Sen. Dave Schatz’s Weekly Column for May 13

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The 2016 Legislative Session has come to an end. This session saw passionate debates, filibusters and compromise across party lines. There were many late nights of debate but much was accomplished as this session was far more productive than last year. A balanced and responsible budget has been signed by the governor and many important bills have also been sent to the governor’s desk.

House Joint Resolution 53, with voter approval, will amend the state constitution to allow for photo ID for voting. We have already passed the enabling legislation and it will take effect if HJR 53 is approved by the voters. These measures will ensure the integrity of our elections and I supported both bills.

Paycheck protection, House Bill 1891, is pretty simple. A public employee union must get the union member and public employee’s permission to collect fees for the union’s political action committee. This permission can be in written or electronic form. That’s it.

Many public employees are not members of unions but for those who are, this bill restores some freedom of choice and freedom of speech. Public employees who are part of a collective bargaining union, like those at the Fulton State Hospital for example, will be able to keep more of their paycheck if they do not want to contribute to their union’s political action committee. If they are fine with contributing, then they simply give their permission and nothing changes.

The House and Senate both passed and sent the bill to the governor in March. He vetoed the legislation and the House overrode that veto. Unfortunately, the Senate fell one vote shy of overriding the governor’s veto. This legislation could have been an important protection for workers but will not become law this year. I am hopeful that we can revisit the issue in the future.

Many of my priority bills also made it across the finish line in the final few weeks. Legislation allowing for the purchase of permanent trailer plates is on multiple bills before the governor. Pool tax reform for St. Louis County has also made it through both chambers on two bills. The German Heritage corridor, a tourism measure for counties along the Missouri River, has been passed as well. Many other bills will take further consideration and may be revisited next year. Finally, Senate Bill 700 passed. This is a workers’ compensation reform that will allow employers to pay for small injuries out of pocket without going through insurance procedures. This will save employers on insurance premiums while saving employees time. This is already possible under current law, but SB 700 raises the dollar amount. This measure is only for minor injuries that do not lead to missed time at work.

While session has ended, my service to the district has not. My office will be open for any constituent questions, concerns or inquiries and I am looking forward to having more time in the district to meet with members of our community.

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