Sen. Caleb Rowden’s Legislative Column for the Week of April 26, 2021

This week, our attention turned to passing the budget bills that make up the state’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The Senate Appropriations Committee completed their mark-up process last week, and we debated the bills on the floor this week. Passing a balanced budget is the Legislature’s only constitutional requirement for each session, and we must approve the budget by next Friday, May 7.

While there are several important programs and resources set to receive funding in the FY 2022 budget, I want to focus on House Bill 2, which appropriates money for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and House Bill 3, which appropriates money for the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.

For yet another year, we have fully funded the foundation formula for K-12 schools in HB 2. The foundation formula for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is used as the basis for distributing funds to school districts in Missouri. The formula is an attempt to take into account several factors of each individual school district, such as the number of students living in a district, the cost of living, available local revenue and the number of students with special needs. It is meant to create a fair way of distributing funds to each of Missouri’s school districts. With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the school year, I believe ensuring our schools were fully funded was more important than ever.

In HB 3, we restored $68 million in cuts to the core budgets of the state’s public colleges and universities, while also providing a modest increase in funding to all higher education institutions. In the Senate’s budget, the University of Missouri (UM) system received a $10 million increase in state funding. Part of this increase is earmarked for the NextGen Precision Health Center that is set to open this fall on the University of Missouri-Columbia’s campus. As many of you know, this research center will be a state-of-the-art facility allowing individuals from across the UM system to conduct lifesaving health care research. Mizzou is one of only six public universities in the country with schools or colleges of medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture, engineering, arts and science, law and a research reactor, and I believe this research center will further demonstrate Mizzou’s excellence on a national scale. I am extremely proud of Mizzou and the constant innovation of the UM system, and I look forward to the opening of the research center.

Next week, senators and representatives are expected to meet regarding the budget bills in a conference committee. This allows members of the House of Representatives and Senate to sort out any differences between the two versions of the budget and find a path forward in order to pass a balanced budget before our constitutional deadline of May 7.

On Thursday, April 29, my colleagues and I adopted House Concurrent Resolution 4, which formally denounces the infamous Dred Scott decision. On March 22, 1852, the Missouri Supreme Court denied Dred and Harriet Scott their freedom. Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court later upheld the verdict, ruling that as African Americans, Dred and Harriet Scott did not have the right to sue for their freedom. Regrettably, the Missouri Supreme Court decision is a part of our state’s history, and my fellow lawmakers and I felt it was our solemn duty to formally denounce this decision. While we cannot change our state’s past, we must remain committed to ensuring that the present and future Missouri is a place that treats everyone equally.