Sen. Dave Schatz’s Legislative Column for Jan. 21, 2021

An Important Part of the Legislative Process

This past week marked the beginning of an important aspect of our work in Jefferson City — committee hearings. These hearings play a critical role in the legislative process, and give lawmakers the opportunity to hear directly from Missourians on how proposed legislation could affect their lives. That said, these committee hearings will look a little different this year due to the pandemic.

There are 20 standing committees in the Missouri Senate. Each of these committees is assigned a specific subject matter and tasked with discussing the merits of legislation that pertain to their designated topic. Before legislation can move to the Senate floor for consideration, it must first receive committee approval. While it might only seem like a stop in the legislative process, committee hearings give lawmakers the opportunity to dig deep into issues and hear from those affected by the proposed legislation. During the course of a hearing, anyone can testify in support or in opposition to the bill in question. If you are passionate about an issue, I encourage you to participate in the committee process and make your voice heard.

As with many aspects of our lives, COVID-19 has affected the way Senate committees operate. Prior to the pandemic, it was common to see committee rooms full of people listening to testimony and presenting their thoughts on matters appearing before lawmakers. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, several changes have been made to the committee process in order to create a safe environment for members, staff and the public. In an attempt to ensure social distancing, public seating is limited in committee rooms. While in-person testimony is still allowed, the public is encouraged to submit written testimony instead of appearing in person. As a result of limited seating options, audio of every committee is now livestreamed through the Senate’s website,, making it easier for Missourians to follow along with the deliberations of Senate committees.

As I prepare this report, there have been more than 400 measures introduced in the General Assembly’s upper chamber. While the pandemic continues to have a drastic effect on our state, I believe it is critical the Missouri Senate presses on and keeps the process moving forward. I understand the committee changes may be a hindrance to some, but the greater ease to which senators and staff can remain socially distant gives us confidence in our ability to work safely throughout the course of the pandemic. Like last year’s session, the 2021 legislative session will look and feel a little different from previous ones, but my colleagues and I are committed to doing every we can to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.

As the senator for Missouri’s 26th Senatorial District, it continues to be an honor to serve our community in the Missouri Senate. If you have any 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.