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At the Capitol, we are heading into the final weeks of our spring legislative session. Again this year, the final few weeks of spring session will be our busiest.

This past week, the Senate began reviewing the 2024-2025 Missouri budget. The budget process starts in the House, and when approved, it is sent to the Senate. By our Missouri Constitution, both sides must finish next fiscal year’s budget (July 1-June 30) no later than May 10. All other legislation must be completed by the following week no later than 5 p.m. on May 17. If those deadlines are not met, an additional special session will be required.  

Since I have had the honor of serving in the House, I’ve been assigned to the House Budget Committee and as an appropriation vice chair. It’s one of the hardest-working committees in the Capitol, and arguably, the most important. Maintaining a balanced budget is critically important to our state’s future.

It’s been great serving in the House during a time that our state economy has been consistently growing stronger. With growth brings more tax dollars, but also the opportunity for more tax cuts. It’s been my honor to vote for the largest income tax cut in Missouri history and to be the author and sponsor of a separate $300 million tax cut that this year eliminates all Missouri state income taxes when paid out on Social Security and disability income.  

Each year, a portion of the budget is also allocated to help finance special project funding in select counties and communities across the state. I fight for the support of those limited funds for our communities. I try to avoid talking about budget requests until each is signed by the Governor, but I’ve been getting a few calls about one specific request. Please remember that any budget request can be changed or eliminated (including by governor line item veto) until finally signed and approved.

One of the coolest and totally unique collections of folk art in the world is located in West Plains. It’s called the L.L. Broadfoot collection. Broadfoot traveled the isolated Ozarks hills in the 1930s and created over 130 drawings of Ozarks pioneers. Not only was Broadfoot a talented artist, but he was also a historian, and collected stories of the pioneers using their own words. Their words are words of struggle, determination, tenacity, hard work, and kindness. More than any other medium I can imagine, Broadfoot creates a picture in the mind’s eye of the distinctiveness of who we have been and who we are as a people living in the Ozarks. And I can’t think of a more valuable lesson that our kids can learn from than the stories told and life lived by our pioneers.   

I strongly believe that the unique Ozark spirit highlighted in the collection must be respected and preserved for all future generations, and that’s why I’ve been fighting hard for this special budget request. Again, please remember that this special request may never make it through final approval, but I have my fingers crossed.

You can follow this request through the budget process under line item 20-377, it was titled by our budget people as supporting an “Ozark Cultural Center.” If approved, it would fund a joint preservation and building project led by local community representatives, Missouri State University-West Plains, many local organizations, and representatives of the E.L. and Vesta Harlin Charitable Trust (the Broadfoot collection trust).

This coming week is also a big week for me in the Senate. As House Judiciary Chair, it’s part of the job that I take very seriously to vet, hear evidence, and then to pass through committee legislation that will protect public safety and promote justice. There are three comprehensive judicial bills that were initiated this session in House Judiciary. Two of these bills are comprehensive civil bills (HB 1886 and HB 2064) and one is a comprehensive criminal/public safety bill (HB 2700). All three bills have now passed out of the House and were expected to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee at 2 p.m. today.

To keep the length of this report down, I’ll just highlight the criminal bill today. HB 2700 includes language Gov. Mike Parson recently discussed in a press conference about cracking down on human trafficking and safeguarding our children from abuse.

Other key points of HB 2700 include: 1. Enhancing penalties against drug dealers causing serious physical injury or death to others through their illegal sales; 2. Enhancing penalties for aggravated fleeing from law enforcement causing serious physical injury or death; 3. Adding other violent crimes to the state offender registry; 4. Creating better safeguards for child victims testifying in court; 5. Increasing jury pay; 6. Increasing state reimbursement to counties for holding state prisoners; and 7. Increasing compensation for death of an officer killed in the line of duty.

Before I close, I’d like to talk about Stan Smith who recently passed away. Stan was a very special person and a retired juvenile officer. Stan served the state, our juvenile office, and the kids of Missouri for more than 30 years, and was one of my closest friends. He was an outstanding college football athlete and a terrific softball player on the “Shysters” softball team that we played together on many years ago. He was a very devoted son, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Advocating at the state capitol, he was instrumental in promoting stronger and safer laws protecting kids across the state and modernizing our juvenile code. Through his hard work and a lifetime commitment to always do the right thing, he was instrumental in helping build one of the best juvenile departments (and recognized as such) throughout the state. We miss you buddy, but I know we’ll see each other again on the other side. 

If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet locally or at the Capitol, please call Becky Connell at my office at 573-751-1455, or email my office at david.evans@house.mo.gov. We appreciate hearing from you.