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Wasson Report 4.19.12

Helping Missouri Farmers

Last December, the State Tax Commission voted to raise taxes on the most productive farms in Missouri by approving new productivity values. These values represent a land’s potential earnings and are used to calculate a farm’s property taxes. By voting to increase the values, the commission was basically approving higher property taxes for Missouri farmers.

Agriculture is Missouri’s No. 1 industry and vital to the economic health of our state. The last few years have been hard on farmers, though. The market is still unstable, and production costs have steadily risen in recent years. Last year was especially tough, as severe weather flooded parts of the state and excessive heat led to drought in others.

To block the productivity values from rising, the General Assembly passed House Concurrent Resolution 8 this session. The measure prevents the higher productivity values from going into effect. However, the governor has yet to sign this important piece of legislation. It is my strong hope the governor recognizes that many farmers are still struggling and approves the resolution.

Protecting Landlords’ Rights

This week, the Senate passed legislation to better protect landlords from tenants who refuse to pay rent or vacate a property, a problem that has been seriously affecting landlords across the state. Right now, if a landlord has a tenant who does not pay rent, he or she can take that tenant to court in a rent possession case. But, even if the court rules in favor of the landlord—which can take up to two or three months—there is no real way to enforce the judgment. It can take a long time to remove the tenant, and while this is playing out, the landlord is losing money every month from unpaid rent.

This is not right. Landlords are legitimate business owners, and in no other area would we allow a person to basically steal from a business with next to no consequences. These are not people who dropped the rent check off a few days late; these are people who are not paying rent for months at a time.

Senate Bill 804 would address the problem by making it a misdemeanor if a tenant fails to vacate a property within 10 days of a court judgment ordering him or her do so. The tenant has the option in that 10 day time period to file an appeal or request a new trial. They will only be charged if they fail to act. This bill is straightforward and addresses a very specific problem affecting our state. Senate Bill 804 now goes to the House for consideration.

Establishing Veterans Courts

in Missouri

The House approved legislation this week that would create a veterans court in Missouri. House Bill 1110 would allow a circuit court to establish a veterans treatment court to dispose of criminal cases which stem from substance abuse or mental illness of military veterans or current military personnel. These would work similar to drug courts, which focus on providing treatment to offenders instead of incarceration.

Veterans who have served their country, who have sacrificed so much to protect the freedoms we all enjoy, and who sometimes carry mental and physical tolls from that duty, deserve to be healed. They were willing to give their lives to protect ours. The least we can do is give them a chance at treatment and rehabilitation before incarcerating them.

As we continue to face budget shortfalls, it’s time we start looking at alternatives to our current corrections system. It can cost up to $20,000 a year to house a single inmate. Meanwhile, treatment through a drug court costs significantly less, and the rate of recidivism is much lower. It’s a better investment of taxpayer’s money, and it helps offenders integrate back into society and become productive members of our state.

Veterans can sometimes deal with many disorders as a result of going through combat, and if those disorders were the catalyst for illegal activity, we should give those veterans a chance to get treatment. We’re willing to give that opportunity to drug offenders; veterans deserve the same. House Bill 1110 has been referred to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs, Emerging Issues, Pensions and Urban Affairs Committee.

Governor Makes Available $5 Million for K-12 Transportation

On Tuesday, the governor announced he would make available $5 million of additional revenue for local school district transportation programs. This is a welcome piece of news. Budget shortfalls in recent years have already led to sharp cuts in K-12 transportation, which is particularly hard on rural schools, where districts are spread out over a large area and buses are necessary to get students to school. In contrast, urban districts usually cover a more concentrated area and often have public transportation options available.

What is especially frustrating about cuts to K-12 transportation is they basically translate into an education cut for rural areas.  Without buses, there wouldn’t be any students at the school to educate, so the money cut from transportation just ends up coming out of some other area in the school’s budget. I was glad to see the governor make this additional revenue available.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other matter regarding your state government, please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-1503; you are also welcome to e-mail me at