Moving Legislation Forward
We had another busy week at the Missouri State Capitol, but I must confess that my mind was, at least in part, focused on the Easter holiday festivities ahead. Easter is a big deal at my house, with my kids and grandkids coming to visit. I always plan a big meal and, every year, I bake a special bunny cake for the children to decorate. I so enjoy spending the time with family, but also the opportunity reflect on the blessings we receive through our Lord and his resurrection. I hope everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the Easter holiday, however you and yours chose to celebrate.
In legislative activity this week, my Senate Bill 494 received a “do pass” recommendation from the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee. This simple bill merely instructs the Department of Revenue to place the “Veteran” designation on the front of driver’s licenses, instead of on the back, as has been done in the past. The idea is to make it more convenient for veterans to show their ID when seeking military discounts or other recognitions. With the blessing of the committee, I wasted no time adding my proposal to another piece of legislation. I successfully offered the language of SB 494 as an amendment to Senate Bill 120, a wide-ranging package of legislation focused on veterans and military service. There’s a lot of great provisions included in that bill, including the creation of a new cabinet-level Department of the National Guard, so hopefully my simple bill about veteran’s IDs has hitched a ride on a vehicle heading across the legislative finish line.
Also this week, I presented Senate Bill 265 to the Education Committee. This legislation has several major components, each intended to help prepare students for the workforce. The bill allows individual schools or entire districts to apply for innovation waivers. When schools believe they can’t adequately address the needs of their students due to some state regulation or statue, they can develop a plan and present it to the State Board of Education. It’s really just a way for schools to think outside the box, create new approaches and seek solutions for the unique challenges they face. Senate Bill 265 also includes a requirement (with exceptions) that students complete the FAFSA application for federal student aid prior to graduation, a provision relating to aid for career and technical education programs and another requiring school counselors to work with individual students to develop customized career and academic plans. Finally, the bill extends the length of time a retired school teacher can return to the classroom without endangering their retirement benefits. As a former school superintendent, I often wished I could bring great teachers back to work, but knew that wasn’t an option. With so many rural schools struggling to find qualified teachers, I believe this provision will help put experienced educators in front of our classrooms.
Senate Bill 582, my legislation protecting the right of sheltered workshops to pay commensurate wages to their disabled employees, was passed out of the Seniors, Families, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee this week. This bill anticipates a change to federal wage law that would require sheltered workshops to pay the federal minimum wage. If Congress raises the minimum wage, sheltered workshops may cease to exist, because the model of having disabled persons perform labor will no longer be sustainable at the increased wage. We’re hoping to carve out an exception for sheltered workshops so these wonderful people can continue to do the work they enjoy so much.
I was thrilled this week to welcome a number of visitors from the district. I always appreciate people making the drive to Jefferson City to see government in action, share their concerns about legislation and participate in the legislative process. This week, I met with a fantastic group of educators and students from Mount Zion Bible School in Ava. It was fun seeing the smiles on those kids’ faces and the pride they have as they toured their Capitol. I also enjoyed reconnecting with my old friend from West Plains, Janet Crow, who introduced me to members of the Missouri CattleWomen’s organization, an auxiliary group to the state Cattlemen’s Association. I’ve always been a strong supporter of the agriculture community, and it was great to visit with some of the folks who put beef on our tables.
It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Ripley, Texas, Webster and Wright counties in the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from friends and family back home. If I can help you in any way, please call my Capitol Office at 573-751-1882, or my District Office at 417-596-9011. You can also visit my webpage at www.senate.mo.gov/mem33, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @seneslingermo.