The State of the State
Missouri’s Constitution requires the governor to inform the General Assembly about the state of the government at the beginning of each legislative session, but it does not say how he must do it. This year, the traditional joint-session normally held in the House chamber was canceled, due to concerns over COVID-19. Instead, the governor delivered his annual State of the State address to a smaller audience gathered in the Senate chamber. The speech, which was livestreamed online, was upbeat and optimistic. The governor highlighted Missouri’s resiliency as we weathered a difficult year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Announcing his priorities and budget requests for the following year, the governor called on the Legislature to fully fund the Foundation Formula that pays for elementary and secondary education in Missouri. He also requested additional money for the state’s universities, and asked for increases in the A+ Schools Program and for Bright Flight scholarships. The governor again emphasized the need for workforce development and proposed funding for a number of programs intended to train Missourians for 21st-century occupations and to encourage job growth in the state. He also urged the Legislature to pass legislation shielding small businesses and health care workers from COVID-19 lawsuits.
The governor proposed a $34 billion budget for 2022. His spending plan includes continued funding for road and bridge improvements, and also requested money for rural broadband and telehealth technology. While delivering good news regarding strong state revenues, the governor cautioned that Medicaid expansion, approved by voters in November, will present challenges as the Legislature prepares future budgets.
A common theme throughout the governor’s address was the impact COVID-19 has had on our citizens and the state’s economy. The message was delivered at a turning point, however. Now that vaccines are available, all of us look forward to putting the pandemic behind us. It’s no surprise then that vaccine availability is on everyone’s mind, and I’ve fielded a number of calls from constituents who wanted to know when they could get the shots.
Let me reassure everyone there is a plan. Missouri receives more doses of the COVID-19 vaccines every week and those are being made available as quickly as possible. Priority is being given to the most vulnerable citizens first. The order of vaccine availability is described at www.covidvaccine.mo.gov, a website developed by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Basically, health care workers, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities are at the front of the line. Following behind them is anyone over the age of 65 and people with chronic health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19. Once vaccines have been made available to those folks, teachers, child care providers and those employed in critical industries will be inoculated. Vaccines should be available to all Missourians by summer.
More than 18,000 Missourians receive a COVID-19 vaccination every day, with the total doses delivered now topping 400,000. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re making progress. I know it is frustrating waiting on the vaccine. I certainly share that frustration. I’ve been in touch with DHSS every day this week to make sure we are doing everything we can to get the vaccine administered to as many District 33 residents as possible.
HONORING A LOCAL TRADITION
This week, I had the pleasure of presenting Senate Bill 72 to the Senate Agriculture Committee. This legislation designates the first full week of each September as “Fox Trotter Week” in Missouri. These majestic animals need no introduction to residents of Douglas County or the thousands of enthusiasts who travel to Ava each September for the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association’s annual World Show and Celebration. I hope this bill will encourage the rest of Missouri to appreciate this unique Ozark breed, our official state horse.
Known for a distinctive four-beat diagonal gait, the Fox Trotter breed was developed in 1800s by Ozark settlers, who valued the horse’s stamina, smooth stride and sure-footedness over rocky terrain. The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association was founded in the 1940s, and its registry has grown to nearly 100,000 horses worldwide. I appreciate Mark Mackie, president of the association, taking the time to travel to the Capitol to testify in support of my bill.
Legislative activity will continue in Jefferson City through mid-May. To minimize the risks from COVID-19, citizens are encouraged to follow committee hearings and floor debates online. You can access audio livestreams of Senate proceedings at www.senate.mo.gov.
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.