I hope everyone enjoyed the snow whatever amount your area received. As I traveled through the district last week, the snow was from hardly anything in some areas to several inches deep in other areas. I was thankful at my house we only received a couple of inches. However, the forecast currently shows old man winter may once again hit this weekend. Be careful as you travel the slick roads and remember to check on the elderly.

Members of the House and Senate gathered in the House Chamber on Wednesday afternoon to hear Governor Parson share his vision for the state. Parson delivered his annual State of the State address where he unveiled the budget items and policy initiatives he wants to put in place with the help of the legislature.

In his speech, Parson outlined priorities that include key investments in workforce development, new investments to support and improve the state’s infrastructure, improving access to health and mental health care, and downsizing government by consolidating two correctional centers.

Some of Parson’s proposals include:

• A new scholarship program called Fast Track that will help adults over 25 get the certification or training they need to fill a skill gap.

• An investment in Missouri One Start, which is a consolidated, streamlined version of the Missouri Works Program, that will help new and expanding businesses by providing and covering the costs of training for employees.

• Investment in the Missouri Excels Workforce Initiative to develop and expand employer-driven education, training programs, and initiatives to substantially increase educational attainment.

• A bonding initiative to address the 250 bridges statewide that are in need of critical repair or replacement.

• A cost-share program that will allow the state to partner with local communities to help address the most serious infrastructure needs in their areas.

• Increasing access to broadband Internet in rural areas.

• Funding for improvement projects for Missouri’s ports so that they can continue to move billions of dollars in cargo each year.

• Expanding access to mental health services.

• Enhancing telemedicine options to provide better care to rural Missourians.

• Improving opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery across the state for high-risk and vulnerable populations.

• Curbing costs in the state’s Medicaid program while also improving the quality of care for Medicaid recipients.

• Restructuring the state’s corrections system by consolidating Crossroads Correctional Center with Western Missouri Correctional Center, and providing significant pay increases to correctional officers in an effort to retain employees.

The Missouri House took action this week to implement the rules members will follow and operate under for the 100th General Assembly. The rules govern everything from the authority granted to the Speaker to refer bills, to the makeup and responsibilities of House committees, to the decorum that must be maintained in the House Chamber.

The rules adopted this week also contain a new provision meant to address the sensitive and private information that constituents sometimes share with their elected officials. Voters approved Amendment 1 in November to make member emails and correspondence subject to the state’s sunshine law. Members are working diligently to fulfill the sunshine requests they have received, and to make government as open and transparent as possible. At the same time, they remain sensitive to the need to maintain the privacy of constituents who share personal information that is not meant for public consumption.

The new rule approved by the House simply gives members the ability to protect the private, personal information shared by their constituents. Members have noted that constituents sometimes share information ranging from a social security number to the details of a serious health condition. In an effort to keep this type of information out of the public domain, House members voted this week to protect their constituents and the private information they share. I feel this is very important as there is not a day goes by that a constituent doesn’t share confidential information with me regarding an issue they are having.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr recently announced the House Committee chairmanships and his selections for Republican membership on House committees for the 100th General Assembly.

Republican lawmakers appointed by the Speaker to committee chairs include farmers, military veterans, clergy members, former teachers, small business owners and attorneys. Chairpersons come from all geographic regions of the state, including the state’s largest cities and rural Missouri.

The work done by the committees is one of the most integral parts to the policy-making process. It is in committee hearings where every Missourian has the opportunity to testify on bills before the General Assembly. These committees also hear directly from stakeholders of legislation, ask the tough questions to thoroughly examine all the complexities of legislation, and make recommendations to the full body on bills that should proceed through the process.

There are 43 standing, special and subcommittees in the House of Representatives that specialize in specific areas of legislation. The Speaker appoints all majority members of regular standing committees and all members to special standing committees – which have the authority and duties of a regular standing committee.

For a complete listing of all committees and their members, please visit www.house.mo.gov and click the “Committees” tab at the top of the page.

Missourians who are eligible for Food Stamp benefits will receive their February Food Stamp benefit by January 20, 2019. The United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Food Stamp program, informed states that payments for the February Food Stamp or SNAP benefit must be issued early due to the partial federal government shutdown.

Missourians will be notified of this change and must be aware that this is an early payment of the February Food Stamp benefit.

Food Stamp benefits are 100 percent federally funded and are not appropriated through the Missouri state budget. In December 2018, the Food Stamp program served 327,740 Missouri families or 703,365 individuals and the average benefit per household was $256.81 or $119.66 per person. Each month, Missouri receives approximately $84.2 million in Food Stamp benefits from the federal government.

Although the Department of Social Services, Family Support Division continues to accept and process Food Stamp applications, FNS does not guarantee eligible applicants will receive Food Stamp benefits while the partial federal shutdown is in effect.

I enjoyed traveling the district visiting people and meeting with constituents with issues. If you would like to meet with me personally, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Also if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions contact me at any time. 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.

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