Sen. Dave Schatz’s Legislative Column for Dec. 3, 2020

Providing Missourians with the Programs and Resources Needed to Navigate the Pandemic

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, senators returned to the State Capitol to finish their work on the year’s second extra legislative session. Called by the governor, the current extra session focuses on appropriating additional resources to aid in the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 virus.

The extra session spending bill, House Bill 14, appropriates more than $1.27 billion in funding. Approximately $1.17 billion of the bill’s price tag comes from federal funds associated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, commonly known as the CARES Act. Following the passage of the FY 2021 state budget in May, the state received additional funding and new guidance from the federal government on how to spend the relief funds. In addition to funding vital programs and supporting struggling Missourians, HB 14 gives the state the ability to spend all available CARES Act funding before the end of the year. The additional spending authority ensures the state can repurpose any unused funds to aid in its fight against the virus. Under HB 14, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will receive more than $75 million in federal funding to feed students through the School Nutrition Services Program. In addition, HB 14 appropriates an additional $134 million in federal funding to help the state with testing, contact tracing and other services designed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Overall, the extra session spending bill provides additional resources to several state departments to assist Missourians as they continue to grapple with the virus.

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, my colleagues and I approved the extra session spending bill and sent it to the governor for his consideration. I am hopeful that the funding and programs outlined in the bill will ensure our state has the resources it needs to continue providing vital services to all Missourians during the pandemic.

While much of the week’s attention was on the extra session spending bill, the Missouri Senate also approved several of the governor’s appointments and reappointments to the state’s various boards and commissions. The Senate’s role in the gubernatorial appointment process serves as a check to the governor’s ability to appoint anyone he chooses to these organizations. These groups are responsible for overseeing many aspects of our daily lives, and I believe our ability to review the governor’s appointments ensures quality, competent individuals are allowed to serve on these important boards and commissions.

As chair of the Missouri Senate’s Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, it is my job to ensure the process runs smoothly and that members of the committee have the opportunity to meet with the governor’s appointees and discuss their qualifications for the position. Appointments and reappointments must receive approval from the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee before they can be considered by the full Senate. This week, the Missouri Senate approved more than 25 of the governor’s appointments and reappointments. During regular session, the committee would consider these individuals during the first few weeks of session; however, the extra session allows us the opportunity to get a head start on reviewing the governor’s appointments. By considering these appointments now, these individuals will be able to begin their service to our state as soon as possible. In addition, I am also hopeful that our work this week will lessen the number of appointments we will have to consider in January.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri Senate. If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at — we are honored to serve you.