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The Missouri Senate is following the recommended guidelines regarding COVID-19 and will be physically closed until March 30.  However, my staff and the staff of the Senate will be working remotely to ensure services are still provided to the residents of the 13th Senatorial District.  Please educate yourself on the virus and take the important steps to prevent its onset and spread by checking the Centers for Disease Control or Missouri Department of Health websites or by calling the hotline at 1-877-435-8411. 

Senator Gina Walsh speaks to the media during a press conference.

This week’s mid-session recess marks the half-way point of the 2020 legislative session. When I return to Jefferson City, there will only be seven weeks remaining in my final legislative session as a state senator. Although this is a bittersweet transition for me, having served in Missouri’s General Assembly since 2002, I am ready to move on with crossing things off my bucket list, volunteering in North St. Louis County and spoiling my adorable grandkids.

Although this is my last session, I haven’t retired from sponsoring bills or passing policies just yet. Once again, I am sponsoring legislation to establish guidelines to test potable water for lead in public schools that were constructed before 1996 and serve children under six.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that affects the way children learn, grow and behave. According to Environment Missouri, “the only way to ensure safe drinking water for our children is simply to get the lead out’ of our schools and preschools.”  I hope this bill will progress quickly through the legislative process. I have also been pushing Senate Bill 540, a measure that requires persons who are convicted of burglary, robbery (first or second degree) or stealing to register as a sex offender if the stolen property was sexual in nature. 

This session, I am once again serving as the chairwoman of the Progress and Development Committee.  This five-member team had its first hearing on Feb. 11, and two bills were presented.  Senate Bill 696 would require all persons that are arrested for a felony charge to provide a DNA sample, and similar bills have been debated by the Senate in past years. I believe the goal of this legislation is to discover more DNA matches, help solve violent crimes and bring guilty felons to justice. The other was Senate Bill 544 which creates a “Text-to-Donate” pilot program in Kansas City and St. Louis to help fund services for homeless people. 

Former Sen. Curls and Sen. Walsh pose during Sen. Curls' gubernatorial appointment hearing on Jan. 16.

On January 16, my colleague and former Missouri Senate Assistant Minority Floor Leader, Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, was appointed to serve on the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission.

This makes her the fifth woman and first African American to hold the position. It was a pleasure serving and working with her in the Senate, and I know she will be a great asset to the Commission.

Fulfilling my final term in the Senate is not the only drastic change that is occurring this spring.  I am also turning another page in my service to the labor movement.  January 29 was my final meeting as the president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council. Since 2013, I have proudly represented the union leaders and members that make up this amazing trade in Missouri.  Over the past few years, this organization has enjoyed steady growth in membership. I am optimistic about the Council’s future, and I am confident there will always be hardworking, fair-minded individuals committed to the mission and members of organized labor.

My new vocation will be with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers.  I look forward to representing my craft and promoting the mechanical insulation industry in this new leadership role.

Learn more about this reconstruction project, visit the I-270 Project website.

Last November, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission selected the contractor to carry out the massive I-270 construction project in North County, St. Louis. 

The $278 million reconstruction project will improve reliability within the I-270 corridor, enhance safety and link communities.

This is excellent news for the citizens of the 13th Senatorial District that have been dealing with heavy traffic, higher crash rates and aging infrastructure for quite some time. 

One of my favorite components of this project is the emphasis on workforce diversity.  MODOT is committed to equal opportunities, and the I-270 Design-Build project team represents diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, ability and sexual orientation.

Our city’s favorite running tradition, GO! St. Louis, is celebrating its 20th anniversary on March 28-29 with the marathon and family fitness weekend. Over 25,000 fitness enthusiasts will have their chance to put their practice into action in their choice of marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, 10K, 5K, children’s fun run or mature mile. 

The competitive, USATF-certified courses are Boston Marathon qualifiers, but the many other amenities provide something for everyone. 

The two-day Go! St. Louis Health & Fitness Expo is scheduled for March 27-28 in conjunction with the marathon.

Mark your calendars for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!  This fun, family and environmentally friendly festival will take place on April 25-26 from 11:00a.m.-5:00p.m. at Forest Park on the Muny Grounds. Attendees will enjoy a diverse array of food, beverages, apparel, entertainment and educational activities throughout the event. 

Bring your appetite and a reusable water bottle to partake in one or all of the certified vendors from the “Green Dining Alliance” who will be serving up fresh, locally sourced and organic cuisine in recyclable or compostable containers. These food trucks and vendors can be found in the Earth Day Café, the Pit Stop and Down on the Farm designations within the park.

Entertainment will be abundant on two different stages and in the Peace Garden. The Earth Day Stage will feature local musicians throughout the day, and the Community Stage will feature performances from a variety of musical and dance groups, and possibly some well-trained critters!  Children will have ample opportunities to learn and enjoy age appropriate, skill building activities that promote earth friendly lifestyle choices and behaviors.

Earth Day, which is observed each year on April 22, began in 1970 with a mission to diversify, educate and activate a worldwide environmental movement. Since then, approximately 1 billion people have mobilized to protect our planet’s future, and over 75,000 partners in nearly 200 countries are collaborating for transformative changes for both people and our planet.

Did you know that nearly 8 percent of youth ages 12-18 in St. Louis County reported that they had used a prescription drug that was not prescribed to them?  The latest Missouri Student Survey, conducted in 2018 by the Missouri Departments of Mental Health and Elementary and Secondary Education, also indicated that 26.5 percent of our students say that prescription drugs are "very" or "sort of" easy to obtain.  Along those same lines, 12 percent think prescription drugs pose "no" or only a "slight risk" to use them.

Do your part in helping to curb the opioid crisis by safely disposing of your expired, unused, or unwanted medications at one of the many locations throughout the city. National Take Back Days are scheduled in October and April each year, and they represent a partnership between the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), local law enforcement agencies, pharmacies, health care providers and caring citizens.

According to the DEA’s Take Back Day website, Missouri continues to lead the DEA’s three state region, the St. Louis Division, in sites and totals collected during the spring and fall organized events. 

As of Oct. 2019, almost 442 tons of prescriptions have been removed from households. 

To learn more about the program or find a location near you, visit the DEA’s Take Back Day website.

For more than 30 years, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) has been empowering teens, engaging parents, mobilizing communities and changing lives with its peer-to-peer approach to youth health and safety. This June 28-July 1, approximately 500 student leaders from Missouri and the United States will converge in downtown St. Louis for the organization's annual national conference, Gateway to Success

Attendees will learn about resiliency, network with like-minded youth, share chapter successes and challenges and gain valuable leadership skills to empower their peers to live alcohol and drug free. This year's conference will feature a "SADD Gives Back Service Center" where students can clock volunteer hours while helping the local community. Keynote speakers are John Beede and Juan Bendana. In addition, the creators of the "Not OK" app, Hannah and Charlie Lucas, will give a presentation on this life-saving app.

If your school is sending students, please share your photos and stories on my social media channels.

This year marks two very important anniversaries for one of our most prized civil liberties.  February 3 marked the sesquicentennial of the 15th Amendment granting African American men the right to vote, and on Aug. 18, our nation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. These movements were doused with difficulty, protests, agitation and ultimately, triumph. 

Honor these momentous occasions and those that fought for these rights by registering to vote!  Although November seems far off, the election will be here before we know it.  It has never been more important to vote or easier to do so! Mailed registration forms must be postmarked by the 4th Wednesday before the election, but you may also complete a voter registration application online or in person.

Check the Secretary of State’s website for more information.

State Sen. Gina Walsh 
State Capitol Building Rm. 333