Politicians talk about issues during Eggs & Issues on Friday
Posted on May 25, 2014 11:30 am CDT
Neosho Daily News
by Dave Horvath
Click Here to read the article
On the Friday before Memorial Day, veterans’ issues were at the forefront and the back end of the Eggs & Issues forum at Crowder College sponsored in conjunction with the chambers of commerce in Neosho, Joplin, Carthage and Webb City.
Each chamber hosts a separate forum during the legislative session to allow citizens to hear from federal, state and local elected officials, and Friday’s session came a week after Missouri’s General Assembly closed the 2014 session, putting some finality to the discussion.
Billy Long, 7th District Congressman, Springfield, opened by telling those assembled in the Wright Conference Center that the U.S. House passed a bipartisan bill Thursday to allow the Veterans Administration to fire people in a timely manner, “To kind of clean up what’s going on over there.”
Despite overwhelming approval by more than 10-1 in the House, Long said Senator Sanders of Vermont, refused to let it go through the Senate three days before Memorial Day, and stated, “That’s the way things go in Washington, when you don’t have the Senate.”
He said many bills passed in the House go to the Senate to die.
Long said he consistently works with constituents on veterans’ affairs, because, “The Veterans Administration is the least responsive agency that we deal with, we deal with a lot of agencies.”
He encourages veterans having troubles getting their needs met to contact his office.
“We’ve had good response with our office fighting individual cases,” Long said. “Like I said, the response time has always been the issue. The Veterans Administration has always been slow to respond to us, but we’ve usually gotten the good results.”
Charlie Davis, Dist. 162 State Representative of Webb City, closed the invited speaker portion of the session by stating that he has hammered the feds for what our government has done for veterans.
Speaking about Long, the chairman of the House Veterans Committee said, “This man fights for our veterans. This man on a daily basis takes care of our men and women in uniform.”
Davis said the state delegation — as a whole — supports veterans, consisting of many “who know what it means to fight overseas to protect liberty and freedom, not just for America but all across our world.”
Concerned about the care of our nation’s veterans by the Veterans Administration all across the country, Davis said the Missouri legislature this year approved placement of a check-off box on state tax returns that allows citizens to voluntarily donate any amount of their refund to the National Guard Foundation Fund.
He said funds will be used to build a center to take care of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries of the men and women from Missouri who come back from deployment and have these issues.
“We’ve seen the feds drop the ball, time and time and time again,” he said. “So this is going to be an opportunity where the citizens of the state of Missouri are going to be able to step up to the plate and say, ‘When the feds drop the ball, we’re going to take care of our veterans and our servicemen.”‘
Stating that a provision in an omnibus bill that passed didn’t do much except honor the men and women in uniform, Davis then answered what he called the often-asked question, “Why do you spend so much time on veterans issues”?
Davis explained that Missouri is home to two of the nation’s premiere military installations with Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood. Davis said it’s important to keep them in the state.
“Those two bases have a $45 billion a year impact on the state of missouri,” he said. “That’s a high dollar, and if we were to lose one of those bases you’re talking about economic devastation to our state.”
Davis said Missouri legislators try to pass legislation that shows that the state is military friendly. He said Fort Leonard Wood is losing about 1,000 personnel within the next couple of years.
“Imagine what would happen if Neosho lost 1,000 citizens, the economic impact on the city of Neosho. That would be devastating,” he concluded.
Losing those 1,000 at Fort Wood, in addition to wives and children, Davis said it is estimated the Waynesville School District will lose 400 students.
He said, “We’re trying to be very military friendly so that our federal delegation will help us keep those bases in Missouri.”
Davis also talked about the Carl Junction Fix, explaining that the Jasper County community was going to construct a pavilion in honor of a local patriarch of the town, until a city council member decided the volunteers that were to build the structure must be paid prevailing wages.
Taking it to Department of Labor, he said that agency ruled that volunteers working on a municipal or public works project must be paid prevailing wage.
“So let’s say you’ve got 80 or 90 year old ladies that beautify downtown Neosho, that work on the flowerboxes, and they volunteer their time,” he said. “According to the Department of Labor they cannot work there for free, you have to pay them.”
Davis said his bill, sponsored in the Senate by Ron Richard, Dist. 32, Joplin, made it past the finish line to allow people to volunteer their time and efforts.
He said, “Joplin was rebuilt because of volunteers. Carl Junction was rebuilt, when the tornado hit, volunteers came from across the country to help us rebuild; and for the Department of Labor to come up with a ruling that says can’t do that, to me is ridiculous.”
Also speaking at the Eggs & Issues brunch were Richard, along with state Reps. Bill Lant, Bill Reiboldt, Tom Flanigan and Bill White. They spoke on issues ranging from the successful override of the Gubernatorial veto on tax reductions, the ¾- cent sales tax that will go before voters in November to augment transportation funding in the state, a strong anti-abortion bill that was approved, as well as revisions to the state criminal code.
More information on those issues and the discussions of the area elected officials will be forthcoming in a future edition of the Neosho Daily News.