Sen. Dave Schatz’s Weekly Column for April 21

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After this week, the legislative session will only have three weeks remaining. The Senate worked until midnight Wednesday on ethics legislation and we are sending more bills to the House for consideration. As of this writing, we are finalizing the state budget and I am looking forward to final action on many bills in the coming three weeks.

This week, the Missouri Senate debated Senate Bill 619, which deals with elder abuse investigations. Under the measure, the Department of Health and Senior Services would provide the alleged perpetrator a copy of the department’s policies regarding elder abuse and neglect. This allows the accused to understand the investigations proceedings.

In most instances, when a person is aware they’re being investigated for a crime, they stop committing the crime. The investigation would still proceed, but the accused would be given warning they’re being investigated by the department. The measure does have safeguards in place in case the accused is still in contact with the abused individual.

The bill also makes this information available on the department’s website. It is critical we do everything we can to protect the state’s elderly citizens. This legislation gives the department more power to inform the public about the dangers of elder abuse and neglect while stopping these heinous crimes.

The Senate also approved legislation that would keep criminal immigrants out of the state. Senate Bill 590 would make it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to enter Missouri if they have previously been deported for committing a crime.

The state needs an established process, which will deter illegal immigrants who have committed crimes from re-entering Missouri. The punishment of up to 10 years of prison becomes a disincentive to those who would attempt to return to our state. It also gives the state more power to safeguard the public when the federal government fails to act.

The upper chamber also passed a measure to make college more affordable for students in Missouri. Senate Bill 857 creates the Access Missouri Dual Enrollment Program, which allows students to receive funds during their high school career to pay for dual enrollment credits and dual credit courses from an approved private or public institution of higher education. It also creates the Missouri Dual Enrollment Scholarship Act, which creates a tax credit to those who make a donation to a participating school.

To qualify for the funds, the student must meet certain criteria. These programs help prepare students for college by granting them credits at a lower price and showing them what is necessary to succeed in higher education.

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