The 2023 Missouri Legislative Session is underway and legislators have been back in Jefferson City since January 4. Every year brings a new opportunity to address items that matter to our members and hardworking Missourians, and we look forward to developing solutions in the coming months.
At the top of our minds is the rising cost of health insurance and its toll on families. I know first-hand how the lack of affordable health insurance options can dictate family and farm decisions. It is common for family members to seek employment “in town” solely for access to benefits. Health coverage is often the only factor keeping beginning farmers or entrepreneurs from taking the plunge and investing full-time in their farm or business. Even worse, some families are uninsured because they have no affordable options.
At MOFB, we are ready to offer affordable, quality health coverage options to our members, and we are seeking legislative approval to do so. This approach has already been proven in six other states where state Farm Bureaus received approval to offer health benefit plans to their members. These plans have given farm families and self-employed individuals more options for health coverage, and we look forward to working with the General Assembly on this initiative. Helping more Missourians access quality health coverage is good policy for everyone, especially for our farm families who produce food for our communities.
MOFB is also poised to continue bolstering the private property rights of Missourians. While legislation passed in 2022 initiated significant eminent domain reforms relating to high-voltage transmission line projects, there is more work to be done. MOFB will continue to support legislation that requires utility companies to restore land to pre-construction capabilities and gives landowners more influence to address concerns before the Public Service Commission.
For years, MOFB members have stood up and voiced their concerns about the existing initiative petition process to amend the Missouri Constitution. Initiative Petition Reform is once again slated to be a priority for leadership in both the House and Senate. MOFB will continue to call for signatures to be gathered from all across Missouri, rather than the current process which allows signature gatherers to focus on metropolitan areas and leaves the common-sense values of rural Missourians behind. We would also like to see the legislature raise the threshold for amending the Constitution. The Constitution should not serve as a collection of special-interest programs.
Another debate in the Capitol will focus on how to best allocate surplus state and federal dollars. MOFB members know these resources are taxpayer dollars. We would like to see these funds spent on hard infrastructure like rural roads and bridges and expanding I-70. Broadband expansion is another generational investment we must make to remain competitive.
Our MOFB team works hard every day to promote the interests of our members in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C. However, our grassroots members are their own best advocates. MOFB looks forward to connecting members with legislators throughout the session, bringing the voice of rural Missouri to our state’s Capitol. The opportunities to improve the quality of life for farmers and rural Missourians are abundant, and we look forward to working with the General Assembly this session.