Protecting rural values

Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:14 am


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The Missouri State Senate worked on a piece of legislation (SB16) that would exempt farm kids from the rules and regulations that apply to other businesses and industries provided they are either working on their parent’s or close relatives’ farms. There is a provision in the bill that would allow for a child to work on any family farm as long as they have the consent of their parents.

This issue attracted national attention in 2012 when the U.S. Dept. of Labor proposed new rules that would have prohibited many farm kids from doing routine chores on their family’s farm. Public outcry was so great that these proposed rules were finally scrapped in April 2012, but the incident put farm families on alert that their way of life could come under attack at any time. SB 16 is a proactive approach in Missouri to head off a potential similar situation. The legislation needs one more vote before being sent to the House of Representatives.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has been meeting every day, slowly making our way through pages of documents and billions of dollars. Although revenue is coming in at a larger than anticipated amount, the state is still on lean times. Much of the money that is spent is dedicated to a particular source or purpose. Most of this money comes in the form of fees, surcharges, dedicated taxes or federal dollars. The amount over which the legislature has an actual say in how it is spent comes to only about a third of the overall budget. This money is called General Revenue.

Sometimes even General Revenue dollars carry restrictions on how they are spent. There is a fund within the Department of Public Safety that is used to purchase vehicles, boats, and aircraft. By law this money cannot be spent for vehicle maintenance and repairs, even if that is a more pressing need than additional vehicles. I introduced a bill to remove this restriction in order to allow the money to be spent where it is needed. It was to have a committee hearing this week before the weather forecast cancelled the meeting. It will be heard next week.