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Columbia Missourian

Legislators respond to community

February 4, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Topics included the proposed budget and recent rule changes.

Five local legislators fielded questions on issues ranging from Medicare cuts to meth labs Thursday night at the Columbia Public Library.

A crowd of about 50 gathered to attend a town meeting held by the League of Women Voters. The legislators took questions from the audience on a variety of subjects. The common topic in all the legislators’ responses was Gov. Matt Blunt’s newly-proposed budget.

“The budget is a fudge-it, and the numbers don’t add up,” said Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, in her opening statement.

Several legislators expressed concern over funding health care and other social service programs.

“I’m very concerned about Medicare cuts,” said Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia. “When you cut from 75 percent to 30 percent poverty, I don’t know how somebody survives and maintains their healthcare.”

Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, expressed concern over programs and services for the elderly.

“It’s an attack on the dignity of our seniors,” he said of the Medicare cuts. “The nursing homes in my district are scared to death.”

Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, was the only Republican in attendance to defend Blunt’s proposals. Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, was scheduled to attend but did not.

Hobbs defended the budget by saying that cuts were not final.

“The governor is saying that every portion of state government except education is in play,” he said. The legislators also discussed the rule changes in the House of Representatives. The House has voted to change the process of debate in committee as well as disallowing the introduction of amendments on the House floor.

Shoemyer, who voted against the rule change, explained that he fears too much control by committee chairs.

“It’s going to be at the committee chair’s discretion,” he said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, agreed with some of Shoemyer’s suspicions.

Hobbs disagreed, saying the rules only made House proceedings more balanced.

“I don’t understand what part of fair isn’t resonating here,” he said. “With the new rule changes, the majority leader announces in advance the bills we’re going to discuss, then both sides get the same amount of time to debate the bill and add amendments. What can be more fair than that?”