Senator David Sater’s Legislative Column for the Week of Jan. 18: Senate Gets to Work

The Missouri Senate and House recently kicked off the 2016 legislative session and it looks to be a busy and productive one. Like others, this session will be filled with challenges but also great opportunities. Some of those challenges are obvious; a president and federal government that too often don’t share our values in Missouri; a federal debt that is closing in on $19 trillion; and government that has grown too big and isn’t responsive to the people it is supposed to serve. The opportunities are there, too. We can restore public trust in our state government by passing ethics reform legislation; we can limit the size and scope of government by making it live within its means and rooting out fraud and abuse; and we can promote a business climate that creates jobs and strengthens our economy.

The quick start to session is highlighted by swift action on ethics reform. Missourians should know that their elected officials work for them and no one else. Serving the people of southwest Missouri is a privilege and an honor and there are few things I value more than the oaths I take to uphold the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions. The people of Missouri and those documents should be guiding our decisions on public policy, not lobbyists or special interests. That process begins with closing the revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyists after their terms are up. This is an obvious step we can take to protect the integrity of the legislative process and ensure that legislators put their constituents before their job search. The next step is to eliminate the practice of sitting elected officials serving as paid consultants for other officials. Our job is to work for our constituents and this practice of serving two masters ends up the same way the Bible tells us it will: with that person being devoted to one over the other. These are just a few of the ethics reform proposals the General Assembly will be considering. You can count on my support of ethics reform because our state government is not for sale and not a place for anyone who puts special interests above his or her constituents. Missourians know it is the right thing to do and I believe we can get it done.

Folks in Washington, D.C., would probably dispute this statement but government is too big and spends too much of our money. Government cannot be all things to all people. This may also shock some in Washington, but government is not the answer to every problem and the problems it does try to solve can’t be fixed by just throwing money at it. We need to limit government to a few core functions and it should operate like our small businesses do; smart and efficient. When I ran my pharmacy for 30 years, I knew that I had to run it within its means, be efficient and competitive, and be involved in my community. Government can operate the same way.

This year, I am applying this approach to the management of Missouri’s welfare programs. There are literally thousands of people in Missouri collecting welfare who are no longer eligible for it. It’s fraud and the state’s Department of Social Services, which is responsible for verifying the welfare recipient eligibility, just isn’t very good at stopping it. My solution is to take this responsibility and put it in the hands of a private vendor that has access to better data and is trained and efficient in interpreting that data. This will result in less fraud and abuse that ends up diverting resources away from those truly in need. At the same time, we can save taxpayer dollars and shrink the size of government. That’s a win-win in my book.

Missourians aren’t looking for a cradle to the grave nanny state. They are looking for hard work, personal responsibility, and leadership. That is our real challenge this session and I will strive to deliver on all three.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns about Missouri government. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-1480, or by writing to Sen. David Sater, Missouri State Capitol, Room 419, Jefferson City, MO 65101.