Focusing on the District
It’s been another busy week in the Missouri Legislature, with several late nights spent trying to reach compromises on pending legislation. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve been meeting with state agencies and constituent groups in advance of next week’s budget “mark-up” process. It’s an intense time in the Legislature, with everyone trying to get their priorities included in next year’s spending plan. For example, one of many budgetary items I’m working on is securing funding to help volunteer fire departments pay for workers compensation insurance, and to supply rural fire departments with epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as “epi-pens.” Rural firefighters are often the first on the scene in emergencies, and having the proper supplies just might help save a life, especially in the rural areas that make up the 33rd District. My predecessor in the Senate, Mike Cunningham, was instrumental in getting both the firefighter workers’ compensation and epi-pen provisions put into law, and I’m committed to continuing that effort through the budget process.
April 11-17 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, and I had the honor of presenting a Senate resolution in recognition of the work our 911 dispatchers do every day to help Missourians in their time of need. Because of the Legislature’s 2018 enactment of a 3% prepaid wireless fee, the 911 Service Board Trust Fund is able to administer grants to counties. One project important to the 33rd District will inter-connect Wright, Howell, Ozark and Douglas counties. Emergency call centers in these counties will be fully equipped with the technology needed to locate cell phone callers and accept text messages.
I’m happy to report that we continue to gain ground on the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 9, the governor and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) expanded vaccine availability to all residents of the state. Gone are the tiered phases that required Missourians to fit into certain categories before qualifying for a vaccine. Today, if you want the vaccine, you can have it. To sign up, visit the DHSS vaccine navigator online at https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/navigator. You can also register by calling 877-435-8411.
Looking back on the past year, I’m very proud of how the 33rd District navigated these very trying times. With nearly 170,000 residents of the district, fewer than 12,000 have tested positive for COVID-19. Sadly, though, the virus is blamed for the death of 210 of our neighbors. So far, more than 53,000 residents of the district have begun the vaccination process, and have received at least one dose. I’m appreciative of the governor and our local hospitals, public health departments and pharmacies for getting vaccines out to those eligible in the early stages of distribution quickly and efficiently. On the whole, the COVID-19 response has been effective, with not much controversy like we’ve seen in some other areas of the state. While we had our share of disagreement, fear and confusion, overall, the common-sense leaders we have in our counties and cities worked through their issues at the local level in a collaborative spirit by valuing each other’s opinions. We avoided experiencing the massive disruption of overreach that occurred in other areas, and they maintained a proper balance between protecting public health and keeping our businesses and local economy afloat.
Speaking of our local leaders, I also compliment our county commissioners for the hard work and long hours they’ve put in distributing federal CARES Act funding to help our communities respond to the pandemic. They deserve our thanks as they figured how best to apply this money in their local communities. It’s difficult to sort out all the various pandemic-related programs and relief efforts, but Missouri Office of Administration data shows nearly $20 million of federal money has been distributed directly to the eight counties of the 33rd District. This does not include all the various statewide programs, or money provided directly to health care facilities, schools and others.
Finally, I’d like to extend my congratulations to Seth Johnson of West Plains, who was appointed to serve on the Missouri Real Estate Appraisers Commission. It was my honor to present him to the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee this week.
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.