JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As lawmakers return to their districts following last week’s annual veto session, Rep. Rusty Black is returning to normal life.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for the freshman Representative from Missouri’s 7th District. Rep. Black’s father passed away just before the veto session commenced and his predecessor and long-time friend and “mentor”, Rep. Mike Lair, died only a week earlier.
As life returns to normal slowly, Rep. Black is focusing on a path forward for the people he represents. Click below to hear KMZU’s Brian Lock chat with Rep. Black in this week’s KMZU Capitol Conversation.
“I worked with [Rep.] Mike [Lair] and his wife beginning in 1989, we both were teachers at school and we became great friends,” Rep. Black reminisced. “Mike knew that I was interested in running for the seventh district seat for several years. He was a very good mentor, especially in the last couple of years of his term leading up to the election.”
“He was such a gentleman. He truly loved being state representative for the seventh district,” Black continued.
As Rep. Lair’s family, friends and colleagues remembered his life and mourned his death, many in Jefferson City were wrestling with Governor Greitens’ veto of HCB-3, or the so-called senior social services law.
The law, which provides benefits for more than 8,000 Missourians, bounced around from committee to committee and eventually landed in the Missouri House Chamber in the spring, where it was passed, and Rep. Black said he was proud to vote for that measure. When the bill got to the senate, however, the game changed pretty quickly. Senators began to “slush around” money. In other words, they planned to take money from accounts with healthier margins, such as the Missouri State Highway Patrol, to cover those Missourians who relied on the benefits HCB-3 would ensure.
Rep. Black admitted, “I could not support that before, and I would not have supported it [in the veto session].” His concern, he said, was that the “sweeping” of state accounts would create a one-year fix for the program, but would also leave the accounts it took money from worse for wear. The bill was vetoed by Governor Greitens, who cited concerns that the so-called ‘fund slushing’ by Senators was unconstitutional.
That meant consideration by legislators, and that discussion came last week during the annual veto session. Lawmakers, however, failed to override the Governor’s veto of HCB-3.
“The people I discuss things with inside the district, there are for sure two people I work with who deal with people who need assistance in their home,” Rep. Black said of the 8,000 Missourians reliant on the benefits.
“But I am concerned that that is a pretty dangerous road to go down. If we start sweeping accounts and have a little trouble, that will give reason for different areas in the state to start spending their money instead of saving it . . . but we do have a group of people really truing to fix it. Trying to come up with a revenue stream we can depend on to get that number back down. There are 8,000 Missourians affected, and that included people in my district who are vulnerable. I want to support getting those services back to them.”
Until those services can be restored to the seniors who need them most, beneficiaries will remain in limbo. If recent months of gridlock in Jefferson City are any indication of what is to come, it could be a tough path to a resolution on this front, and that is just scratching the surface of the challenges lawmakers face as 2017 trudges on.