Legislative Session Continues
The General Assembly returned from spring recess this week and quickly got to work with a full slate of committee hearings and floor debate. In headline-making action early in the week, the Senate debated a public safety bill for nearly six hours before finally coming to a consensus. Most of the provisions of Senate Bill 53 address issues within our urban areas, and primarily impact large police departments. That said, I made sure to reach out to local law enforcement before this bill was brought up to be certain it wouldn’t impact their ability to do their jobs. Listening to some of the debate, I couldn’t help but be thankful for living in a rural area, away from the worst of the big city problems. Still, some parts of the bill would impact smaller communities. One provision requires the Missouri Police Officer Standards and Training Commission to keep records regarding the dismissal of law enforcement officers. The goal is to keep bad cops from job hopping.
A second long night of Senate debate was devoted to Senate Bill 12, a measure that sought to reign in the power of local health agencies to impose lock-down orders in response to health emergencies. The discussion continued until after 1 a.m., at which time the measure was defeated. In my opinion, most of the support for the bill came from suburban legislators who were unhappy about how their local agencies reacted to COVID-19. A number of rural legislators, myself included, voted against the measure. It’s worth remembering that our governor’s approach to the pandemic was to forgo statewide mandates and, instead, leave local public health decisions up to local health authorities. While I am sympathetic to the concerns of my colleagues, my sense is that our county health officials across the 33rd District handled the pandemic about as well as could be expected, given highly unusual circumstances. There are other related bills moving through the process, and I look forward to continuing the discussion on this important topic.
As a result of the many hours of debate in the Senate chamber this week, we also managed to advance a number of bills with wide bipartisan support. One such measure was Senate Bill 108, which allows the formation of infrastructure improvement districts for the purpose of providing broadband internet services in rural areas. We also passed Senate Bill 119, which is aimed at ending “spoofed” telemarketing calls, where the caller ID feature masks the true identity of the caller.
Outside the Senate chamber this week, the Senate Professional Registration Committee held a hearing on my Senate Bill 584. This legislation makes two waivers issued during the pandemic regarding advanced practice registers nurses (APRN’s) permanent. First, let me say that I understand the importance of a collaborative agreement between physicians and APRN’s. This bill simply allows a physician to determine the proper amount of time he or she must be continually present with an APRN, just like the flexibility already allowed with a physician assistant. The bill also makes the use of telehealth by APRN’s permanent in urban areas, as it has been limited in statute to rural areas only. Both of these waivers have helped ensure access to care while people have needed it most during the pandemic and it is my hope that this common-sense legislation will make it to the governor’s desk.
I also had the opportunity to present Senate Bill 582 to the Seniors, Families, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. This is my bill that will allow sheltered workshops in Missouri to continue to pay disabled employees a commensurate wage. The sheltered workshops in my district and statewide asked for this legislation due to concerns that changes to federal law could threaten employment opportunities.
Senate Joint Resolution 15, my proposal to forever guarantee the right to bear arms commonly used in hunting and sport shooting came before the General Laws Committee this week. If approved by the Legislature, the voters would have the final say when they go to the polls in November 2022.
I also presented Senate Bill 494 to the Transportation Committee. This measure directs the Department of Revenue to place a veteran’s designation on the front side of a driver’s license. This will make it easier for veterans to take advantage of discounts and other recognitions. A hearing on Senate Bill 265, scheduled for this week, had to be postponed. I look forward to the presenting this workforce development legislation to the Education Committee in the coming weeks.
Folks from the district continue to stop by my Capitol office for visits. This week, I was pleased to meet with Farm Bureau members Emma and Lucas Alexander of Fordland, Stan Coday from Seymour, as well as Archie and Chris Daily from Norwood. I was also pleased to host Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole. I’m always happy to take time for constituents, so if you’re in the area during session, please come by my office. It’s important for citizens to participate in the legislative process, and our beautiful Capitol is always enjoyable to see.
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.