Residents kick off Mo. House listening tour with many concerns, suggestions

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
State Rep. Paul Curtman speaks Tuesday at the Cape Girardeau Public Library during the Missouri House of Representatives’ Downsizing State Government statewide listening tour. (ERIN RAGAN)

Four members of a Missouri House of Representatives standing committee heard from the public on term limits, taxation, spending and education programs Tuesday in Cape Girardeau on the first day of a statewide "listening tour."

State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, chairman of the House Committee on Downsizing State Government, led the public hearing, which is one of nine the committee will hold through Thursday in various cities. Curtman was joined by state Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, and Rep. Chrissy Sommer, R-St. Charles. About 20 members of the public and the media attended the hour-long hearing at the Cape Girardeau Public Library.

While the intent of the committee was to hear comments and suggestions from people who believe government is too large, powerful and intrusive, public comments covered multiple issues dealt with annually by the Legislature.

Doug Austin of Cape Girardeau said the state should make changes to laws governing term limits so state representatives can serve two four-year terms instead of the four two-year terms they may serve now.

"It would produce much greater efficiency in your office and more time spent on the job," Austin said. "All Missouri citizens would benefit, both in time and money, with this change."

Austin also asked the committee members to stop allowing amendments to be added to legislation that are unrelated to a bill's intent.

Mike Masterson, also of Cape Girardeau, told the committee he felt citizens could be just as well served with fewer state representatives than the current 163. He also said he does not feel citizens should be paying into a pension fund for state legislators who do not serve a long time in the General Assembly.

Several members of the public called upon the Legislature for action to create a fair tax or flat-tax system to replace Missouri's current tax codes. Curtman recommended the public testify in House committee meetings in the state capitol during the next regular session to show support for a change to a "fair tax," for which a bill is filed in the House each year.

Janet Criddle came to speak on Common Core standards, which she said applied to the committee's work because implementation of the standards "will bloat government." Public schools are undergoing a transition to the standards, which are replacing grade-level requirements for English/language arts and mathematics from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Cheryl Ginter, a retired teacher who lives in Cape Girardeau, said she is concerned about the number of laws on the books -- there are too many to know and obey, she said. Ginter suggested a basic booklet of laws be created for citizens.

Ginter also asked to see more working together between Republicans and Democrats and simplified state and federal tax codes.

"God got the Ten Commandments down to a few sentences," Ginter said. "Why can't the government?"

State reps. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, and Shelley Keeney, R-Marble Hill, also attended the hearing. Curtman said no Democratic members of the committee were able to make the Cape Girardeau stop but would be participating in other hearings throughout the state as schedules allowed. The committee also was holding a hearing in Poplar Bluff, Mo., on Tuesday.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

711 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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