Legislative Column - Feb. 3, 2015

Lawmakers returned to the Capitol for the start of the 2015 legislative session on Wednesday, Jan. 7. The first afternoon was mostly ceremonial, with newly elected and re-elected senators taking the oath of office. Numerous family members, friends and constituents made the trip to Jefferson City to experience the excitement that accompanies the first day of a new session.

Afterwards, the President Pro Tem gave his opening address, laying out the Senate’s agenda for the year and indicating the priorities we will focus on. The Grand March and Legislative Ball were held later that evening.
Congratulations also to all of the newly elected representatives and senators, especially recently elected State Representatives Tila Rowland-Hubrecht, from Stoddard County, Don Rone, from New Madrid County, and Andrew McDaniel, from Pemiscot County. I look forward to working with them and the rest of the Southeast Missouri delegation this session.

On Monday, Jan. 12, the Senate President Pro Tem announced committee assignments for the 98th General Assembly. I was chosen to chair the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee which takes up legislation concerning roads, highways, bridges, aviation, and railroads along with all other means of transportation along with infrastructure throughout the state.

I was also selected to be the vice-chairman of the Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee, which considers legislation related to ownership and operation of small businesses, different forms of insurance, and labor management. I will continue my role as vice-chair of the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee examining legislation regarding production of food, conservation of resources, as well as agriculture and state park related issues. In addition, I will serve on the Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee; Seniors, Families and Children Committee; and the Education Committee.

I want to thank everyone who traveled to Jefferson City from the 25th District and encourage those who were unable to attend to visit sometime. It’s truly an honor to represent the citizens of the 25th District. Thank you for the privilege to serve as your voice in the state senate.

On Wednesday, Jan. 21, the governor gave his annual State of the State address, during which he outlined his vision of the state’s legislative agenda, reflected in his recommended Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Then, on Thursday, Jan. 22, legislators gathered in the House chamber to hear the State of the Judiciary, delivered by Chief Justice Mary. R. Russell of the Missouri Supreme Court. During her speech, Chief Justice Russell highlighted ways technology can improve our state’s legal system, from electronic filing to videoconferencing. She also lauded the Legislature for passing last year’s criminal reform bill.

The first month of the 2015 legislative session concluded with the Senate giving its approval to three important measures. We approved Senate Bill 12, an omnibus agricultural bill aimed at supporting existing farming operations and promoting youth to move into the industry. As has been noted, agriculture is our state’s No. 1 industry, employees thousands of citizens and has an economic impact that of more than $1 billion. But, the average age of the farmer has increased substantially, and dairy producers have faced numerous challenges in recent years.

One of the most important parts of the bill is the Dairy Revitalization Act, which would help support dairy farmers in the state while also creating the Missouri Dairy Scholars Program, making available 80 scholarships toward tuition at any college or university in Missouri for students in agriculture-related degree programs who make a commitment to work in the agriculture industry. This will help ensure that our state’s agriculture industry remains vibrant and successful well into the future, as new farmers take up the mantle from the previous generation.

The Senate also approved two resolutions related to a $600 million bonding plan previously approved by the 2014 General Assembly. Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 9 would identify much-needed renovation and construction projects for numerous state parks and historic sites, state buildings and the State Capitol, and places of higher education.

The list of projects include electrical, plumbing and fire safety improvements; roof, window, foundation, flooring and ceiling repairs; restroom renovations; and the replacement of mechanical equipment, among other projects. The legislation also includes $40 million for much-needed repairs and new safety measures for the State Capitol, as well as $35 million for the State Capitol Annex.

If you would like to read more about the legislation or committees mentioned in this column, visit www.senate.mo.gov/libla. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

State Senator Doug Libla
201 W. Capitol Ave., Rm. 219
Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 751-4843

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