The Legislature has adjourned for the year, and there are no current plans for lawmakers to return to the Capitol until the annual veto session in September. In the meantime, we watch and wait to see if the governor will sign the legislation we passed in 2020.
Although the General Assembly truly agreed and finally passed just 31 non-budget bills this session, many individual legislative proposals may still become law. A number of the bills we passed include multiple provisions all related to the same general subjects. As bills advanced, legislators looked for opportunities to add additional measures in the form of amendments. I’m happy to report several of the proposals I advanced at the beginning of the 2020 session were included in bills sent to the governor’s desk.
House Bill 1682, an omnibus package of health care legislation, includes several provisions I introduced as separate Senate bills. One measure allows for the distribution of money remaining in the Ripley County Hospital Trust Fund. Originally proposed as Senate Bill 616, this legislation was requested by community leaders after the hospital closed in 2018. The provision, which was also added to House Bill 1854, directs 25% of the fund’s balance to the Ripley County Health Department, with the rest going to a federal qualified health center that provides services to low-income residents of the county. Also passed as part of HB 1682, language originally drafted as Senate Bill 804 provides greater flexibility for the management of escrow accounts for residents of senior living facilities.
Two other provisions of HB 1682 relate to life-saving medical technology. Rural fire districts will receive epinephrine auto injectors, or epi-pens, from the Department of Health and Senior Services thanks to a provision I first introduced as Senate Bill 617. This is another legislative request that came directly from constituents, as first responders said their departments could no longer afford the devices after huge price spikes. Additionally, legislation I filed as Senate Bill 692 provides protection from liability for individuals who attempt to save lives using an automated external defibrillator. People who act in good faith should not be subject to criminal prosecution.
House Bill 1854 is an omnibus package of legislation relating to local governments. Among its many provisions, the bill allows third-class counties – including every county in the 33rd Senatorial District – to opt out of performance reviews by the state auditor if they’ve completed a CPA audit within the past two years. I originally introduced this measure as Senate Bill 615 at the request of local officials.
Regrettably, several legislative proposals I introduced this year did not make it across the finish line. I was especially disappointed to see Senate Bill 528 come up short. This measure began as a proposal to provide more funding for school transportation costs. The bill passed out of the Senate and made it through committee in the House, where a number of provisions related to education were added. Time ran out before final action could be taken. Among weightier measures, my bill to address illegal gambling machines at truck stops and gas stations never made it to the floor of the Senate. My proposal to tax online purchases was nearly identical to another measure that received spirited debate in both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, the Legislature was not able to agree on the details before the end of session. Missouri brick and mortar businesses will continue to operate at a competitive disadvantage to internet sellers until a future Legislature can revisit the issue.
The responsibility for reintroducing these and other proposals must fall to someone else, however. Because of term limits, this is my last term in the Missouri Legislature. I will continue to be your senator for seven more months, but my opportunity to propose new legislation has passed. I’m sure I will reflect more on my time of public service in future columns, but for now, allow me to express my appreciation to my friends and neighbors in the 33rd Senatorial District. It has been my great honor and privilege to serve as your senator.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2020, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at 573-751-1882.