Missouri State Representative Gary Fuhr (R-97th District) called the recent special session, the “not-so-special” session.
While the regular session accomplished fixes in the Puppy Mill law and the special session improved the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, both sessions failed to come to a consensus on the China Hub and a firm job creation plan, he said.
“I think the No. 1 goal still has to be creating the conditions for jobs in the state of Missouri,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that government doesn’t create jobs, they create the conditions for jobs in the state of Missouri.”
Fuhr addressed 20 residents in a town hall meeting at the Tesson Ferry Branch of the St. Louis County Library Wednesday night. Local representatives Marsha Haefner (R-100th District) and Cloria Brown (R-85th District) also attended.
“We need to create a business-friendly environment in Missouri,” he said. “We didn’t make the situation worse, but haven’t helped as much as we could.”
The Puppy Mill law, passed by voters in Nov. 2010, had restrictions that would put reputable, licensed breeders out of business while imposing no regulations on unlicensed breeders.
The corrected law calls for more inspections on all breeding facilities, including unlicensed operations.
The was aimed at restricting student and teacher communication through social media. Originally forbidding any contact, including text messaging, Fuhr said the bill now requires school districts to institute a policy covering social media contacts.
Fuhr said the improvements were necessary, but only scratched the surface of what needed to be done. One issue that died in both the regular and special session was Aerotropolis, or the , which would have given incentives to businesses for a China trade hub at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
Fuhr said the hang-up stemmed from disagreements over tax credits given to companies.
“There was something in there everyone liked, and something in there everyone disliked,” he said, adding that in the end, there were too many versions of the bill that came out right before the vote, so most voted no.
Fuhr also addressed the proposed 2012 Missouri budget, and its almost $500 billion shortfall in the general revenue fund. Revenues are estimated at $7.29 billion, while the total appropriations from general revenue is at $7.8 billion.
The general revenue fund makes up 34 percent of the $23.2 billion general operating budget. The state receives another $7.5 billion from the federal government and $7.8 billion from other sources, such as highways and roads, cigarette taxes and the lottery and gaming industry.
Fuhr attributes the shortfall to several factors:
- Uncertain economic conditions
- Decline in gaming industry
- Disaster recovery (Joplin)
- Reduction in federal funds
- Health care cost increases
Another rising cost is the state’s corrections department. Fuhr said that while crime is down, the number of criminals and the cost to incarcerate them is rising; it costs approximately $39,800 per year for an incarcerated offender.
Fuhr, a former FBI agent, serves on the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Committee and is working to look at changes in the sentencing and corrections departments.
“We’re looking for alternative ways to keep safe but to still be smart about the way we spend your tax dollars for public safety and corrections,” he said.