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Home » Opinion » Gary Cross: Capitol Report April 12, 2014

Gary Cross: Capitol Report April 12, 2014

Gary Cross: Capitol Report April 12, 2014

April 12, 2014

By St. Rep. Gary Cross


House Approves Second Amendment Preservation Act (HB 1439)

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives came together this week to stand in defense of the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. The House passed a bill that would enact the Second Amendment Preservation Act to protect Missourians from attempts by the federal government to infringe on their gun rights.

The bill is similar to legislation approved by the General Assembly last year that was ultimately vetoed by the governor. This yearís version invalidates federal laws that restrict or prohibit the manufacture, ownership, and use of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition exclusively within Missouri. The bill also declares that it is the duty of the courts and law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms and that a public officer or state employee cannot have the authority to enforce or attempt to enforce federal firearms laws declared invalid by the act. As the sponsor of the bill said, the legislation "allows this state and this government to be the first and foremost defender of Second Amendment rights."

Also under the bill, Missourians 19 years of age or older could obtain a concealed carry permit. The current age requirement for a permit is 21. In addition, the legislation would allow certain school personnel to carry concealed weapons. These school protection officers would be designated by the district and would serve the purpose of protecting school children from any potential threats on school grounds. School personnel would have to obtain both a valid concealed carry permit and complete a training program approved by the director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety in order to qualify for the position of school protection officer.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which already has approved similar legislation.

Preserving and Promoting Missouriís Dairy Industry (HB 1326)

Missouri has a long and proud history of being one of the nationís leading dairy producers, but recent years have seen the dairy industry in our state fall on hard times. In fact, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Missouri has seen more than 2,500 dairies close their doors in the past decade. This downward trend is part of a national problem that has seen more than half the nationís dairy farms go out of business during the same period of time.

To help reverse this trend in our own state, the Missouri House approved legislation this week that would establish the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act of 2014. The bill has a multi-pronged approach to support this vital industry. First, it would encourage young people to pursue careers in agriculture by creating the Missouri Dairy Scholars Program for eligible students in agriculture-related degree programs who make a commitment to work in Missouri's agriculture industry. The program would provide up to 80 scholarships annually of $5,000 each to assist with the costs of tuition at a Missouri two-year or four-year college or university.

Second, the bill would create a dairy producer margin insurance premium assistance program for the purpose of assisting dairy producers who participate in the margin protection program that is part of the federal farm bill. The program pays participating farmers an indemnity when a national benchmark for milk income over feed costs falls below an insured level. As part of our efforts on the state level to support the dairy industry, our bill would further assist farmers by helping them to pay their premiums for the insurance provided through the federal farm bill. It is a move we hope will further stabilize this important industry.

Finally, the bill would require the University of Missouri's Commercial Agriculture Program to conduct a study each year of the dairy industry. The program would then develop a dairy-specific plan for how to grow and enhance the dairy and dairy processing industries in Missouri, and report the results of the study to the Department and all agriculture-related legislative committee chairpersons by January 1 of each year.

These steps are ones we hope can make a positive impact on an industry that continues to have an enormous impact on our state economy. Despite the fact we have seen numerous dairy farms close in recent years, the industry continues to support 23,297 direct and indirect jobs in the state. In 2011, Missouriís dairy product manufacturing industry revenues translated into statewide total economic output worth $7.7 billion and Missouriís gross domestic product was $2.0 billion larger due to the value added by Missouriís dairy product manufacturing industries. This continues to be a vitally important industry in our state and our legislation is an important step toward ensuring our dairy farmers will thrive in the years to come.

Protecting the Religious Liberties of Missouri Students (HB 1303)

Members of the Missouri House gave initial approval to a bill this week to protect the religious rights and freedoms of Missouriís public school students. The bill that received first-round approval would create the Missouri Student Religious Liberties Act, which is similar to legislation signed into law in the state of Mississippi last year.

The intent of the bill is to protect students from being discriminated against for expressing their religious viewpoints or engaging in religious activities in a public school setting. Specifically, the bill permits the voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools. It also would require public school districts to allow religious expression in class assignments and provide students with the freedom to organize religious groups and activities in public schools.

The bill also would allow public school districts to allow a limited public forum for student speakers at non-graduation and graduation events. In addition, it would require public school districts to issue a disclaimer at these events clarifying that viewpoints expressed are those of the student and not those of the school or district.

This is a bill we believe will make it clear that students do not set aside their religious freedoms when they walk through the schoolhouse door. The Student Religious Liberties Act will reaffirm the fact that this fundamental right is protected in our public schools.

The bill requires one more vote in the House before moving to the Senate for consideration.

I do appreciate your input on matters of importance to you, your family, and community. If, at any time, you have questions, concerns or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for Missouri citizens, please feel free to contact me at 573-751-1459 or e-mail me at gary.cross@house.mo.gov. Thank you for taking an active role by voicing your opinions on our state and national government issues. Thank you for the honor to serve the 35th District.



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