The Kirksville area’s top state government officials discussed Medicaid expansion, appropriations and right-to-farm laws at the State of the District address last Friday at the Adair County Annex.
Rep. Nate Walker (R-3), Rep. Craig Redmon (R-4) and Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R-18) met to report their legislative accomplishments and challenges they’ll face after they return from their spring break.
Walker did not commit to either side of the Medicaid issue. Walker said he visited local hospital and mental health facility administrators to solicit their opinion about the issue.
According to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, acceptance of the expansion would require Missouri to increase Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, up from Missouri’s current threshold of 19 percent for parents.
Walker stressed the impermanent nature of legislation and said he wanted to make an informed decision based on the final version of the bill, but said the optional eligibility increase and funding would probably come with some changes.
“Nothing is dead in the legislature until we adjourn,” Walker said at the Kirksville Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event. “But I do know that a lot of people including doctors, hospital administrators and others do agree that there needs to be some reform … Just a blank increase in funding probably is not going to happen without some reform.”
Redmon, House Budget Committee member, said they did not allow for the Medicaid expansion in the upcoming budget, but said anything could happen.
“That can always be changed, but to put it in there and then back out wouldn’t be prudent on our part,” Redmon said. “You can always go back in and add money.”
Redmon, whose district skirts Kirksville city limits, said one of the most important resolutions the House recently passed related to Missouri’s right-to-farm policies. Redmon said it “reaffirms” Missouri farming laws protecting farmers from “outside entities” bringing nuisance suits against them. Redmon said these laws — that make it so Missouri farmers can do business without unnecessary interference — reminded him of a lesson growing up.
“My mom was one of the easiest-going people I’d ever met until you got into the kitchen and started to tell her how to cook,” Redmon said. “And then she’d say, ‘You need to back off.’ And I think that’s what Missouri needs to tell a lot of these entities.”
Redmon was appointed chairman of the Agricultural Appropriations committee during December 2012. His review of appropriations requests from several Missouri government departments revealed what he thought were better ways to spend the money, including taking $500,000 from the “decision money” of the Department of Natural Resources and putting it toward school transportation.
Munzlinger said he emphasized the importance of government transparency and Career Technical Education. The latter, he said, is essential for Missouri business and industry.
“If you can get those local businesses and industries to work with local career tech they will be teaching those students the skills that are needed,” Munzlinger said. “But you also get to keep those people close to home and the industries are helped.”
Although the three men have more than 16 years’ experience in the state legislature combined, they said they still are excited about new issues and challenges. Despite serving as a representative and Minority Whip during the 1980s, Walker said he is in unfamiliar yet thrilling territory because he was assigned to the Urban Issues Committee. He said he’s a “country boy,” and questioned his own credentials for the task, but it has become one of his “favorite committees now,” he said.
“We’re taking up issues that are important to urban issues, and also issues for the black community and the minority communities,” Walker said.