New Year, New Session
With the new year just a few days old, it is time to begin another legislative session. The Second Regular Session of the 99th General Assembly started on Jan.3 and runs until May 18. During that time, your state senators and state representatives pass a budget and many bills for the governor’s consideration. Here is what I expect from the upcoming session:
The governor has stepped up the pace of gubernatorial appointments considerably in the last six months. As a member of the Gubernatorial Appointments committee, I help vet all appointments before they move on to the full Senate for the final confirmation vote. The vast majority of appointments are uncontroversial but there are always a few that meet opposition. This summer, the governor appointed enough members to the State Board of Education to gain a majority and fire the previous commissioner and I believe this action will be met with opposition from many senators. Other boards like the Highway Commission and the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board have had many appointments that I do not expect to be controversial.
Many bills were pre-filed for the 2018 session – 304 to be exact. Some of these proposals aim to reform the state’s tax system by cutting income taxes while raising the state’s gas and diesel taxes. There are other bills that intend to reform Missouri’s tort system. Our current legal system allows far too many frivolous lawsuits to be filed. Many other proposals simply rename highways or deal with local government issues. I consider it an important part of my job to vet every bill that comes before the full Senate to ensure that we are not passing costly regulations or unnecessary laws. It can be hard to keep up with the sheer volume of bills, but fortunately the committee structure and the deliberative pace of the Senate allows me and my colleagues to carefully consider all legislation.
Transportation and Public Safety
As chairman of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, the state’s transportation resources are always on my mind. I am concerned over the number of deficient-rated bridges in the state and the weakening purchasing power of our gas tax rate, which was set 20 years ago. I expect vigorous debate over Missouri’s highway and transportation funding in 2018 and I am hopeful that we will find a way to enhance funding without overburdening Missouri taxpayers. One reason I favor the gas and diesel tax as a transportation funding mechanism is because 40 percent of the tax is paid for by out of state drivers passing through Missouri. Our central location as the crossroads of the nation is a huge advantage in this regard.
On the public safety front, I will continue looking out for our first responders. Last year, I carried the Blue Alert bill to help catch perpetrators that assault or injure members of law enforcement in the line of duty. With public safety as a hot topic, it is important to safeguard first responders and ensure that police, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders can do their job knowing the government has their back.
Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.