The First Regular Session of the 101st General Assembly has reached the halfway point. The Legislature will take a one-week spring recess and return to Jefferson City on March 22. This seems like as good a time as any to reflect on my experience in the Senate so far. Three months ago, when I took my oath of office, I said my first job was to learn the ways of the Senate so I could become more effective. What a learning process it’s been.
The Senate is very different from the House. In the Senate things move quite a bit slower. You don’t have as many senators, so you don’t have as many bills. That enables us to delve in a little deeper and have more conversation on these incredibly important policy decisions. I really do like that.
So far, I believe it’s been a good session. Everyone seems to be getting along, and we’re moving legislation. We’ve had several late nights just trying to work through bills, but we are getting things done.
For those who aren’t familiar with the pace of the Legislature, we’ve reached the point where many of the priority bills have been taken up and passed onto the other chamber. We saw that this week. The Senate passed the “Wayfair” internet sales tax bill and the gas tax increase bill – neither of which I supported – and now it’s up to the House of Representatives to take a look at those bills. The House has finished work on its education savings account bill and the Second Amendment Preservation Act. The Senate will look at those once we come back. And both of those are measures I support, at least in their current forms.
One thing that’s not finished in the Senate is our education reform bill. I don’t see that as a negative because there’s been so much occurring in the background to include everyone in the discussions. We’ve been working really hard to make sure our well-performing rural schools are not harmed in any way. I don’t want to make changes to those schools because they are having great outcomes. In my opinion, we do need to make reforms for the urban schools that have been underperforming for years. We have children graduating from some schools who cannot even read. I believe that should be a concern to all of us.
Part of this discussion has centered on the underfunding of school transportation programs, especially in rural areas. The leadership has been very receptive to our concerns, and they’re working with us to make sure our rural schools get the resources they need.
Another measure that hasn’t advanced yet is my prescription drug monitoring program bill. I’m looking forward to that being a top item once we come back from spring recess. I’ve been working on getting this bill passed for nine years and it’s always got hung up in the Senate. I’m hopeful that’s going to be different this year, but I’m also mindful that the House looks a lot different now.
I just work every day with a lot of prayer, asking God for wisdom and knowledge from him. I’m hopeful we will get it across the finish line this year.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder