Last Call for Legislation
Monday, March 1, was the last day Senate bills could be filed for the 2021 session. Amendments and bill substitutes can still be introduced until the session ends on May 14, but the last new bill numbers have been assigned. Among the deluge of bills on Monday were five measures I sponsored.
Senate Bill 581 relates to administrative law judges for the Division of Workers’ Compensation. This legislation limits the terms of office for administrative judges and makes changes to provisions for setting salaries, removal from office and performance reviews. The bill is intended to allow the division greater flexibility to replace ineffective or underperforming administrative law judges.
This week, I also introduced Senate Bill 582, legislation aimed at preserving employment opportunities at our sheltered workshops. Prior to my time in the Senate, I served on a local sheltered workshop board and I’ve seen first-hand the sense of pride and accomplishment disabled individuals have while working at these facilities. Sheltered workshops allow them to socialize with friends and experience the dignity of work, which increases their self-confidence and contributes to their personal development. Current federal law allows disabled employees to be paid according to their productivity. Proposed legislation at the federal level threatens the sheltered workshop system by ending commensurate wages. Although well-intentioned, this change would actually harm Missouri’s sheltered workshops by removing employment opportunities. I’ve worked with folks from the sheltered workshop community to develop legislation that preserves commensurate wages in Missouri so disabled persons can continue to go to the jobs they love.
Senate Bill 583 allows school districts with seven members on their boards to divide into seven sub-districts for the purposes of electing board members or directors. The goal of this legislation is to ensure local representation and prevent too many board members coming from limited areas of the district. The law doesn’t require school districts to divide into sub-districts, but provides the option for districts that choose to do so.
Another bill I filed extends a temporary waiver put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That waiver allows advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) to work under a supervised collaborative agreement with physicians for a one-month period. Senate Bill 584 removes the one-month supervision requirement for APRNs. The bill also relaxes geographic proximity rules for APRNs providing telehealth services.
Finally, Senate Bill 585, changes the way funding is allocated for institutions of higher education. The “Rewarding Workforce Readiness in Institutions of Higher Education Act” will reward schools for graduating students who actually succeed in earning a living in the fields the school prepared them to enter. The mechanisms of the law are somewhat complex, but the bottom line is that schools that succeed in preparing students for the workforce will receive more funding.
Although the window for introducing new bills has closed for 2021, there’s a lot of work remaining to be done. In fact, we haven’t reached the half-way point in the session yet. We have one more week of legislative activity before we take a week-long spring recess. During this recess, I’ll be participating in legislative updates with various groups in the district and I look forward to connecting with constituents and discussing their priorities and concerns. Once back in Jefferson City, we’ll continue to hear bills in committee, but each week we spend more and more time debating legislation in the Senate chamber. In the coming weeks, senators will be vying for limited time for deliberations in the chamber and looking for opportunities to add their legislative proposals onto other bills as amendments. We’re entering an exciting phase of the legislative process. I’ll be sure to keep you informed as developments of interest to the 33rd Senatorial District occur.
Last, but not least, it’s always good to see people from back home at the Capitol. I enjoyed talking with school leaders from across the district this week. I’m very appreciative of these great folks that take care of our kids, and I heard a lot of innovative ideas as they continue to improve education in our state. I also had the pleasure of visiting with Jennifer Thompson and her children David, Curtis and Amanda of Alton, who visited as part of the TeenPact program.
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.