Sen. Dave Schatz’s Weekly Column for Feb. 18

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This week in the Missouri Senate we saw passionate and lengthy debate about several measures. On Tuesday afternoon we went into session at 4:30 p.m., to debate a tort reform bill and did not finish until 6:00 a.m., the next day. During that time, we were also able to advance legislation through the process, getting it closer to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 640 , my bill, would allow any trailer or semitrailer to be permanently registered. Currently, only trailers or semitrailers that are operated coupled to the towing vehicle by a fifth wheel and kingpin assembly or by a trailer converter dolly can apply for the permanent registration. There is a higher fee initially, but overall, citizens will save money, time and the inconvenience of having to re-register their trailer every few years.

Senate Bill 682 this legislation would require any state department seeking to purchase land to provide public notice on the department’s website and to the elected officials. There would also be a requirement to hold public meetings in counties where the purchases are planned. It is imperative that constituents know about purchases of property within their communities since public land is typically untaxed or taxed at very low levels, leading to funding shortfalls for schools and local governments.

Recent actions by the governor’s office have prompted this legislation. The administration is attempting to use funds set aside for lead abatement to purchase tens of thousands of acres of land in southern Missouri for a new state park that local residents do not want.

Senate Bill 704 would require state agencies and departments, including the General Assembly and the offices of statewide elected officials, to make information available to the public relating to all contracts entered into totaling more than $2,500 for legal services provided by private law firms.

As of this writing, the Senate is also debating a package of ethics reform bills. House Bill 1979 seeks to limit the “revolving door” of former legislators becoming lobbyists by requiring all elected officials to complete their term of office before seeking a lobbying job. I believe it is the least we can do as elected officials to complete our elected term. When we run for office, we make a vow to the people to complete our term and I believe we need to enforce that vow. Other ethics bills require more timely reporting of out of state travel, apply a cooling off period for legislators to become campaign consultants, and require more frequent personal financial disclosures. My priority with these ethics bills is to ensure transparency so that citizens can easily look up information about their elected officials. Sunshine is usually the best disinfectant when it comes to politics and I will work to ensure that citizens can shine a light on elected officials’ activities.

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