Friends of the 144th Legislative District!
I had a wonderful time attending the Washington County Fair this past week. So many people got out to enjoy the live stock auction. These 4H kids have worked so hard on their projects throughout the year and this was a wonderful opportunity to show case their work.
Congratulations to all the primary winners and good luck in the general. To those of you who were unsuccessful in the primary, thank you for your willingness to serve. It is tough to put your name on the ballot, but do not take it personal. Take break, congratulate your opponent and try again sometime.
Missouri Recognized as Leader in Election Security (HB 1878)
As Missourians we went to the polls last Tuesday, we did so with the knowledge that Missouri has some of the most secure elections in the country. Missouri’s election security will be further strengthened on August 28 when House Bill 1878 takes effect to implement a photo ID requirement along with other election integrity measures.
Because of the efforts of the General Assembly to approve House Bill 1878 during the 2022 General Assembly, the America First Policy Institute’s (AFPI) Center for Election Integrity recently recognized Missouri as a nationwide leader in election integrity. A statement from the AFPI read, “States have adopted into law a variety of election integrity measures that now better protect every single legally cast vote and every legal voter.”
House Bill 1878 was approved earlier this year and Gov. Parson signed the legislation into law. The bill contains a number of provisions designed to ensure safe, secure elections with timely, accurate results. It will require Missourians to present a photo ID when they go to vote, but will also allow people without a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot. It also requires the use of hand-marked paper ballots rather than electronic voting machines, mandates the use of air-gapped election equipment that prevents the possibility of electronic manipulation, authorizes the Secretary of State to audit election results, and requires all election authorities or political subdivisions to have cybersecurity reviews.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said the recognition from the AFPI is appropriate in light of the Missouri legislature’s efforts to pass a bill that improves access, security and credibility in Missouri elections and serves as a model for other states.
House Committee Works to Address Mental Health Concerns of Veterans
House members are concerned about the mental health of veterans in Missouri, and by how many of the state’s veterans have committed suicide. The House Interim Committee on Veterans’ Mental Health and Suicide recently held its first of four scheduled hearings. The committee’s first hearing focused on what is already available and what is being done to offer help to veterans.
The committee’s chairman is a former U.S. Army 8th Special Forces Group Green Beret. Part of his goal with the committee is to generate awareness of the issues veterans are facing and how they can be helped.
In discussing how serious this issue is in Missouri, the Department of Mental Health’s Veterans Services Director told the committee that in 2019 the national veteran suicide rate was 31.6. Missouri’s rate was 43.4.
Even though Missouri does not have the highest rate of veteran suicide, which is a plus, we are still very high – definitely in the top ten in the nation. Regardless of these rates we know that any suicide death, one or more is too many, our goal is zero.
The state’s suicide rate is among the worst in the country. Active duty suicides are at the highest since the great depression. 176 confirmed or pending suicide deaths for active duty in 2021, 174 in 2020, 188 veteran suicides in 2019, which is significantly higher than the national average or the general population’s suicide rates.
The Missouri Veterans Commission Executive Director told the committee the commission launched a website in 2021 to provide resources for veterans and their families. Located at www.veteranbenefits.mo.gov, the site includes helpful information on mental health.
The committee closed its hearing with testimony from the family of Lieutenant Colonel Matt Brown. Brown was a loved and well-known husband and father of three. He served in the Army National Guard, which included a 14-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, and was about to take command of the 203rd Engineer Battalion. He took his own life in November of last year.
Brown’s wife spoke to the committee in the hope of using her family’s experience to break the stigma associated with mental health and to play a role in preventing more such tragedies. She said the stigma surrounding mental health issues must be addressed as a root of the problem.
If you have a family member or friend who has served, you understand that they often face mental challenges when they return home. It is our responsibility to recognize this and help them in any way we can. Our veterans deserve the BEST. They have given so much and we have to do better. We will never be able to repay their service but we can certainly make things easier on them when they return home.
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 Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112.
Please do not contact me via social media. These messages are easy to overlook and may not be responded to in a timely manner.