Next week, the Legislature will observe its annual spring break, which marks the unofficial halfway point of session. Over the last two and half months, the Missouri Senate has approved legislation that will improve communities across our state.
Early in session, the Senate approved two tort reform bills that address the state’s antibusiness legal environment. Senate Bill 591 aligns Missouri’s outdated expert witness testimony standard to the federal standard. Senate Bill 847 modifies provisions relating to the collateral source rule and provides that parties may introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value, of the medical care rendered.
To be competitive in job creation, Missouri needs a strong, viable business climate and that includes reforming our labor policy. House Bill 1891, known as paycheck protection, prohibits any public employee from being required to pay dues or other fees to a labor organization. Paycheck protection ensures that public union employees are in control of their own hard-earned money.
The Senate believes we have a right to protect our religious liberties. After days of debate, the Senate successfully advanced Senate Joint Resolution 39. The measure is viewpoint neutral and asks Missouri voters to consider a new Constitutional section protecting religious organizations and certain individuals from being penalized because of their sincere religious beliefs concerning marriage.
The Legislature also has made great strides in finding ways to reduce costs and find better access to health care, especially in rural areas of the state. As the cost of health care continues to rise, the discussion about how to offer better, more efficient and affordable care becomes more imperative.
The Senate has approved measures that aim to reduce costs, like Senate Bill 608, which authorizes MO HealthNet health care providers to charge a minimal fee for missed appointments and will create an emergency room co-pay system. Senate Bill 607 will help reduce fraud and abuse in Missouri’s welfare system. Senate Bill 875 removes barriers to lower cost of prescription drugs and ensures patient safety. Other bills will help improve access to health care, especially in rural areas. Senate Bill 621 will allow for doctors to practice remotely via a computer or telephone connection, otherwise known as telehealth.
We are also moving forward on ethics reform. We’ve approved measures that prohibit lawmakers from retiring their seat early in order to take a lobbyist position; prevent a legislator from acting as a paid political consultant for other lawmakers; and impose rules on how former officials can use campaign funds they’ve accumulated while in office. Each bill tackles a specific activity we’ve seen happen too often in the Capitol.
When we return, we’ll tackle the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, which totals $27.1 billion. The Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved its version. After the break, the full Senate will debate the bills that make up the operating budget. In addition, we’ll begin taking up House bills for consideration and tackling other major priorities. With only seven weeks left in the legislative session, there is much work ahead.
As always, I encourage my constituents to contact me throughout the year with comments, questions or suggestions by calling my office at (573) 751-5713. To find more information about the bills I sponsor, visit www.senate.mo.gov/brown. Thank you for reading this and for your participation in state government.