revenue to help pay the bills for the rest of the year.
The change will take effect for the 2020-21 school year. The start date change is part of a larger education bill that also contains provisions to create the School Turnaround Act to assist schools in need of intervention, require school districts to share information on former employees who have violated policies related to abusive behavior toward a student, and establish a voluntary pilot program to provide for mental and emotional health education in elementary schools in the state.
State Treasurer Encourages Families to Make the MOST of their Education Savings
As families send their kids back to school, Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick is encouraging parents to take advantage of a MOST 529 account, which is an investment account that can be used for education savings.
A 529 plan allows Missourians to save tax-free for higher education expenses like tuition, books, and some living expenses. The plan also allows parents to use the money to pay for K-12 tuition. In Missouri, contributions of up to $8,000 (or $16,000 if married and filing jointly) per year can be deducted from state income taxes.
“As Missouri children head back to school, I know parents are thinking about their budgets—whether it is buying notebooks and markers, new backpacks and sneakers, or the payment of the tuition bill,” Treasurer Fitzpatrick said. “I want families to know that no amount is too small and that any money put aside for future education is better than no money.”
Parents interested in taking advantage of a MOST 529 savings account can visit the State Treasurer’s website at https://www.missourimost.org/home/open-a-most-529-account.html for a quick guide to opening an account.
Right now the Treasurer’s Office is also sponsoring a sweepstakes that will award five $529 scholarships in the form of MOST 529 accounts. Beginning August 10, Missourians can enter at https://www.missourimost.org/home/mostsweeps.html. Entries can be submitted through September 15.
Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe to Visit our Area
Lt. Gov Kehoe will be coming to Reynolds County August 28 and 29. It is not often that our rural communities are privileged with having a State wide elected official take time to visit our area. I will share more details as they become available.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112.