Source: US State of Missouri
The Session Concludes
The 2019 legislative session has come to an end. The Senate adjourned the final day of the First Regular Session of the 100th General Assembly at 6 p.m. on May 17. Between both chambers of the legislature, we passed 94 separate bills and resolutions, including 17 bills that comprise the state budget and satisfy Missouri’s financial obligations.
The roughly $30 billion balanced budget the Legislature approved pays for all programs and functions provided by our state government, without raising taxes on Missouri citizens. The largest single portion of the budget funds the Mo HealthNet program, which is Missouri’s version of Medicaid. Nearly 40 percent of the state budget is for the sick, disabled and aged.
A significant part of Missouri’s budget is devoted to public schools. The 2020 budget fully funds the school foundation formula, which pays for kindergarten through 12th-grade education in Missouri. The 2020 budget also includes great news for Missouri’s public colleges and universities. Missouri Western University in St. Joseph will see its core operating budget increased by $1 million. Absent a future cut, that money should stay in the school’s budget from year to year. Missouri Western will also receive $580,000 for the expansion of its nursing program. This is the first time in a decade that the legislature has increased funding to our state’s four-year colleges and universities. People say to put your money where your mouth is, and this year we declared that affordability of a quality public education is a top priority.
A modified version of the governor’s plan to accelerate bridge repairs also became part of the final budget. The $350 million package of bonds and general revenue funds will allow the Department of Transportation to repair or replace 250 deficient bridges throughout the state. Four of the bridges scheduled for renovation are located in Platte County. Ensuring we are funding our infrastructure is critical to Missouri’s competitiveness, and we prioritized such funding in this year’s budget.
An Emphasis on Jobs
The Legislature spent the first two days of its final week discussing an economic development to make Missouri a more attractive environment for businesses to grow and prosper. Passage of this package of workforce development legislation has been a priority for the Legislature throughout the session, following the governor’s call for a renewed focus on Missouri jobs during his State of the State address in January.
The bill expands the Missouri Works business development program to help employers who create jobs or expand their facilities in Missouri. The jobs training portion of Missouri Works, renamed One Start, will help employers prepare employees for an increasingly complex work environment. The Fast Track provisions of the legislation provides tuition assistance so adult Missourians can continue their education in technical fields, without going into debt. Training our workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow is critical, and this legislation answers that call.
Protecting the Unborn
With the passage of workforce development legislation, the Senate turned its attention to House Bill 126. Known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” this comprehensive pro-life legislation restricts access to abortions once the baby has a heartbeat. Other provisions of the bill limit abortion at later stages of a baby’s development and prohibit the taking of an unborn life just because the child has been diagnosed with disabilities or is not the gender the parents prefer.
Avoiding a contentious floor debate that threatened to halt all legislative activity required lengthy and heartfelt negotiations. Lawmakers huddled throughout the day and night to arrive at a compromise that allowed the bill to receive an up or down vote. Because the issue was resolved without resorting to divisive procedural maneuvers, the Senate was able to continue its work in relative harmony and pass a number of bills that were waiting for final consideration.
Stopping Career Politicians
My proposal to bring consistency to term limits for elected officials has received final approval from the Legislature and will now go before voters. Currently, only the governor, state treasurer and members of the Missouri General Assembly are subject to term limits. My bill imposes term limits on all statewide elected offices in Missouri.
Senate Joint Resolution 14 will place the question of statewide term limits on an upcoming ballot. Voters will be asked to decide whether the lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor should be subject to the same eight-year limit of service that currently prevents members of the Legislature from becoming career politicians.
When given the opportunity to express their views in the past, Missouri voters have overwhelmingly endorsed term limits. This legislation provides the opportunity for voters to weigh in on consistent, across-the-board term limits for all elected officials.
Swifter Justice For All
My measure to reduce delays and the lower costs of judicial proceedings also cleared the Legislature on the final day of the 2019 session. Senate Bill 224 reforms the rules for discovery in civil court cases. The legislation limits the time-consuming and expensive phase of gathering evidence prior to a trial. The reform seeks to prevent abuses of the evidence-gathering process, which can raise costs and deny people a speedy outcome of trials.
Discovery accounts for about 75 percent of the time and cost of any lawsuit. Streamlining discovery will ensure plaintiffs who have been wronged receive settlements sooner, and defendants facing frivolous lawsuits to have them resolved with minimum delay and cost. It’s a win-win for everyone.
A Productive Session
We’ve had a historic and productive legislative session in 2019. We’ve passed a number of measures to improve the lives of Missouri residents and make Missouri a better place to live and work. Legislation directly affecting residents of the 34th Senatorial District include the authorization of a land bank in St. Joseph and a measure that permits increased funding for law enforcement for the city of Riverside.
I am honored and humbled to represent the citizens of Platte and Buchanan counties. While the 2019 legislative session has come to a close, I remain your state senator year around. If there’s anything I can do to, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 573-751-2183, or visit www.senate.mo.gov/luetkemeyer.