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21 June 2011

Neth: Summer Is Here, Junteenth Celebration, Continued Relief Efforts For Joplin

Summer is here! We are already dealing with high temperatures, high humidity and summer is just officially beginning. Hopefully we will have a few breaks from the persistent Missouri weather this year.

Session was completed on May 13, and I am in "off-season" mode. I spent last month working the family cattle farm and tying up loose ends in Jefferson City. Now, I am gearing up for a busy summer and fall with a lot of scheduled meetings and conferences here at home and across the state. This week, I am spending some time in Jefferson City to work on legislation for the next session. Don't worry though; I am also spending a healthy amount of time enjoying my family after taking several months away from home representing the 34th District at the State Capitol.

It has been great to hear the many thanks and compliments from you who have signed up to receive my emails and those of you who are fans on Facebook. My office has worked hard to stay connected to our community. Effective communication was one of my key promises when I ran for election in 2010, and I am glad that so many of you feel my office is accomplishing this goal. That being said I know it has been several months since I have sent out a capitol report. There is rarely enough information to put into a weekly capitol report during the interim. Instead I will be sending out random updates and reports when I have collected enough material to warrant a report. Due to the infrequent nature of these interim capitol reports, there is much more to discuss. I encourage you to look at the table of contents to the left to see a list of everything in this article.

Have a great summer!


Clay County Juneteenth Celebration

I was honored to present a resolution to the Clay County African American Legacy (CCAAL) group recognizing the 10th annual, Clay County Juneteenth celebration. Juneteenth is the holiday that many African Americans recognize as the day they truly won their freedom. On June 19, 1865, Texas, the last state to fully enforce President Lincoln's Emancipation proclamation, finally gave slaves in Texas their freedom.

In Liberty, the celebration included a small drama with community leaders playing the parts of prominent people in the abolitionist movement prior to and during the Civil War. The CCAAL was able to obtain a copy of the Missouri Emancipation Proclamation that was issued by the governor in 1865. I am thankful that we have such outstanding people in our community like Dr. Cecelia Robinson, A.J. Byrd, and so many others who keep the African American legacy alive in Clay County.

Liberty 4th Fest

Liberty will celebrate Independence Day activities on July 3rd and 4th. I will be in the Parade on the 4th at 4:30 pm, and following, I will sing the National Anthem on the courthouse steps prior to a short program. Corbin Theatre will once again host "Celebrating Liberty", a program at the Liberty Performing Arts Center on July 3rd. There will be fireworks at William Jewell College the evening of the 4th. You can find out about all the activities and schedule by visiting the Liberty website.

Joplin Tornado

A few weeks ago, the Joplin Delegation of State Representatives invited other representatives and their spouses to take a tour of Joplin and help in the cleanup efforts so my wife and I went down for the day. Any pictures you have seen in the media do not truly represent the utter destruction that the community suffered. The devastation is so traumatic that I wonder how there could be such a thing as recovery. I honestly can only compare it to pictures I have seen of Hiroshima or Nagasaki after the atomic bomb. The landscape is wiped clean - no trees, no houses - just rubble. We were surprised there was not more loss of life.

Recovery is under way. They are attempting to remove more debris than there was at the World Trade Center after 9/11. The dump trucks are running non-stop up and down highway 71. They are trying to assess how to best clean up entirely and then they will begin to figure out the process of rebuilding. It will be a long road.

It has been a month now since the tornado and the number of volunteers is decreasing; however, the need for them has not. There are several ways that people can volunteer - even if you are not with an organized group going to Joplin. Once such way an individual can volunteer is to just show up and work through AmeriCorps. They have a staging area set up at Missouri Southern University where you can get signed up and they will bus you to areas of need around the city. You do not have to do multiple days or even a full day. From the Kansas City area you can do a day trip where you help out when you get there and drive back when you get tired. I would encourage you to consider volunteering in Joplin, if only to see some of the effects on their citizens and what they are confronting.

My wife, a LibertyTeacher, and I, a member of the House Education Committee, are focusing on the effect the tornado had on the Joplin schools and their future. At least two elementary schools and the High School were completely destroyed, and many other schools were damaged. After speaking with the Joplin School District, my office is working to help. One of the greatest losses besides the buildings themselves, were the loss of individual teacher supplies and tools, most of which were purchased by the teachers at their own expense and not covered by insurance. There were over 200 teachers that lost everything in their rooms. I took an interest in a unique program that will help alleviate this loss of teaching materials called "Adopt a Classroom". We are in the process of working through the details of the program to see how many teachers we might be able to adopt through an organized donation effort in the 34th district. Between our local school districts, community groups, and religious groups, my goal is to help as many individual teachers as possible. We hope to have this up and running within the next two weeks and will put out all the needed information at that time. I hope you will consider helping this very worthy cause.

Town Hall

I held my first Town Hall meeting on June 2, at the Liberty Community Center. I was thrilled by the turnout. I spent most of the time giving a brief wrap-up of the session and taking questions from constituents. I really enjoyed the evening and felt that we had a good discussion of the current legislative and community issues of the past year. You can find an article about the Town Hall in the Liberty Tribune here- Town Hall.

Voter Photo ID

Friday, June 17, Governor Nixon vetoed legislation that would have mandated photo identification for most voters in Missouri. In his veto message Nixon wrote that the legislation is discriminatory to seniors, the elderly and disabled persons who are less likely to have a driver's license or government issued photo ID.

I was on the House committee that heard this bill and I voted for it. I am disappointed by the veto. From my surveys and talking with many in the 34th District, most citizens are very much in favor of requiring a photo ID to vote. The Governor and others talk about some being disenfranchised; however, I am concerned about the existing legal voters who are disenfranchised by fraudulent votes being cast. We are required to show photo ID for numerous things in our lives. To not require this small burden for something so important as voting is irresponsible from my point of view. The legislation the Governor vetoed allowed exceptions for those who did not have existing photo ID and mandated the state pay for an ID if someone did not have one.

The bill passed the House during the legislative session by a 99-52 margin. In the Senate, the vote was 26-7. State senate sponsor Bill Stouffer says he is disappointed by the veto and is calling for the legislature to attempt a veto override. While Republicans in the Senate have a veto-proof majority, in the Missouri house, there are only 105 Republican representatives falling four short of the required 109 votes needed for a veto override. House Democrats have vowed to support the governor's veto on this issue. There were four Democrats who voted with Republicans to override Nixon's veto on the congressional redistricting plan during the legislative session so a veto override is not unthinkable.

The legislation the Governor vetoed was the language for a photo voter identification state statute. Missouri voters will still get an opportunity to vote in the November 2012 general election for a state constitutional amendment that will require photo voter identification.

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