Returning to Work
The 2021 legislative session has begun. New and reelected members of the Senate took the oath of office on Jan. 6, though with a bit less ceremony than past years due to social distancing guidelines. There were fewer hugs and handshakes, but we’re just as committed to work together as we begin the new session. There are many important issues before us as our state continues to address the pandemic and its economic consequences, as well as the usual range of topics that demand our attention during any legislative session.
Before we focus on the details of legislation, there are procedural matters to attend. This week, the president of the Senate began assigning members to several key committees. I was again asked to serve on the Rules Committee and the Committee on Gubernatorial Appointments. The first of these committees is responsible for determining the procedures the Senate follows as it does its work. As a member of the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, I will participate in the Senate’s “advice and consent” function, as we review the governor’s appointments to the various boards and committees of state government. I have especially enjoyed this duty, as it has allowed me to meet some of Missouri’s most outstanding citizens. In the coming weeks, we’ll learn our assignments to the standing committees of the Senate. In the past, I have chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and am hopeful I will be honored to continue in that role.
As I look forward to legislative priorities for 2021, one of the first tasks will be completing some work remaining from last year’s pandemic-shortened session. Prompted by record property assessment increases in 2019, I passed legislation last year to shift the burden of defending property tax hikes to assessors, establish firm deadlines for assessment notices and ensure taxpayers would always have time to appeal increases. We ran out of time before we could take up a cap on assessment increases, but I have reintroduced that legislation and hope to see it passed this year.
Another measure I have sponsored this year would make it a felony to harass or intimidate law enforcement officers or their family by posting private information online. I proposed this “anti-doxing” legislation in response to an incident last summer, when a protester threatened to reveal where police officers’ children attended school. I believe these sorts of acts are clearly intended to threaten the safety of police officers and must be stopped. Elevating such behavior to a felony will send the message that threats to law enforcement will not be tolerated.
One of my highest priorities will be the passage of COVID-19 liability protections for small businesses. In order to restart the economy we must create an environment where business can confidently reopen their doors, without fear of endless lawsuits. Under my bill, anyone who acts recklessly and disregards public health guidelines could still be held accountable, but small business owners who do their best and take steps to avoid the spread of the virus won’t have to worry about getting sued.
I’ll be sure to update you on the progress of these and other proposals in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I’m excited to be back in Jefferson City and am looking forward to getting to work doing the people’s business. Please feel free to contact me with your concerns, or to share your views on issues.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of Platte and Buchanan counties in the Missouri Senate. Please contact my office at (573) 751-2183, or visit www.senate.mo.gov/mem34.