Speakers at the Citizens for Better Government event were Missouri Sen. Chuck Purguson, Rep. Steve Cookson, Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Patrick Ledgerwood, former State Treasurer Wendell Bailey and Doreen Hannes of the Ozarks Property Rights Congress.
The speakers spoke briefly about issues affecting their areas of concern, and then took questions from the audience of about 40 residents and officials.
Cookson received much applause when he spoke about a bill awaiting the governor's signature regarding drug-testing of welfare recipients.
"Nothing is more detrimental to children than being raised in a home with illegal drugs," Cookson, a former educator, said.
Cookson said that, for too long, Americans have relied heavily on the government to take care of their needs.
"We're partnered with a machine with an unlimited credit card," Cookson said. "It's spiraling out of control."
Hannes also spoke about federal social programs that contributed to putting the United States into extreme debt. Every baby born in the United States today exits the womb at $147,000 in debt, she said.
Hannes said the country also is overregulated, including in the area of agriculture.
"Our economy depends on our ability to pull things from the ground," Hannes said, citing legislation in California that required a spinach grower to till under an entire crop because a deer crossed a corner of the field while an inspector was present.
Hannes called the act "insanity and a recipe for famine."
Another example of too much regulation, Hannes said, is a new Environmental Protection Agency ruling that determined that milk is oil. Dairy producers with more than 12,500 gallons of milk must now have a spill prevention plan, she said.
Ledgerwood, who like Cookson, took office for the first time in January, said he is discouraged by federal and state funding cuts that affect the county.
"It seems like every time we turn around, more services are cut," Ledgerwood said.
Ledgerwood said the U.S. Forest Service should pay rent on the land it owns in Oregon County, or give it back to the people. The federal agency owns more than one-fifth of the land in the county.
One proposed cut that will hurt the county is to the Secure Rural Schools fund, Ledgerwood said.
Bailey said he was in Thomasville recently, where the Rural Schools Initiative met. He said the message there was for communities to do all they can to preserve their rural schools.
"There is value there," Bailey said.
Bailey also doled out some unwelcome news, that U.S. citizens who are age 55 or younger, must work longer to earn Social Security retirement benefits.
"People need to quit calling on the government to do for them what they would be better off to do themselves," Bailey said.
Audience questions included one about how Missouri can become competitive with other states to attract industry. Purguson answered that Missouri must become a Right to Work state.
"You can't have the highest corporate income tax in the world and expect companies to locate here," Purguson said.
Purguson also warned that residents should get prepared for higher inflation.
Thayer Police Chief David Bailey, who was in the audience, asked about a mandatory seatbelt law. The state is losing millions of dollars of federal funding, he said, because it has not passed such a law.
Purguson said he does not support mandatory seatbelt use because people should be responsible enough on their own to buckle up.
Former Thayer Alderman Bob Freeman asked about the Missouri Department of Natural Resources regulation that bans landowners from harvesting creek gravel and sand.
Freeman, who worked at Redi-Mix said, after the regulation, the company had to buy and haul sand in from Arkansas for concrete. Those costs were passed to consumers, he said.
Cookson said the DNR controls that.
Freeman also asked if the county could pass a law enforcement sales tax, such as Thayer voters passed, to update law enforcement equipment and facilities. The city of Thayer has seven officers, while the county has five deputies who cover 700 square miles.
A woman in the audience told Ledgerwood that, if the county puts a similar issue on the ballot, people are likely to support it. The county jail dates to the late 1930s.
Gene Boren, who organized the event at the Oregon County Country Music Theater, said underpaid law enforcement is one of his greatest concerns, as patrol officers put their lives on the line every day for their communities.
"Every night when I go to bed, I pray to God to protect our officers," Boren said.
Boren thanked all who participated in the meeting and said more meetings will be planned.