The Legislative Process Begins
With a delayed start due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, the Missouri Senate hit the ground running this week with a full slate of committee hearings. The first step in the legislative process, committee hearings allow citizens and interested groups a chance to express their views on proposed legislations before proposals move too far along. This week, senators began chipping away at more than 400 separate pieces of legislation already introduced this session. That number continues to grow, as more bills are filed every day.
One of the most consequential bills to receive a hearing so far was Senate Bill 39, the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.” This measure, introduced by one of my Senate colleagues, prohibits state and local entities from enforcing unconstitutional gun control laws, and also declares federal laws that prohibit possession, ownership or use of firearms to be invalid in Missouri. Although I’m not the sponsor of this legislation, I fully support it in its current form. Missouri’s Constitution already enshrines gun ownership as an unalienable right, but passage of SB 39 would add additional protections, declaring it the duty of Missouri’s courts and law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. The Senate General Laws Committee heard testimony on SB 39 early this week and I look forward to the bill being brought before the full Senate later in the session. I’ll be sure to support it when it does.
This week, the Health and Pensions Committee heard testimony on a number of bills, each limiting the authority of public health boards to shut down businesses, enact occupancy limits on churches and other public places or otherwise restrict the freedom of citizens to carry on their lives. Among these proposals was my Senate Bill 20. This legislation would require public health orders to be approved by the governing body of the county or political subdivision (i.e. a county commission or city council). The law would also require these agencies to issue a public notice and allow citizen input before imposing an order. My legislation would transfer the final authority to approve health orders to local elected officials, who are accountable to voters.
My health board bill is one of 15 pieces of legislation I have introduced so far this year. I hope to update you on these proposals in the weeks to come and explain why their passage is important. This week, I’ll touch on a few of my top priorities.
Two of the bills I’ve put forth this year share one overall goal in common. Both would allow activities that are widely enjoyed by many Missourians, and bring much needed revenue into the state in the process. I’m sure it would surprise no one to learn that sports enthusiasts sometimes place bets on the outcome of athletic events. In fact, Missouri residents can and do travel to at least 26 other states to wager on sports. Senate Bill 18 would legalize sports wagering in our state and allow the Missouri Gaming Commission to regulate the activity. A small portion of the money wagered would be paid to the state, which must use the money to fund local schools. By some estimates, sports wagers could add as much as $50 million each year to state revenue.
A somewhat related measure, Senate Bill 19 would authorize the Missouri Lottery Commission to place video lottery terminals at fraternal lodges, truck stops, bars and other places frequented primarily by adults. A state-run video lottery program would contribute millions of dollars to Missouri schools and help restore funding for education.
The last bill I’ll discuss this week is Senate Bill 96, the Missouri Made Fuels Act. Under this act, all diesel fuel sold in Missouri would contain a minimum percentage of biodiesel fuel oil produced from agricultural products. Many other states have biodiesel standards, including some states with much colder climates, such as Minnesota. The required minimum biodiesel blend percentage would gradually increase over time – starting with 5% in 2022, and reaching a peak of 20% in 2024. During winter months, Missouri diesel would only be required to contain 5% plant-based blend. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Missouri is the No. 3 supplier of biodiesel in the nation, with nearly 250 million gallons produced at nine plants around the state. Sadly, our state doesn’t even rank in the top 10 in consumption. The Missouri Soybean Association says passage of this act would boost demand for Missouri-grown soybeans here at home, increase jobs and add as much as $50 million each year in tax revenue.
These are just a few of the measures I’ve introduced this year, and a small fraction of the legislation the Senate will consider before the 2021 session ends in May. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the progress of these bills and I’ll introduce you to more of my legislation in future reports.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.