It’s hard to believe, but the 2022 legislative session is more than halfway over. Lawmakers have managed to make some progress on several important pieces of legislation, while other issues remain to be decided.
For instance, one of my priority pieces of legislation has made it through the Senate committee process and was recently debated on the Senate floor. Senate Bill 657 establishes procedures for recall elections for school board members. Under my legislation, a recall election can be held if a recall petition is signed by at least 25% of the number of registered votes who voted in the most recent school board election. Recall proceedings would not be allowed against any member during the first 30 or last 180 days of their term or against any member who has had a recall election decided in their favor during the current term.
Ultimately, this bill is about introducing some accountability into the school board system and ensuring the values of the community are always represented on these important boards. If we held municipal and school board elections during our regular elections in November when turnout is higher and better representative of the community, I believe there would be no need for a recall. Until that change is made, however, I believe allowing for a recall election is the next best thing. Senate Bill 657 has not yet been approved by the Missouri Senate, but I am committed to working on this issue further with my legislative colleagues and seeing it become law this year.
Another one of my priorities was recently passed by the Senate and will soon start making its way through the Missouri House of Representatives. Senate Joint Resolution 46 is a proposed constitutional amendment, which, if approved by voters, would allow the Jackson County assessor to be elected rather than appointed. Currently, the Jackson County assessor is the only county assessor in the state that is an appointed, rather than elected, position. I hope this change will help promote accountability and consistency across the county.
The Senate has also taken steps to crack down on critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in our schools. The Senate’s Education committee, which I’m a member of, recently passed several measures including Senate Bill 638, Senate Bill 645, Senate Bill 694 and Senate Bill 734 that would effectively ban CRT. I was pleased to vote “yes” on all of them. I’m eager to get these bills to the governor’s desk and get these divisive materials out of our schools.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly continues to be bogged down on the issue of congressional redistricting. Recently, the Senate passed a modified version of House Bill 2117. After hearing from my constituents on the importance of a 7-1 map, I voted “no” because I believe a 7-1 map is possible, and we should strive to pass such a map. It may cause issues with communities of interest, but I’m hoping we work through that on the final map.
I do have some concerns about this map surviving a court challenge. No one can predict exactly how the courts may rule, and that uncertainty and unpredictability bothers me – as it should many conservatives. If the map goes to court, it will go to the Western District Federal Court which is largely composed of Obama-era judges. Safe to say, these are not the people we want drawing our congressional districts.
That said, there’s still work to be done on the map. Despite the Senate passing a version of the congressional redistricting bill, the House has rejected it and asked to go to conference to find a better solution. Unfortunately, that motion was rejected by the Senate, leaving the House in a take-it-or-leave-it situation. The House stood its ground, and requested another conference committee. It remains to be seen how this will ultimately play out. As I said before, I value a map that provides stability over the long-term and can withstand a court challenge. As we continue to work on this issue, that’s exactly what I’ll be pushing for.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with several student groups here in the State Capitol. On March 30, I met with Oak Grove’s AP Government and Student Council students, and the Blue Springs School District leadership team during their visit on March 31. It was great meeting these young people and area leaders and seeing them take an interest in their state government.
I also had the honor of recognizing Dr. Marion Pierson during the Lt. Governor’s Women of Achievement Awards Ceremony on March 24. Dr. Pierson, a Kansas City native, founded the nonprofit MO Hives KC with a goal to place and support urban apiaries in blighted urban areas, to pollinate urban food gardens, and to provide teaching and economic opportunities for the community. The organization maintains four active hives, housing nearly a quarter of a million bees at the apiary, provides hyperlocal honey as well as offers a six-week summer program for high school and college students to learn the apiary process.
I am honored to continue serving the citizens of the 8th Senatorial District. Please feel free to contact my office in Jefferson City at (573) 751-1464. For information about committees or sponsored legislation for the 2022 session, please visit my official Missouri Senate website at senate.mo.gov/Cierpiot.