Representative Jim Neely's Capitol Report
This week I was able to visit with the hard workers of Cameron Nursing and Rehab Center during their monthly Q&A meeting. It is always a pleasure when I get to attend their meetings and listen to their ideas and concerns they may have.
As a Veteran of the United States Army, I like to take the time and visit the Missouri Veterans Homes. These homes hold a special place in my heart. I was able to visit the Missouri Veterans Homes in St. James and Mount Vernon. I wish to personally salute our Veterans and extend enormous gratitude to the entire Staff at all of our Veterans Homes! I encourage you to visit one of your seven homes in this wonderful state.
New Program Will Help Improve Broadband Access
A program created by the Missouri General Assembly to increase access to high speed internet is now in effect. The goal of the program is to ensure communities all across Missouri have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.
Passed into law in 2018, signed by Governor Greitens, HB 1872 established a grant program within the Department of Economic Development to expand broadband internet access to unserved and underserved parts of Missouri. During the 2019 session, the legislature approved funding for the program in the state budget. As a result, the program is now able to provide $5 million in grants that match up to 50 percent of the construction costs to expand broadband to areas that do not have it.
The broadband grant program guidelines, selection criteria, application, and frequently asked questions are available on the Department of Economic Development's website at this link: https://ded.mo.gov/content/missouri-broadband-grant-program
Guidelines and scoring criteria are now posted on the department’s website. The grant application period will be open on December 4, 2019. Applications may be submitted through January 6, 2020. Projects will be selected based on the need for servicing unserved areas of the state, meeting or exceeding the state’s minimum definition of high-speed internet, the applicant’s share of total project costs, economic and community benefit, and adoption strategies.
State Treasurer Encourages Missourians to Help Return Unclaimed Military Medals
As Missourians across the state prepare to honor the many men and women who have so courageously served in the United States Armed Forces, State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick is also asking them to help ensure unclaimed military medals and insignia in the state’s possession are returned to their rightful owners.
Beginning in November, locations across Missouri will display banners in welcome centers and lobbies encouraging visitors to search the Unclaimed Property database. Books with pictures of the medals and details about owners will also be located in these venues. Participating locations include the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, the Missouri State Museum as well as the Museum of Missouri Military History in Jefferson City, and all seven Missouri veterans homes.
Fitzpatrick said, “As Veterans Day approaches, I want to remind Missourians of the over 200 military medals and insignia currently being held by the Unclaimed Property Division. My Office will never sell or destroy these medals--but we do want to return them. Our effort to raise awareness this month about these medals reflects our commitment to returning them to the heroes who earned them. As always, we thank America’s military veterans for their service to this great country.”
A full list of medals, names, and last known addresses of the safe deposit box owners can be found at ShowMeMoney.com/medals.
Recognizing the Contributions and Sacrifices of our Veterans
It’s on Veterans Day that we pause as a nation to honor those who have put their love of country above all else. It’s a time to thank those who have risked life and limb to defend the American way of life. It’s a time to salute those who have fought to protect us from the scourge of tyranny and injustice.
It has been said many times before, but it must be said again on Veterans Day; we owe these brave souls a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid. That is why it’s imperative that our gratitude and respect for their service be sincere and abundant.
Expressing that gratitude can be as simple as saying thank you to someone you know who has served, or as involved as donating your time or money to charitable causes that work with our veterans. And for the legislature, it means continuing to find policy solutions for the issues faced by our veterans.
I’m proud to say that this year the legislature worked diligently on a number of issues that directly impact our veterans in a positive way. A piece of legislation we passed this year that I was proud to support will make sure our veterans get the assistance they need when they’re facing difficulties after service. HB 547 will help ensure veterans courts are available throughout our state.
Veterans courts utilize an intensive program of court supervision, drug or alcohol testing, and rehabilitation to help defendants overcome substance abuse, mental, emotional, or behavioral issues and keep them from re-offending. With the help of veterans treatment courts, veterans who have struggled after returning home an opportunity will have the opportunity to clear their names, to get a clean record, and to earn a second chance at life.
Another bill we passed during the 2019 session expands the Missouri Returning Heroes Education Act. This program provides reduced tuition for certain combat veterans attending public institutions of higher education. It has been highly successful during the ten years it has been in effect, but it has only been available to some veterans. By passing SB 306 this year, we open up the program so that any veteran who has served in a combat zone who lives in Missouri, or moves to Missouri, can access its benefits. We also expanded the eligibility period to 20 years after the veteran’s last discharge, and we also modified the program so that it would help veterans afford the cost of graduate level studies.
The expansion of the program isn’t just about making it more affordable for veterans to obtain their degree. It’s also about getting the knowledge and real world experience of veterans into our classrooms where they can share their wisdom with younger students. This is a huge win for veterans and an even bigger win for our state as a whole.
I’m proud of the way our state is taking action to support the valiant individuals who fought to protect our rights, our freedoms, our ideals, and our hopes. On Veterans Day I ask that we all make the promise to treat our veterans with the respect they have earned. In addition, let us vow to do that not just on one day each year, but on each and every day. Their extraordinary accomplishments have created an extraordinary debt that we must consistently work to repay. Their sacrifices have given us the nation we love, and their commitment to service has protected the freedoms we all hold so dear. For this and for all they have done, we must always be grateful.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however, I can. I can be reached by email at Jim.Neely@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-0246.