Senator Ed Emery’s Legislative Report for Jan. 26, 2018

Emery - Column Banner - 011013State of the Judiciary

“Only four things belong to a judge: to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly and to decide impartially.” – Socrates

Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Zel Fisher began his description of the state of the judiciary with the above quote and by identifying what he sees as its core functions. He described the judiciary as “well-administered” and referenced Missouri’s national recognition both for our processes to determine who is qualified to practice law and for our use of innovative technology. Missouri has what is termed an “integrated bar” which I do not favor, but it is likely credited as a significant contributor to the national praise received for how we qualify attorneys.

Judge Fisher is proud of the Justice Reinvestment Task Force as an imperative response to Missouri’s growing rate of violent crime in the midst of a national decline. Our incarceration rate is “well above the national average.” All three branches of government met last May with U.S. Department of Justice officials and The Pew Charitable Trust Fund to find ways to improve Missouri’s system. Judge Fisher promised that legislative options for improvement would soon be offered for our consideration. He also praised Missouri’s drug treatment courts while acknowledging the opioid epidemic sweeping our state and our nation.

The Chief Justice described the work of the Criminal Justice Task Force as another example of all three branches of state government working together. The goal is to improve criminal justice protocols that address pretrial release of prisoners. The distinction he identified was that of reserving our jails for those who pose a threat to society, not those who simply may be too poor to post bail.

The most memorable of Judge Fischer’s remarks were in his closing when he introduced his family and described the supreme impact his parents, wife and children have had in the development of both his character and his career. It was a moving reminder of the significance of family and the imperative to protect and promote it.

The Senate is voting bills out of committee earlier than we have seen in the last few years. We have already referred and heard some House Bills in committee. Voted out of committee this week was House Bill 1246, which would require the Department of Public Safety to develop human trafficking hotline posters.

We also held healthy floor debate this week on Senate Bill 564 which would cap the rate of energy costs, jumpstart economic growth in our state and provide Missourians with smarter, more secure and more stable energy. The measure received bipartisan approval from the Missouri Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee.

Also debated on the floor was Senate Bill 567, which would reform the Senior Citizens Property Tax Credit and put about $25 million towards the care of our elderly, disabled and veterans. Finally, the Senate perfected Senate Bill 563, which restores cuts made last year to the MO Rx Program. The measure removes the Medicaid dual eligible requirement and retains the income limitations. This measure restores prescription drug benefits to nearly 64,000 older Missourians. As pleased as beneficiaries will be, it illustrates how many Missourians are dependent on the state and their fellow taxpayers, and that dependency is growing at an alarming rate.

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. Thank you and we welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.