The Rest of the Story
If you read news reports this past week, you might have the impression that I and a few of my fellow senators opposed protections for victims of sexual assault. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that one of my colleagues insinuated as much, but that’s not what actually happened. The controversy arose over Senate Bill 775, legislation that includes a number of provisions related to victims of sexual assault, including one that’s been referred to as the “Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights.” When that measure was brought up for perfection late Tuesday night, another senator suggested a connection between exposure to pornography and declining respect for women. To address this, he offered an amendment to limit the presentation of obscene materials in our state’s classrooms. As any parent knows, the boundaries of what is deemed appropriate material for our children’s education has crept farther and farther to the extremes, to the point where some of the “literature” our children are asked to read is completely unacceptable and would not be allowed in our homes. In fact, the amendment’s sponsor challenged opponents to read some of the offending material on the Senate floor, but they all declined. That’s how offensive some of this material is.
Senate Bill 775 was eventually laid on the table, but the bill’s sponsor held a news conference the following morning and accused myself and several other senators of trying to kill the bill. I responded by taking the floor and pointing out that Missouri already has a Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights. The legislation we’re considering this year replaces a nine-page section of current law with a much shorter two-page measure that lacks specificity and detail. I reject the accusation that I don’t support protections for survivors of sexual assault. I also proudly defend the amendment my colleague proposed to outlaw the distribution of sexually explicit materials in our children’s classrooms. Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone wouldn’t agree that is a law that we should pass.
The headlines the following day declared legislative activity was stalled in the Missouri Senate. Well, like a lot of what you read in the papers, that’s not true, either. This week saw several major pieces of legislation I sponsored moving forward through the process. We had a busy week of committee hearings and I was pleased to present several bills for consideration by my colleagues, and subject these proposals to input from citizens and stakeholders.
This week I presented Senate Joint Resolution 32 to the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee. This legislation, which would require the approval of voters in an upcoming election, affirms the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife in Missouri. As other states erode these time-honored traditions, I believe it’s important to enshrine these activities in our Constitution so future generations continue to enjoy these important liberties.
My Senate Bill 806 was heard by the Education Committee this week. Under this act, school districts would be required to establish a state-approved program of education for gifted students if at least 3% of students enrolled qualify as gifted. Missouri law defines gifted students as “children who exhibit precocious development of mental capacity and learning potential . . . to the extent that continued educational growth and stimulation could best be served by an academic environment beyond that offered through standard grade-level curriculum.”
Also this week, the Senate Small Business and Industry Committee took testimony on an exciting new proposal to spur innovation and economic growth and development in Missouri. Known as the “Regulatory Sandbox Act,” my Senate Bill 1068 would allow certain state laws and regulations to be waived or suspended for up to two years while businesses participating in the program demonstrate innovative product and service offerings to consumers. Freed from the burdens of excessive regulations, these enterprises operating in “the sandbox” would have time to bring their products to fruition and allow their market to mature. With oversight by a new Regulatory Relief Office, SB 1068 would make it easier for businesses to explore new products and services and make Missouri more attractive to businesses looking to locate.
Two of my legislative priorities also moved farther along the legislative process as I presented Senate Bill 642 and Senate Bill 643 to the Appropriations Committee. The Missouri Video Lottery Control Act, SB 642, would finally address the proliferation of illegal slot machines across our state and replace them with video lottery terminals regulated by the State Lottery Commission. My SB 643 legalizes sports wagering in Missouri. Both of these measures will result in millions of dollars in revenue funneling into our schools and veterans programs and take control of these activities out of the hands of illegal operators and impose state regulation to ensure the games are fair for consumers.
We’ve reached the halfway point in the legislative session and the General Assembly will recess for one week. We’ll resume legislative activities on March 21.
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.