A Senate United
“… how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” ̶ The Psalmist
This Legislative Report must begin with a red alert for private schools:
The CARES Act sends billions of dollars (in truth, it is federal debt) to schools. The bulk of the money goes to the state schools, but some is available for private and religious schools to use for certain prescribed expenses. However, you must sign up on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website by May 30 to qualify for the funds. There is no additional information needed at this time, just be sure your school is added to the list. Any funds not claimed by the private school will be retained by the state schools. For information about CARES Act resources available for private schools, visit www.dese.mo.gov/financial-admin-services/coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-cares-act. If you have difficulty getting to the right site, please call my office or DESE for assistance.
In my final year in the Missouri Senate, there have already been a number of firsts. Of those, Covid-19 had the most impact on the Legislature. The threat the virus presents cost the Legislature more than a month of our typical session schedule. We are also facing an economic recession due to the impact of the virus on individuals and businesses. Nevertheless, in the midst of the turmoil and uncertainty, the House Budget Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee put a budget together and passed it in three weeks – just in time to meet the constitutional deadline. From my perspective, the worst part of the marathon endeavor is that despite falling revenues, the 2020-21 budget is the largest in Missouri history, approaching $36 billion and heavily reliant on federal dollars, which only increases the federal debt.
The consequences of the government-imposed shutdown continue as the governor has recently discussed the need for additional budget cuts. I wonder how some of the impacts would have changed if government had exercised more of a research and advise posture, rather than the command and control imposed by a number of unelected health care officials across the nation.
The title of today’s report grows out of an event that took place on the final day of the 2020 session; it will be one of my most memorable. Omnibus bills have become the norm near the end of each legislative session as members scramble to pass favored legislation. This year saw an exaggeration of that practice as a result of the truncated session. Consequently, my Senate colleagues had become very good at examining and carefully explaining each item when they would return from the Missouri House as omnibus bills. However, on May 14, after lengthy floor debate, one such omnibus bill was passed which, unknown even to the senate bill sponsor, contained some esoteric language that went undiscovered until that night.
Once the objectionable language was discovered, it was clear that many of us who would have opposed the language and would have insisted it be removed were fooled and had actually helped the legislation to pass. The discovery was voiced the next morning to other senators including the Senate bill sponsor. Huddled discussions ensued and a plan to undo the vote was developed with the full support of the bill sponsor even though, in my opinion, he had the most to lose by not passing the bill. His legislation, by the next Senate action would now fail to pass.
The Senate moved to “reconsider” the vote – a seldom used process to undo the passage of a bill. By now, every senator was aware of the language, and the senate had unified behind the planned response. The first motion was to reconsider the final vote by which the bill was “read for a third time and finally passed.” Three additional votes followed, as each step of the process was undone and the bill was abandoned.
The objectionable provision of the bill would have possibly received the support of much of the Senate had it been clearly presented, but even those realized that a number of their colleagues would have been just as opposed. Once the body understood the ramifications of what had happened, every vote to reconsider was unanimous. The Senate was united in its stance, and I couldn’t have been more proud to have had the privilege of serving with such a band of honorable men and women.
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.