The Legislature reached a milestone on Feb. 24 by passing its first bill of the 2022 legislative session. House Bill 3014 is a supplemental budget bill that helps fund a variety of state operations and obligations through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on June 30. Along with distributing federal funds to help our local school districts, the bill also provides a 5.5% pay increase for our hardworking state employees. I’m proud to see this happen. Our state relies on these dedicated public servants, and they should be compensated adequately, especially at a time when we are seeing rising prices across the board. I’m hopefully this pay increase will also help us retain some of our best workers and recruit even more.
While we have one bill down, the Legislature still has many more to go through the end of session in mid-May. One of the bills I hope can make it across the legislative finish line before then is Senate Bill 817. I recently presented this bill to the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, and it changes the eligibility requirements for the family farm breeding livestock loan program, an important financing option for Missouri small farmers. Senate Bill 817 increases the annual amount of gross agricultural product sales a farmer can have in order to participate in the program from $250,000 to $500,000. The bill also removes the restriction that limits farmers to only one loan per family and raises the maximum loan amount they can receive. Overall, I believe SB 817 will help our farmers access vital financial resources and stay competitive in today’s economy.
Another bill making its way through the legislative process is Senate Bill 664. This bill makes a small, yet profound change to state law by making individuals found guilty of second degree murder when they were under the age of 18 ineligible for early parole. Last year, the Legislature passed legislation expanding parole opportunities, but made an unfortunate change allowing these individuals to seek parole after serving only 15 years – and often well before their sentence has been fully served. Senate Bill 664 would fix that, ensuring murderers stay behind bars and serve an appropriate amount of their sentence. Senate Bill 664 was approved by its committee and now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.
As always, I am honored to serve the citizens of the 6th Senatorial District. Please feel free to contact my office at (573) 751-2076. For information about my committee assignments or sponsored legislation, please visit my official Missouri Senate website at senate.mo.gov/Bernskoetter.