Sen. Dave Schatz’s Weekly Column for March 31

Schatz- weeklyColumn

The Senate returned from Easter break ready to work. It was nice to have some time with family, but now begins the final, busy, seven weeks of session in which the fate of most legislation is decided. This week the Senate was busy with ethics, transportation and livestock bills. Soon we will be busy finalizing the state budget and then begins the long nights of perfecting bills in the final month and a half of session.

House Bill 1983  was passed by both the House and Senate this week. This legislation now makes it clear that no statewide official or member of the General Assembly can serve as a paid political consultant while in office. This measure is a necessary conflict of interest provision to prevent public offices from being used to gain personal wealth. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 1983 is one part of the legislative ethics package that both chambers continue to work on. I was glad to support House Bill 1983 to prevent any current or future legislators from trying to profit from their public office by opening a political consulting business.

Another top priority for the Senate and the General Assembly is Senate Bill 623, a proposed gas and diesel tax enhancement of $0.059 per gallon that will fund road and bridge development and repairs. The $0.17 tax currently assessed on gas was passed in the early 1990s and, due to inflation, is only worth about $0.08 in 1992 dollars. Road construction costs have nearly tripled since 1992 and Missouri now has hundreds of bridges and thousands of highway miles that need maintenance, repairs and expansions. I have supported Senate Bill 623 in the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee, in which I serve as vice-chair and I supported it on the Senate floor.

One very important note about Senate Bill 623 is that the bill has a referendum clause. That means that the fate of this bill will ultimately be decided by the voters of Missouri – not by the legislature or governor. If passed by both chambers, Senate Bill 623 will go to a vote of the people this November.

Senate Bill 844 was perfected by the Senate on our first day back from a break over Easter. This legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, would protect livestock owners whose livestock gets onto someone else’s property and causes damage to that property should the livestock owner not be negligent. Under current law, a livestock owner is liable for all damages if their animals get loose, even if someone else destroyed the fence, such as an irresponsible hunter or an ATV driver. The owner has to pay despite having done nothing wrong. I believe the liability should be on the negligent party and not automatically on the livestock owner and I supported Senate Bill 844.

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