Finding Common Ground
With the 2021 legislative session well past the halfway mark, I’ve had an opportunity to settle into the culture of the Senate and reflect on the experiences of the past three months. As one of just 34 members of the Senate, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to work with some great folks from across the state, gaining an understanding of where they’re coming from, and what they’re compassionate about. Building those relationships helps us find common ground, and is key to our success in moving our state forward.
The Senate has a tradition of open and fair debate, and that sometimes leads to long discussions and late nights. That was the case this week as the Senate remained in session well past midnight considering the governor’s appointment of former Platte County Prosecutor and U.S. District Attorney Todd Graves to the University of Missouri Board of Curators. After everyone said their piece, the Senate eventually voted to confirm Mr. Graves. As a member of the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, I had the chance to meet with Mr. Graves, and I was glad to support his confirmation. He has a wealth of experience, is a MU alumni and I believe he’ll make a good addition to the board.
This week, the Education Committee took testimony on my Senate Bill 386. We have great secondary and post-secondary career and technical education programs in Missouri, however SB 386 will take these programs to the next level by requiring a statewide plan to ensure our programs match student career needs and are aligned to industry demand. This legislation also tasks the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with convening work groups to develop model curriculums that meet the workforce needs of business and industry.
Also this week, I presented Senate Joint Resolution 26 to the Insurance and Banking Committee. This legislation asks voters to approve a constitutional amendment requiring insurance companies operating in Missouri to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions and allow dependent children to remain on their parent’s policies until the age of 26. These two protections have been in place on the federal level since 2010, when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. A case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the federal law. With the cost of medical services and prescriptions continuing to rise, not having the basic protections this legislation would provide could lead to bankruptcies and disastrous outcomes for many that are working hard every day to provide for their families. My legislation ensures that these two protections would remain in place in Missouri, regardless of what the court decides.
In other legislative action, my proposal to place a veteran designation on the front of Missouri driver’s licenses was adopted as an amendment to Senate Bill 120, a package of military and veteran’s legislation that cleared the upper chamber this week and is now in the hands of the House of Representatives. I originally introduced this measure as Senate Bill 494.
Much of the time remaining in the legislative session will be focused on passing an operating budget for Fiscal Year 2022. The Legislature actually only has one duty specifically mentioned in the Missouri Constitution. We must pass a balanced budget. That process begins with recommendations from the governor, and continues as budget committees in both chambers of the Legislature consider requests from each department of state government. The House of Representatives has finished its version of the budget and the Senate will now weigh in, examining each line of the House budget and advocating for our own priorities through a process known as “mark-up.” Once the Senate budget recommendations are finalized, and approved by the full Senate, the differences will be sorted out by a conference committee and a final balanced budget will be presented to the governor. That all has to happen prior to May 7.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’m honored to participate in this process. There’s a lot of work to be done in the next month, but I’m looking forward to digging into the numbers and doing my part to prepare a budget that protects taxpayers’ money while delivering essential services to the citizens of Missouri.
It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Ripley, Texas, Webster and Wright counties in the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from friends and family back home. If I can help you in any way, please call my Capitol Office at 573-751-1882, or my District Office at 417-596-9011. You can also visit my webpage at www.senate.mo.gov/mem33, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @seneslingermo.