Back in the Game
If the 2021 legislative session was a football game, we would have just come back on the field after half-time and begun digging in for a hard-fought drive for yardage. This week, the General Assembly returned from our one-week spring recess and legislators hunkered down in an effort to advance priority legislation toward the goal posts.
Early in the week, the Senate debated a public safety bill for nearly six hours. Most of the provisions of Senate Bill 53 are aimed at policing issues in metropolitan areas, but some parts of it have more statewide impact. The bill relaxes a residency requirement for Kansas City police officers, allowing cops to live outside the city limits. The bill also includes provisions sought by urban legislators, including a partial ban on choke holds, a police use-of-force tracking system and a database of police officer dismissals. One provision, which I shepherded through the Transportation Committee, requires police officers to obtain continuing education in order to remain certified, and also requires fingerprinting and background checks for all licensed police officers. The language of my portion of the bill was developed with the help of the state trooper’s association, the Department of Public Safety and organizations representing police officers throughout the state.
On Wednesday, we took up Senate Bill 12. This measure sought to limit the power of local health agencies to impose emergency lockdown orders. The Senate debated the bill until after 1 a.m. Thursday and finally defeated the measure. I’m certainly sympathetic to those who live in areas that saw strict pandemic-related health orders, but I ultimately voted against the bill. I believe the governor made the right call when he chose not to issue a statewide mandate in response to COVID-19, and instead said public health decisions should be made on a local basis.
In other action this week, we perfected Senate Bill 108, which allows the formation of infrastructure improvement districts for the purpose of providing broadband internet services in rural areas. We also approved Senate Bill 119, which prohibits “spoofing,” the practice of altering caller ID to mask the true identity of telemarketing callers. We also gave initial approval to Senate Bill 283. This legislation makes permanent a pandemic-response waiver that allows restaurants to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink in sealed to-go containers when meals are purchased for carry-out or curbside delivery.
Outside the legislative arena, there were a couple of items of news regarding state government that I believe merit mentioning. Perhaps the most welcome is the announcement by the governor and the Department of Health and Senior Services that vaccine availability is being expanded. Beginning March 29, COVID-19 vaccines will be available to all Missourians employed in the construction, critical manufacturing and higher education sectors, as well as any food and agriculture workers who have not yet been vaccinated. As of April 9, every adult Missourian will be eligible for the vaccine. If you want a vaccine, you will soon be able to get it. To register, visit www.covidvaccine.mo.gov/navigator online, or call 877-435-8411.
Missouri taxpayers dreading the April 15 filing deadline can rest a bit easier. The deadline for filing your 2020 individual income taxes has been extended until May 15. The deadline to pay your taxes has also moved, to May 17. The relief was prompted by a delay in the federal tax filing season and applies to individual taxpayers only, including those who pay self-employment tax. The deadline for estimated tax payments remains April 15, however. For more information, visit www.dor.mo.gov.
Finally, we received great news regarding the Missouri State Fair. The fair director said Missouri’s agricultural showplace will return to its normal form this year, Aug. 12-22. Last year’s fair was nearly sidelined by COVID-19, with only livestock exhibitions and limited FFA and 4-H activities being held. This year, the 11-day extravaganza will include the usual array of exhibits, food vendors, carnival rides and entertainment. Start planning your visit now, and be sure to check the schedule online at www.mostatefair.com as the fair approaches.
It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at https://www.senate.mo.gov/brown for more information.