Sen. Justin Brown’s Legislative Column for May 3, 2019

Getting it Done

There are just two weeks remaining in the 2019 legislative session. You can feel a sense of urgency in the halls of the State Capitol as legislators look for bills that show momentum in hopes of attaching amendments. We’re also working later and buckling down, as evidenced by two sessions this week that went well past midnight – including one that didn’t finish until sunrise.

This week’s all-nighter was solely devoted to passing a bill relating to concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Senate Bill 391 forbids local zoning commissions and health boards from superseding the standards that statewide regulators have established for large farms. Currently, large farms are primarily regulated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, with some oversight provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.

A group of urban and suburban lawmakers offered a series of amendments throughout the night in an effort to derail the bill. Rural legislators were united in support of statewide regulation and a consistent agriculture policy for all 114 counties of Missouri. Eventually, opponents of the measure abandoned their filibuster at 7:30 a.m. The measure was perfected, and we all went home to get some sleep. The Senate gave final approval to the bill on Thursday and sent it onto the House of Representatives.

Later in the week, another contentious issue held legislators in the Senate chamber until 2 a.m. Senate Bill 224 limits the scope and frequency of “discovery” in lawsuits. Discovery is the process of gathering evidence and requesting information prior to the start of a trial. Anyone who has ever been party to a lawsuit knows the frustration that comes when lawyers drag out proceedings during the discovery phase.

The extended filibuster that proceeded perfection of this legislation was not so much a debate on the merits of the bill as a stalling tactic to allow the legal experts to work out their differences outside the chamber. When the principal negotiators emerged with a compromise, everyone involved was satisfied that their concerns were addressed.

Another measure that cleared the Senate this week increases the penalties for poaching in Missouri. House Bill 260 imposes fines for the illegal taking of wildlife. Harvesting a paddlefish or wild turkey out of season could result in a fine of up to $1,000. Fines for illegally taking antlered whitetail deer range from $2,000 to $5,000. Killing a black bear or elk could cost a poacher as much as $15,000. Originally, the bill fined the illegal taking of any whitetail deer, but I attached an amendment to exclude does.

The First Regular Session of the 100th General Assembly ends on May 17, and spending bills must be approved by May 10. With two weeks remaining as this column is written, the Legislature has “truly agreed and finally passed” just 14 bills, including two budget bills that are required by the constitution. There’s a lot of work left to do, and very little time to get it all done. I expect we’ll have some more long nights ahead of us.

In the meantime, I’d like to share some good news we heard from our Senate leadership during their weekly session wrap-up. Thanks in part to tax cuts on the state and federal level, Missouri is experiencing strong economic growth and record unemployment. The state’s unemployment rate has dropped 1.2 percent since 2017, and now sits at a historically low 3.3 percent —the lowest since 2000. On the flip-side, the 2.9 million jobs in Missouri is an all-time high. More than 60 percent of Missourians have seen their take-home pay increase, and 51 percent of taxpayers saw their effective tax rate go down.

It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at for more information.