Senator Ron Richard’s Legislative Column for the Week of March 28

Richard Column

Senate Returns from Spring Recess Ready for Second Half of Session

Legislative News

State lawmakers returned to Jefferson City this week, following the annual spring recess. With numerous bills and the state budget still before us, we wasted no time getting back to discussing the important issues at hand, including our current transportation funding situation.

Despite being home to the 7th largest highway system in the country, comprised of 34,000 roads and 10,400 bridges, Missouri ranks 46th in the amount of revenue we spend per mile. In fact, Missouri’s current fuel tax of 17.3 cents per gallon hasn’t been increased since 1996, nearly 20 years ago, while the cost of labor and materials have only continued to rise. Having a safe and reliable transportation system is a necessity, not an option, and we must act soon if we want to prevent our roads and bridges from deteriorating even further.

On Wednesday, we took up and perfected Senate Bill 623, which seeks to raise the motor fuel tax from 17 cents to a total of 22.9 cents per gallon, effective Jan. 1, 2017. The increase will be applied evenly to both gasoline and diesel fuel. It is expected to generate an estimated $245 million annually and about $170 million a year for the Missouri Department of Transportation, with approximately 30 percent of that going to cities and counties. If passed, this language will go to a vote of the people in November of this year.

We also passed ­­Senate Bill 844, relating to livestock trespass liability. Currently, if any horses, cattle or other livestock break through a fence or trespass onto another’s property, the owner of such animal is strictly liable for damages sustained by the animal to another’s property. Under this act, the owner of such animal would only be liable for damages sustained to another’s property if the animal owner was negligent.

On Thursday, the Senate gave its approval to several simple, yet very important consent bills. A consent bill is a non-controversial bill that does not cost anything to implement and does not reduce revenues.

Two of the measures pertain to suicide awareness and prevention programs in Missouri’s learning institutions. Under Senate Bill 646, beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, any licensed educator may annually complete up to two hours of training or professional development in youth suicide awareness and prevention. In addition, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall develop guidelines and materials for training or professional development in youth suicide awareness and prevention, and each Missouri school district will be required to adopt a policy on youth suicide awareness and prevention by July 1, 2018.

Although college is often seen as an exciting time in a young person’s life, it can also be incredibly challenging. Leaving the comforts of home, having to make new friends, the desire for academic success and money challenges can quickly become overwhelming and lead to depression and even thoughts of suicide. In fact, Emory University reports that there are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses each year, and one in 10 college students has made a plan for suicide. Clearly, more action be taken on our college campuses to help prevent our young people from getting to the point where they feel like they have no one to talk to, nowhere to turn and no other alternative.

Senate Bill 627 requires each Missouri public institution of higher education to develop and implement a policy to advise students and staff on suicide prevention programs available on and off campus. The policy shall also advise students, faculty and staff of the proper procedures for identifying and addressing the needs of students exhibiting suicidal tendencies or behavior and require training where appropriate. Each institution will also be required to provide all incoming students with information about the depression and suicide prevention resources available to them.

In 2011, the state Legislature passed the organ donor tax checkoff measure, allowing Missouri taxpayers to make a financial contribution when completing their income tax form. All contributions go to the state’s organ donor fund. The program fund is currently set to expire on Aug. 28, 2017. Senate Bill 738 simply removes the expiration date. The organ donor tax checkoff offers Missouri citizens an easy opportunity to make a small contribution and help save the life of one of the 121,000 men, women and children in the U.S. who are currently waiting for an organ (

We also passed Senate Bill 888, which states that victims of human trafficking may participate in the Safe at Home program. Safe at Home was established in 2007 to provide survivors of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking with a substitute mailing address through the secretary of state’s office. The secretary of state’s office then forwards all mail and maintains the confidentiality of the participant’s location.

Contact Me­

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2173. You may write to me at Senator Ron Richard, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol Ave., Rm. 326, Jefferson City, MO 65101; e-mail me at or visit me on the Web at

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