Moving Legislation Forward
As the Missouri General Assembly concluded the sixth week of the 2021 legislative session, activity on the floor of the Senate chamber has picked up speed, with several bills advancing. The Legislature sent this session’s first “truly agreed and finally passed” bill to the governor’s desk on Tuesday. House Bill 16, a supplemental budget bill, makes more than $320 million of federal money available for housing assistance. The funding supports programs for landlords and tenants alike, with help available to pay back rent or utility payments. More information can be found at the Missouri Housing Development Commission’s website, www.mohousingresources.com.
This week, the Senate brought several bills up for “perfection,” a critical step before legislation moves onto the House of Representatives for its consideration. One of the measures receiving final approval was Senate Bill 37. This legislation streamlines the oversight of anhydrous ammonia providers. Currently, retail and wholesale sources of this mainstay (but potentially dangerous) fertilizer are regulated by both the Missouri departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture. This bill increases government efficiency by consolidating oversight of anhydrous ammonia dealers to the Department of Natural Resources.
Another bill brought up for perfection relates to boat docks. Senate Bill 49 prohibits anyone from anchoring a watercraft within 100 feet of a licensed dock in such a way that impedes ingress or egress. The bill also makes it an infraction to tie up to or trespass on a private boat dock without permission. An amendment was added to the bill that establishes a permanent license tag for watercraft. Currently, licenses for boats and other watercraft must be renewed every three years. This legislation would allow boat owners the option of purchasing a non-transferable permanent tag, and avoid the inconvenience and on-going expense of renewing every three years, for as long as you own your boat. Missouri law already allows similar permanent licenses for trailers.
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued its work on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget this week, with testimony from the departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Revenue and Social Services. We also heard budget requests from the State Tax Commission and the Missouri Lottery. In terms of the effect on state spending, the hearing on the Department of Social Services (DSS) budget was the most consequential, as this one agency accounts for more than a third of Missouri’s $34 billion state budget.
When Todd Richardson, director of the MO HealthNet division of DSS, appeared before the committee I took the opportunity to press him on issues raised by independent pharmacies in the 33rd Senatorial District. Several pharmacists have told me they’re getting squeezed nearly out of business by falling Medicaid reimbursement rates, increased taxes and fees and demands placed on them by federal regulations. I share the concern that rural Missouri could become a “medical desert” as independent pharmacists are forced to close. Director Richardson acknowledged the challenges facing our pharmacists and promised to work toward solutions. I look forward to continuing the conversation with him next week in my office to further discuss this issue.
Finally, it was my pleasure to welcome a number of visitors to my Capitol office this week. Among those was Ricanna Spargo, a FFA state vice president from Naylor, Missouri. The daughter of Will and Teribeth Spargo, Ricanna was in Jefferson City for the FFA’s annual legislative day. I was pleased to present her with a Senate resolution honoring her leadership in the FFA.
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.