My Fellow Missourians:

Friday, Feb. 3, was my birthday as it has been every year since 1950.  My wife, Marla, and I took the day off and accomplished something on my bucket list.  We toured the Truman Library in Independence.  One of my favorite Missourians is Harry S Truman.

Then on Saturday, after getting the livestock chored up well, we went to a movie in Clinton.  The movie was titled “Hidden Figures.”  It is the incredible untold story of Mary Jackson, Katherine G. Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan.  They were the highly gifted, mathematical brains behind the scenes of the launch of the first man into space, Astronaut John Glenn.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I highly recommend watching it.  Since February is Black History month, I now have greater knowledge and a deeper appreciation for their contribution to our nation and state.

On my way to the Capitol on Monday morning, I stopped by the Boring Drug Store “Coffee Caucus” in Warsaw.  I joined several gentlemen for conversation, and a lot of good information was shared and discussed.  My wife, Marla, treated us to some delicious, homemade sweet cinnamon rolls.  Boring Drug has been offering up its facilities for this daily coffee gathering for over 40 years.  My thanks to Dana Koll, current owner of Boring Drug, for continuing this great tradition!

Upon arriving at the Capitol at noon on Monday, I had a birthday celebration with my Jefferson City Capitol family.  We all enjoyed soup, chips and a variety of tasty dips and topped it off with.gooseberry cobbler.

I presented HB105, Organ Donor Program Fund Checkoff, at 1:00 in the Ways and Means Committee on Monday. Currently, the organ donor program fund tax checkoff on the individual and corporate income tax returns expires on Dec. 31, 2017. This bill removes the expiration date.   Constituents San and Deb Simaitis attended the hearing.  Chair of the Governor’s Organ Donation Advisory Committee, Deb testified on behalf of the bill.

Wednesday was very busy with three different hearings on bills I have sponsored:  HB56, Outdoor Advertising, exempts the current $250 outdoor advertising fee and biennial inspection fee when a sign is displayed by a landowner who owns the business advertised on the sign and where the business has a physical location within 750 feet of the sign;  HB106, Cemetery Funds, authorizes county commissions to use a part of the principal of a cemetery trust fund for the support and maintenance of the cemetery when the net income of the trust fund is insufficient for those purposes; and HCR8, Butterfield Overland Trail, urges Congress to develop plans, ideas, and proposals to commemorate and celebrate the historic Butterfield Overland Trail by making it part of the National Historic Trails System.

Cemetery funds:

As I mentioned above, I presented HB106 in the Local Government Committee on Wednesday.  This legislation addresses issues regarding funds for the upkeep of cemeteries.  The availability of funds for maintenance of cemeteries across the state has become very scarce in the last few years.

Many cemeteries have endowed monies placed in CD’s in local banks accruing interest, and in many cases, the stewardship of these endowed monies has been legally appointed to county commissions.   Each year, the commissioners allocate just the income from interest accrued for the funding of maintenance costs.  However, state statute does not allow distribution of any of the principal.  Because of extremely low interest rates, many county commissions are in a critical situation with no interest funds available to pay for maintenance.

Two pieces of legislation have been introduced in the House.  Representative Allen Andrews’ HB51 would authorize county commissions that are trustees for a cemetery trust fund to utilize investment managers to invest, reinvest, and manage fund assets.  My HB106 is somewhat different by authorizing county commissions to use a part of the principal of a cemetery trust fund for the support and maintenance of the cemetery when the net income of the trust fund is insufficient for those purposes.

After hearings, discussion, and debate on this issue, it has become apparent that local cemetery boards, local communities, and descendants of buried ancestors need to take action and contribute monetarily through donations or fundraisers to increase endowment funds until state statutes are revised or interest rates increase.  Keep in mind, no funding comes from state taxpayers’ resources.

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