Congratulations to Judge Randall Head on his retirement as the 42nd Circuit Court Associate Judge on September 30. Judge Head will be greatly missed in the Iron County Courthouse. We appreciate his service to our community and wish him well as he enters this next phase of life.
Helping Missouri’s Heroes (SB 306)
One piece of legislation that is now law in Missouri is meant to provide a helping hand to veterans who want to further their education. During the 2019 session, lawmakers approved a bill that expands an existing program known as the Missouri Returning Heroes’ Education Act.
The act has existed since 2008 and has provided valuable tuition assistance to certain combat veterans who attend public institutions of higher education in Missouri. The program as it previously existed provided benefits only to veterans who were residents of Missouri at the time of their enlistment and who served in armed combat after September 11, 2001. The program also had an eligibility limit of 10 years after the veteran’s last discharge.
The changes authorized by the General Assembly this year greatly expanded the program to allow more veterans to receive tuition assistance. The program now extends eligibility to any American veteran who has served in a combat zone and who is registered to vote in Missouri, or is a current Missouri resident. The new law also ups the eligibility duration to 20 years after the veteran’s last discharge.
Under the program, eligible veterans have their undergraduate tuition rates capped at $50 per credit hour. The expanded version of the program approved this year now includes tuition assistance for both master’s degree and doctorate level studies. For these graduate level courses, tuition is reduced by 70 percent of the in-state level. The new law also makes it so the cap can be applied before all federal and state aid is applied to the tuition.
The expanded program will allow more veterans to pursue graduate degrees at public universities in Missouri. Additionally, the new program will incentivize veterans to move to Missouri to attend public universities. We do not do enough for our veterans and this is a step in the right direction.
Earthquake drill to promote natural disaster readiness
September was National Preparedness Month, and now as the year rolls into October, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is again working to ensure Missourians are better prepared for major natural disasters. On Thursday, October 17 at 10:17 a.m. individuals and communities throughout the Midwest will participate in the sixth annual Great Central U.S. Shakeout Earthquake Drill.
During the self-led drill, participants practice how to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”. Endorsed by emergency officials and first responders, the safe response to an earthquake is to:
DROP to the ground
COVER your head and neck with both arms, and crawl under a sturdy desk or table if possible
HOLD ON to your shelter until the shaking stops
The recent M7.1 earthquake that struck Southern California serves as a reminder that large, damaging earthquakes can occur with little to no warning. Citizens in the central and eastern states are not immune to earthquake activity. In 1811-12, at least three earthquakes struck near New Madrid, Missouri. Were these earthquakes to occur today, there would be widespread devastation.
While damaging earthquakes in the middle of the country may be less frequent than in other areas, they can occur at any time wherever folks work, live, or travel within the region and beyond. Everyone, everywhere should know how to protect themselves from earthquakes. Shake Out Earthquake Drills are free and open to the public. Participants include individuals, schools, businesses, local and state government agencies, and many other groups. Individuals and organizations are asked to join the drill by registering to participate at www.shakeout.org.
I hope you have a wonderful week! As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. If you have an event you would like me to attend please let me know. 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.