Roughly thirty residents gathered Thursday evening, Jan 3, to attend a Town Hall meeting with District 19 State Representative Ingrid Burnett. She discussed the upcoming legislative session and addressed concerns from citizens.
The Town Hall meeting was held at Blendwell Community Cafe in Independence, Missouri. The cafe is a mission-oriented business operated by Community Services League (CSL). The building was purchased four years ago and CSL asked residents what they would like to see the building used for. The response was a place for residents to go that was safe, community-oriented, and offered internet service. The space is multi-use and serves coffee and pastries upstairs.
Representative Burnett began the meeting discussing the strides that had been made in the previous legislative session, including Clean Missouri and Real ID.
Clean Missouri was passed on the November ballot. This amendment eliminates almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly by banning any single gift worth more than $5, requires politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists after the conclusion of their final legislative session, requires that legislative records be open to the public by ensuring that the legislature operate under the same open records law as other public entities in Missouri, and lowers campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates by establishing new campaign contribution limits for General Assembly candidates.
Burnett also touched on voter petition processes.
“I also expect that we are going to see some legislation attempting to change the petition process and make it more difficult for citizens to bring petitions before a vote of the people.”
Republicans have filed measures that would make it harder to put issues on the ballot. The bills would impose a filing fee on petitions, raise the number of signatures needed to place constitutional amendments on the ballot and restrict paid petition drives.
A resident voiced his concern on this issue, asking the State Representative what she could do about the petition process.
“I will lend my voice to that and vote against it. I am just as confused and distressed as you are,” she said.
It takes more than 100,000 signatures to put a proposed law on the ballot and 160,000 for a constitutional change. The signatures must come from diverse geographic areas as well.
Burnett also discussed Real ID. Missourians have been granted an extension in order to comply with Real ID, the federal law that will require a new driver’s license for airline travelers and not have to carry another form of identification. Missouri has until Aug. 1, 2019 to comply. Residents in states that are subject to enforcement may not be able to board a commercial aircraft without some other form of identification, such as a passport card, military ID or permanent resident card.
Moving forward, Burnett said there are several issues that will be addressed, including the notorious “Truck Stop” bridge at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Wilson Road. Burnett says there will be talks of changing the designation of 24 Highway to keep trucks off the highway without changing their truck route.
Burnett also discussed the flooding on 24 Highway near Sugar Creek. Many residents in the meeting expressed their frustration at this issue. Burnett said that MoDOT is responsible for maintaining 24 Highway as repairs are needed, but is unable to do work on any personal property without permission.
The topic of panhandling at the intersection of 435 and 24 highway was also discussed. Burnett said she knows that this creates a spike in criminal activity due to the increase traffic of panhandlers in the neighborhoods. She said state and local social services departments are working on getting services to people who accept them.
She expanded on the issue and said that all homeless people cannot be lumped together, but individual causes need to be addressed. The attendees agreed that mental health issues among the homeless is a major point of concern. Burnett said there are several organizations across the area doing their part to aid the homeless issue, but collaboration is key.
“We have a lot of good patches, but haven’t found a way to stitch them all together.”
She also touched on funding for the Division of Health and Senior Services.
“It has several line items, but we have to look at it from a different perspective. If we don’t find a different source of revenue, we will be struggling for funds to protect each line item.”
Burnett added that she will also be focusing on juvenile counsel and animal abuse. In the juvenile justice system, she said young people should not be urged to waive their right to counsel.
“They don’t know what that means. They must have access to counsel.”
She also hopes to crack down on animal abuse legislation and have those guilty of animal abuse be placed on an abuse registry.
The first session of the 100th Missouri General Assembly will be held Wednesday, Jan. 9th. For more information on District 19 State Representative Ingrid Burnett, or the Missouri House of Representatives, please visit www.house.mo.gov.