Tackling Priority Legislation
The 101st General Assembly began its third week with only the Senate being in session. With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday and a number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the House of Representatives chose to keep its members home. The Senate pressed ahead, however. Rumors of possible protests and demonstrations at the Capitol proved to be unfounded, and the week went off without a hitch.
Legislative activity was primarily focused on committee hearings as the public and advocacy groups voiced their opinions on various legislative proposals. We had a busy schedule of hearings and took testimony on several high-priority bills.
One measure that’s sure to attract a lot of attention is Senate Bill 39, which came before the General Laws Committee. Known as the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” this legislation declares Missouri’s independence from gun control laws that might be passed at the federal level. Our state constitution already affirms the right to keep and bear arms, but this legislation goes further. It says Missouri courts and law enforcement agencies have a duty to protect the right of the state’s citizens to own firearms. There’s little Missouri can do to stop the federal government from passing gun control laws, but that does not mean we have to help enforce them. If this bill becomes law, it would be illegal for public officials or state and local employees to assist federal authorities who are intent on denying Second Amendment rights. I voted for an earlier version of this legislation when I was in the House of Representatives, and will support it in the Senate as well.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I listened intently to testimony in support of, and opposed to, a pair of bills intended to shield business owners, health care professionals and manufacturers from lawsuits related to COVID-19. The supporters of Senate Bill 42 and Senate Bill 51 said it’s not reasonable to hold others accountable when a person contracts a highly infectious disease – especially when a business owner, first responder or medical worker has made a good faith effort to follow health guidelines. Opponents say everyone deserves their day in court. It’s a complex issue, but I come down on the side of accepting personal responsibility. We all know the risks from COVID-19, and it’s up to us to protect ourselves. Our small businesses have been harmed badly by the pandemic, and I believe we should do what we can to help them. I strongly support legislation that allows schools and business to reopen without fear of lawsuits. Passage of COVID-19 liability protections is a priority for the governor, so I expect we’ll see a bill cross the finish line fairly soon.
In the Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee we took up Senate Bill 10, a measure that addresses the sorts of gaming machines increasingly seen in truck stops, gas stations, bars and lodge halls. This legislation is sponsored by the president pro tem of the Senate, and he argued strongly for its passage before the committee. If this bill becomes law, any business found to have an unlicensed gaming machine could lose their liquor license and would no longer be allowed to sell lottery products. Honestly, I haven’t made a decision about this bill yet. I’m eager to learn more about this topic and look forward to the floor debate when the entire Senate takes up the legislation.
Finally, I’m pleased to announce I have been asked to take on more responsibility. I have been appointed to serve on the Missouri Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force, the Missouri HealthNet Oversight Committee and the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. These assignments allow me the opportunity to become more involved in topics that I care about deeply, and to have a role in setting policies. I appreciate the confidence shown in me and look forward to taking on these additional challenges.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.