Legislative Column for the Week of Feb. 26, 2015

Sen. Schatz with Missouri Gas Propane Dealers Association members after speaking to the group.

JEFFERSON CITY — Before I begin my weekly column, I want to give my condolences to the Schweich family. We just learned of Auditor Tom Schweich’s passing this Thursday afternoon and this news has saddened the Capitol family. Please keep the Schweich family in your prayers.

This week, I had the opportunity to present Senate Bill 278 to the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday morning. Senate Bill 278 is a non-controversial, good-government type of bill that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but helps correct errors in state government to make life easier for Missouri citizens.

There are two primary components to SB 278. The bill corrects a court ruling that allows vehicles titled as “junk” or dangerous in other states to be re-titled in Missouri under a salvage title and resold to unwitting citizens. This loophole leads to the dangerous and unscrupulous practice of junk vehicles being resold to Missourians. We are the only state with this loophole due to this court ruling. Senate Bill 278 also allows citizens to buy a permanent trailer license instead of renewing their license every year or every three years. Anyone who wants the permanent trailer will have to pay a higher fee initially, but they will avoid the hassle of renewing their license time and time again. This bill is actually expected to have a positive financial impact on the state’s highway fund, as trailer owners opt-in to the new permanent trailer license. The license is nontransferable. I will be pushing SB 278 to close the dangerous junk title loophole and to make life safer and more convenient for Missourians in general.

Sen. Schatz introducing guests from East Central College in the Senate Chamber.

Last week, I devoted a lot of column space to Senate Bill 1. This week on the floor, the Senate spent many hours debating Senate Bill 1 and perfecting the bill on Tuesday night. This measure deals with unaccredited districts and the state’s school transfer law. The legislation is a combination of bills (Senate Bills 22, 49 and 70) from senators on both sides of the aisle that were rolled into one piece of legislation. The newly crafted measure seeks to resolve the ongoing problems associated with the transfer law and how the state deals with unaccredited districts. 

Lawmakers spent days studying and then debating each section of the bill and how it would affect all school districts throughout the state. While there were moments of frustration, and even times when it looked like the debate may never end, lawmakers remained committed to crafting the best possible bipartisan solution.
The legislation allows:

  • Charter schools in any county with an unaccredited or provisionally accredited district;
  • Permits receiving schools to set class-size ratios;
  • Creates single-building accreditation;
  • Establishes the School Transfer and Improvement Task Force to monitor the transfer situation and make recommendations to help failing schools;
  • Clarifies the intervention powers of the State Board of Education; and
  • Creates more opportunities for students to utilize virtual education programs, and more.

The bill now needs a final vote before it moves to the House for consideration. The House is also working on this same issue and the legislature as a whole will have to go to conference at some point to work out the difference and produce a law that balances the needs of schools, students, and parents.

Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.