Reflecting on the 2021 Legislative Session
On Friday, May 14, lawmakers wrapped up the 2021 legislative session. Like every year, the final week served as a frantic sprint to the finish line with numerous measures sent to the governor’s desk. Overall, I believe the General Assembly passed several pieces of commonsense legislation designed to move Missouri forward and make the Show-Me State a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Before I was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2008, one of the motivating factors that persuaded me to run for public office was my desire to protect the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Missourians. As a proud gun owner, I believe our right to keep and bear arms is paramount to our ability to protect ourselves and our families. To ensure this right is protected from any federal overreach, the General Assembly passed House Bill 85. Commonly known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act, this legislation declares any federal laws, rules, orders or other actions that infringe upon the rights of Missourians to keep and bear arms to be considered invalid and will not be recognized or enforced by the state. In addition, the legislation states it is the duty of the courts and the state’s law enforcement agencies to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Missourians, while also making sure those rights are not infringed upon by the federal government. I am hopeful the governor will quickly sign this legislation into law and send a strong message to those in Washington, D.C., that Missourians will not stand idly by if those in the federal government try to limit our Second Amendment rights.
The General Assembly also approved a public safety measure seeking to help law enforcement and first responders. Senate Bill 26 prohibits dangerous felons who harm police officers and first responders from being eligible for probation. In response to calls throughout our country to defund police departments, SB 26 includes language protecting police budgets from being drastically cut compared to other public agencies. The bill also includes a “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights,” which I believe will strengthen the due process rights for officers involved in internal investigations.
Our men and women in uniform and our first responders already do so much to protect our communities and keep us safe. I was proud to support this public safety measure throughout the legislative session, and I am hopeful the governor will sign it into law.
I am proud to report one of my legislative priorities for this year reached the finish line as a part of House Bill 432. Originally filed as Senate Bill 91, this legislation makes it illegal for an individual convicted of certain sex crimes from being present or loitering within 500 feet of a ball field or sports complex primarily used by children. I have heard from several constituents on how this is an issue in our community. When confronted outside of a local ball field, these individuals refused to leave — putting our children at risk of interacting with them. As the measure moved through the legislative process, it was amended by one of my colleagues to apply the same distance requirement to educational and nature facilities maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), unless the offender is a parent of a child participating in a program at one of the facilities and has permission from the MDC to be present. The safety of our children is incredibly important, and I believe the passage of this legislation is a step toward keeping them safe in places where parents shouldn’t have to be afraid of their children being harassed by registered sex offenders. I am thankful my colleagues in the General Assembly approved HB 432, and I am hopeful the governor will sign this legislation into law.
Finally, I am proud to report the General Assembly passed legislation addressing an important tax issue in Audrain County. In 2000, Audrain County used Chapter 100 bonds to finance the construction of a natural gas power plant. As a part of the project, the county entered into a 20-year agreement with Duke Energy North America, the company originally behind the project, to make payments to the county instead of paying taxes when the plant became operational. However, in 2006, Ameren purchased the power plant. Once the 20-year agreement has expired, Ameren will begin paying taxes on the property to the Missouri State Tax Commission — ending the payments it was making to the county as a part of the original deal. To help ensure these important resources stay in Audrain County, I was able to amend my Senate Bill 92 onto House Bill 734 to ensure the taxes Ameren pays on the facility will stay in our community, instead of heading to the tax commission to be distributed throughout the state.
As I reflect on the 2021 legislative session, I am proud of the work accomplished by the General Assembly. I believe we passed several commonsense measures designed to improve the lives of all Missourians. While this past year has been difficult, I believe brighter days are on the horizon for our great state.
It is an honor to be your state senator, and my door is always open to your concerns, questions or comments. Please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-2757 or visit my web page at www.senate.mo.gov/riddle.