Sen. Dave Schatz’s Weekly Column for April 14

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As session comes to a close the General Assembly’s work only increases. Late nights are common as the two chambers hammer out the budget and other priority legislation. After this week’s work ends on Thursday, there will only be four weeks left of the 2016 Legislative Session. These final four weeks will be the busiest in the Legislature by far as House and Senate committees work to find consensus on many bills.

Senate Bill 998 would ask the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), subject to available appropriations, to pay the exam fee for anyone taking the high school equivalency degree exam for the first time (commonly known as the GED). This legislation allows alternative students to afford their GED exam and become more productive members of the job market. Having an educated workforce is critical to economic development efforts. In fact, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, a trained workforce is now the No. 1 thing companies look for when relocating or expanding.

The Senate also approved the creation of a task force on dyslexia, a learning disability that effects reading and writing. It occurs in children with normal vision and intelligence, but can cause severe problems as students move through school. The task force created by Senate Bill 827 will recommend future policies to improve educational outcomes for dyslexic students.

We also passed legislation making college more affordable for the men and women of our National Guard and reserve armed forces. Senate Bill 968 allows current members of the National Guard and reservists of the armed forces to receive in-state residency status for the purposes of tuition at higher education institutions. The change further supports those who protect our country at home and abroad.

While there is still a lot of work to do, the final month of session sees a flurry of committee and floor activity that exceeds the first sixteen. I have legislation relating to extended concealed carry licenses, permanent trailer licenses, and other priorities that will be moving in the final weeks along with many other bills. I will work to keep all my constituents informed about the ongoing session in this space.

Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.