Busy Days and Late Night
The Missouri Senate began the week with a late night. On Monday, we took up a proposal to increase the penalties for protestors who block traffic. We worked on the legislation until well past midnight before finally perfecting Senate Bill 26. In addition to making unlawful traffic interference a crime – the first offense is an infraction – the bill also includes a provision making it illegal to deface a public monument or structure on public property. Both of these provisions are in response to last summer’s protests, which included destruction of statutes honoring historic figures. Also included in SB 26 is a Bill of Rights for law enforcement officers, ensuring due process for policemen and women accused of wrong-doing. The bill was third read and passed before the Senate left for the week, and now is in the hands of the House.
Also this week, the Senate passed a COVID-19 liability protection bill and sent it onto the House of Representatives for its consideration. Senate Bill 51 shields small businesses, health care facilities and first responders from lawsuits resulting from COVID-19 exposure, except in cases of recklessness or willful misconduct. The legislation also offers product liability protections for manufacturers who stepped outside their normal business expertise to produce PPE and other products in response to the health emergency. Additional provisions exempt churches from COVID-19 lawsuits unless intentional misconduct can be shown. Despite an unfounded rumor to the contrary, this bill does not require anyone to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
During a busy week of committee hearings, I handed over my chairman’s gavel long enough to present three bills to the Economic Development Committee. Senate Bill 354 extends the sunset on two tax credits for investment in new generation cooperatives and other agricultural businesses. Senate Bill 355 extends a tax credit for expansion or modernization at Missouri meat processing facilities. Senate Bill 367, the “Show Missouri Film and Digital Media Act,” is intended to attract motion picture and television production companies back to Missouri. Prior to 2013, Missouri offered tax breaks for production companies that filmed projects in our state. Popular Hollywood productions, such as “Gone Girl,” “Up in the Air” and “Winter’s Bone,” were filmed in our state, in part, due to these incentives. Each of these projects spurred local economies as production companies hired area residents and spent money in hotels, restaurants and other businesses. We have not had any major films shot in our state since the tax credit expired. My legislation would again make Missouri competitive with other states who have seen significant economic activity related to film and television production.
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued its work reviewing budget requests for various departments of state government. This week, we heard from the Department of Mental Health, Department of Health and Senior Services and Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. We also considered budget requests from the General Assembly and the offices of Missouri’s six statewide elected officials: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor and treasurer.
It was my pleasure this week to sponsor Warrensburg business executive and retired Missouri National Guard Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel as he appeared before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee. The CEO of Alewel’s Country Meats, Gen. Alewel has been appointed by the governor to serve as a member of the Missouri Veterans Commission.
In a sign of the times, I welcomed members of student organization Youth With Vision to a virtual Capitol event this week. For the past 20 years, high school leaders from Clay, Platte and Ray counties have traveled to Jefferson City for the group’s annual Prevention Day at the Capitol. This year, we connected online through a Zoom chat. It’s disappointing that the pandemic prevented these impressive youngsters from meeting with their elected officials in-person, but I was glad to interact with them electronically.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at email@example.com.