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2017 Spring Capitol Report Contact:
Janson Thomas—(573) 751-2420








Pictured above, Sen. Walsh discusses legislation on the Senate floor during the 2017 session.

Following the General Assembly’s annual spring break, we are back to work in the Senate and ready to tackle the remaining six weeks of the 2017 session. While it has been a busy session in our Capitol, it has not been good for hardworking Missourians or our middle class. With Republican supermajorities in both chambers and a Republican governor, Democratic lawmakers have been facing a very steep, uphill battle trying to stop harmful legislation. In early February, after years of successfully fighting to keep Missouri from becoming a so-called Right to Work state, the governor signed Senate Bill 19. Specifically, SB 19 bars employers from requiring employees to become, remain, or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization or pay dues as a condition of employment.

Since SB 19, we have seen damaging bill after damaging bill advance quickly through the Senate — legislation designed to weaken labor unions, limit the options and earning potential of the average Missourians in order to benefit big business and super-wealthy Missourians. These measures speak for themselves and are a stark contrast to the core Democratic values of opportunity, equity and compassion. Regardless of the setbacks we encounter, however, we will never stop fighting to protect Missouri workers. We must continue to defend the rights of Missourians to work for a living wage, to be protected from discrimination and to earn equal pay for equal work.

At the start of session, I was honored to be appointed chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Progress and Development, which is responsible for considering and reporting upon all legislation and matters referred to it by the president pro tem concerning the changing or maintenance of issues relating to human welfare.

Progress is quite simply the result of working to improve our society by promoting the ideals of liberty, democracy and quality of life for everyone. It is a great privilege to lead a committee whose primary goal is to contribute to the advancement of human welfare in Missouri. All Missourians share a common and genuine pride in our state. We also have a grave responsibility to our young people to make the Show-Me State a place in which they too can be proud far into the future, long after our service has ended. The way of progress is neither swift nor easy; however, by working together and embracing new ideas, we will be able to rebuild our citizens’ confidence in their state government and move Missouri forward.

I was also appointed a member of the Administration; Gubernatorial Appointments; Insurance and Banking; Professional Registration; and Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics committees. You may find a complete list of my committee appointments on my official Senate website at


As of this report, the status of my sponsored bills for the 2017 session is as follows:

Senate Bill 49

Allows St. Louis City and St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles and Franklin counties to propose a one-eighth cent sales tax to fund the St. Louis Zoo.

Reported from the Senate Progress and Development Committee.

Senate Bill 50

Establishes the Advance Health Care Directive Registry.

Passed by the Senate; second read in the House.

Senate Bill 51

Establishes a language assessment program for children who are deaf or hard of hearing from birth through 8 years.

Referred to Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee.

Senate Bill 309

Modifies provisions of the retirement system for prosecuting and circuit attorneys.

Passed by the Senate; second read in the House.

Senate Bill 350

Prohibits any employer from paying any employee wages less than those paid to employees of the opposite gender for the same work performed under similar working conditions.

Referred to the Senate Small Business and Industry Committee.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 6

Urges the Department of Higher Education and Department of Health and Senior Services to encourage the dissemination of information about meningococcal disease and its vaccines.

Referred to the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee.


Among my sponsored legislation this session are two measures I am particularly proud to support. The first will go a long way toward sustaining the future of the Saint Louis Zoo, while the second will help ensure that Missourians’ end-of-life and other critical health care decisions are honored.

Senate Bill 49 authorizes St. Louis City and the counties of St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles and Franklin to propose to voters a sales tax of one-eighth cent or less that would go to support critical infrastructure, as well as animal conservation needs for the nationally renowned zoo. The sales tax would not replace the property tax now collected from St. Louis city and county residents and overseen by the Zoo Museum District Commission, established in 1972.

Senate Bill 49 has started the discussion about how St. Louis, as a region, can best address the long-term infrastructure and deferred maintenance issues at the Saint Louis Zoo, which was recently voted America’s top free attraction in a nationwide poll. My language is the result of ongoing conversations between the zoo, regional business leaders and elected officials at the state and local levels.

The Saint Louis Zoo was originally funded by a property tax in St. Louis City. As a result of westward expansion, that property tax was extended to St. Louis County in the 1970s and was the primary source of revenue for the zoo. The current property tax in St. Louis City and St. Louis County generates one-third of the revenue, with another one-third coming from operating revenue (i.e., concessions sales, parking fees, etc.) and the final one-third through philanthropy.

Today, there are just as many residents coming from St. Charles County to visit the zoo as there are coming from St. Louis City. My legislation would allow area residents to invest a tiny amount to keep the Saint Louis Zoo free of admission charges and to help support a cultural gem that annually adds more than $230 million and 2,100 jobs to the region’s economy.

In addition to approving the ballot initiative, SB 49 creates a regional governance framework to manage any revenue generated from the sales tax to ensure each county has a seat at the table in determining how the funds are spent. This is probably the biggest provision of the legislation to stem from the conversations we have had with the St. Charles County executive to alleviate concerns with the language we discussed last year. Finally, my bill addresses the issue we had last year pertaining to Grant’s Farm by clarifying that the funds cannot be used for its purchase — permanently taking it off the table.

The Saint Louis Zoo’s existing tax support has remained flat while expenses have risen by 35 percent in recent years. The zoo also faces millions of dollars in needed repairs to its 100-year-old campus. Although it may be possible to raise money for new exhibits, it becomes much harder when you are talking about maintenance of the plumbing system or infrastructure projects. I grew up going to the zoo because it was free and am confident many of my constituents do the same. Whether future generations have a world-class zoo in coming years will depend on the decisions we make now.

Senate Bill 49 has been passed out of committee and will next head to the Senate floor for debate.

Senate Bill 50 establishes a statewide health care directive registry to provide a secure place to electronically store an advance health care directive and to give authorized health care providers immediate access to them when a patient is admitted to a hospital.

Advance directives, which are legally valid throughout the United States, identify a representative to speak for you and make decisions for you if you would become unable to as a result of an accident or illness. Without them, decisions about your medical treatment or end-of-life care may be left up to people who do not know you or your wishes. Advance directives give you a voice in your health care decisions, even if you are unconscious or too ill to communicate. I cannot stress their importance enough.

Senate Bill 50 would allow Missouri residents to store their advance health care directive so that medical providers, family members and anyone else they grant access will honor their wishes. The database of advance directives will be a confidential and secure site, protected by the most up-to-date web and database security standards. All submitted information will be used only by authorized individuals and will be kept completely confidential. Your information could not be shared or sold and would be exempt from the Sunshine law in order to protect your medical privacy.

The submission process is simple and secure. During a visit with their health care provider or attorney, an individual or his or her legal representative would have the option of submitting and signing their advance health care directive documents electronically — very similar to how a person opens a bank account today. States like Virginia have successfully contracted out this type of electronic registry, and several health technology information companies already exist around the country and compete to offer the best and lowest bid for this service, saving the taxpayers money.

The Senate voted 33-0 to advance SB 50 to the House, where it has been second read and is awaiting committee assignment. This is the fourth year I have sponsored some version of legislation, and I am hopeful this will be the year it is signed into law.

We each have the right to make our own health care decisions. Senate Bill 50 simply provides people with an easy and confidential option for ensuring that their end-of-life and other critical health care decisions will be honored. The first legislation authorizing a registry was enacted in Louisiana in 1990. As of mid-2009, 11 other states have enacted legislation mandating the creation of a registry for health care directives.


Although past governors have historically released their budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year during the annual State of the State address in January, the governor this year did not release his Fiscal Year 2018 spending plan until February. As a result, the budget has not yet made it to the full House for debate.

With a strained financial situation looming overhead, the governor’s proposed budget included deep cuts to higher education funding, K-12 transportation and a Medicaid program that provides in-home care services to disabled individuals and seniors who cannot otherwise afford help. Thankfully, the House’s proposed budget has restored some of the funding to education, including $45 million for the Foundation Formula, $22 million for higher education and $36 million for student transportation.

The House budget plan also restores the in-home care funding, but it is being done at the expense of the circuit-breaker tax credit program, which reimburses low-income seniors and disabled Missourians for a portion of the property taxes or rent they have paid for the year. While tough choices will clearly need to be made, it is difficult understanding why a tax credit that helps our most vulnerable citizens is on the chopping block, but corporate tax breaks are being left intact.

With the Legislature back from spring break, finalizing the 13 appropriations bills that comprise this year’s $27 billion budget will be the House’s top priority. The Senate is expected to receive the budget sometime in early April. The House and Senate will then meet in conference to make final changes before sending the budget to the governor for his approval. State lawmakers have until Friday, May 5, to get the budget bills to the governor. Fiscal Year 2018 begins July 1.


Missourians are very blessed to live in a state with so much natural beauty. Whether floating down a river or hiking through one of our incredible state parks, Missouri’s natural environment provides us with endless opportunities to enjoy all that nature has to offer. As Missouri citizens, the responsibility is ours to preserve and maintain the Show-Me State’s natural environment for future generations. Of course, the need for responsible environmental stewardship extends well beyond Missouri’s border. As both Earth Day and Arbor Day are celebrated in the month of April, there is no better time than right now to renew our commitment to preserving and supporting our environment.

Each year, we come together as a country and as a global community in celebration of Earth Day, which marks the anniversary of the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Earth Day was the brainchild of former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was moved to action after witnessing the environmental devastation brought about by the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.

This day of environmental consciousness has certainly evolved since it was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Over the last 45 years, it has grown from an American day of observance to a global movement. Early on, it led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Earth Day 1990 brought recycling to the world stage. And in 2010, the Earth Day Network launched The Canopy Project, which is a global tree planting initiative.

Here in Missouri, the Department of Natural Resources will hold its Earth Day 2017 Celebration on Friday, April 21, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the south lawn of the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. Missouri's 23rd Annual Earth Day offers a variety of fun and educational opportunities for students interested in finding out more about how they can improve the world around them. This year's theme is the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017! The Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse will be the first total eclipse of the sun to visit Missouri in 148 years. The 1869 eclipse only clipped the northeast corner of our state, but the 2017 eclipse will begin its sweep from the northwest corner of Missouri to Cape Girardeau.

New this year — the St. Louis Earth Day Festival will be a two-day event. Area residents are encouraged to head down to Forest Park on the Muny grounds between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 22-23, to learn about environmental issues and solutions in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere of celebration. This outdoor event will feature over 200 regional venders and exhibitors, artists, musicians, dancers, street performers, local food and beverages and hands-on activities.


Eday St. Louis Eday Earth Day


Formally founded in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton, a pioneer from Nebraska, Arbor Day is an annual day of observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care. The idea of Arbor Day quickly spread to other states, coming to Missouri in 1886. For many years, the holiday was celebrated on April 22, Mr. Morton’s birthday. Although Missouri celebrates its Arbor Day on the first Friday in April, National Arbor Day is always observed on the last Friday in April, which is April 28 for 2017.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri contains more than 14 million acres of forest land. These forests clean our air by removing carbon dioxide, dust and gases, provide outdoor recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat and employment for thousands of Missourians, and generally contribute to the overall beauty of our state. On this upcoming National Arbor Day, I encourage you to become more knowledgeable about proper tree care and give back to the environment by planting a native tree.

Arbor Day
Trash Bash

Residents of the 13th District are also encouraged to take part in the state’s annual No MOre Trash! Bash, which will run April 15 through May 15. Sponsored by the MDC and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), this great event asks citizens from every corner of the state to help clean up litter from roadsides, parks, neighborhoods, rivers, streams, trails and other places. Trash Bash activities also include educational efforts in schools, community events and Earth Day celebrations.

MoDOT annually spends about $6 million to remove litter from more than 385,000 acres of roadsides along 34,000 state highway miles; annual volunteer efforts to pick up litter along Missouri highways are valued at $1.5 million. During the 2016 Bash, Missourians collected more than 50,400 bags of litter and several truckloads of debris during the month-long Trash Bash. As you can see, volunteer efforts not only have a huge positive impact on our environment, but they also help reduce the cost of keeping our land and waterways clean.

Volunteers are needed across the state to participate in litter cleanup activities. Participants who report their cleanup efforts by May 31 will receive a thank you No MOre Trash! Bash 2017 lapel pin. For more information and to learn how to participate, visit or call 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636).


The Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is hosting several events during the month of April. Springtime in Missouri is the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy one of these fun and free activities. All four events will be held at the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, near the Confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Reservations can be made any time Wednesday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (314) 877-6014.

Spring Cleaning at Fort Belle Fontaine Park

Add beauty to Fort Belle Fontaine Park by assisting with litter removal. Equipment will be provided, but you may wish to bring gloves. Stop at the guard house at the entrance to the park property to sign in as a visitor and ask directions to the Grand Staircase. This program is in partnership with the Friends of Fort Belle Fontaine Park. No reservations necessary.

When: Saturday, April 1, 10 a.m. to noon
Who: All ages

Arbor Day

Celebrate with us as we learn about Arbor Day. Learn how to get a tree started, and then help us plant a seedling. Continue the celebration at home with a seedling for your own backyard. Reserve by April 1.

When: Sunday, April 2, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Who: All ages

Hopping Homes

Nature is waking up and the nighttime soundtrack often features the choruses of frogs and toads of Missouri. Let’s decorate an abode for these vocal amphibians that you can place in your yard or garden for your own private concerts throughout the spring and summer. If times allows, we will venture out on the area to find some of our jumping residents. Reservations begin April 5; reserve by April 19.

When: Thursday, April 20, noon to 1:30 p.m.
Who: All ages

Gills, Tails and Wagon Wheels

Enjoy an early evening ride through wetlands and fields listening to the sounds of frogs, birds and coyotes. Rides will leave at 6, 6:15, and 6:30; please no more than four per group. Wheelchair access will be available. Call for more detailed information. Reservations begin April 12; reserve by April 27.

When: Friday, April 28, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Who: Persons with a disability and family/support