As of 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, we have finished the First Regular Session of the 97th General Assembly. Aside from handing a fiscally responsible, balanced budget to the governor, the Missouri Legislature sent more than 160 bills to the governor for his signature. I’m overall proud of the work that the Senate accomplished this year. I stood united with my colleagues on numerous issues, including investigating the actions of DOR and protecting your privacy from unwanted eyes, protecting our Second Amendment rights, and promoting open discussion about the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in our education system. Please allow me to share with you some of the bills that made significant progress in the Missouri Legislature.
Protecting Missourians’ Right to Farm
In our rural community in southern Missouri, agriculture and farming is the bread and butter for numerous families. In recent years, we’ve seen efforts from various extremist groups to hamper the efforts of farmers and ranchers. To help prevent unjustified attacks on our state’s No. 1 industry, the Missouri Legislature passed HJR 11, which, upon voter approval, proposes a constitutional amendment affirming the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices.
Addressing Unemployment Benefits and Workers’ Compensation
To ensure Missourians do not abuse the state’s unemployment benefits system, SB 28 (sent to the governor) would redefine “misconduct” for which an employee may be disqualified for unemployment benefits. Currently, misconduct includes a wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interest and a disregard of standards of behavior the employer has the right to respect. The act changes that standard to a knowing disregard of that interest and a knowing violation of the standards the employer expects. We need to make clear that unemployment benefits aren’t meant for individuals who intentionally displayed poor behavior on the job.
Another bill making its way the governor for his signature is my sponsored SB 34, which would require the Division of Workers’ Compensation to develop and maintain a workers’ compensation claims database. The bill does not give out personal or medical information resulting from a workers’ compensation claim, and is designed to make employers aware of individuals who have abused the workers’ compensation system by filing numerous claims. Senate Bill 1 also received the Legislature’s stamp of approval, and addresses the state’s insolvent Second Injury Fund and occupational disease within the workers’ compensation system.
Defending Our Property Rights
This session, I co-sponsored a bill to ensure our property rights are protected from outside agendas and interests. Senate Bill 265 (sent to the governor) would prohibit the state and any political subdivision from implementing any policy recommendations that infringe on private property rights without due process, and are traceable to Agenda 21 or any other international law or ancillary plan of action that contravenes the federal or state constitutions. Agenda 21 was adopted by the United Nations in 1992 and is a non-binding voluntary implemented action plan relating to sustainable development.
Providing Consistency in State Law
Often times, when inconsistency is found in state laws, it creates problems on a legal level and lawsuits sometimes follow. Currently, St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis have their own laws regarding foreclosure mediation ordinances that do not align with state laws. Lenders are then forced into a difficult situation: which law do I follow? In addition, laws under St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis could cost lenders more money, thus affecting prices on loans, which could spell trouble for Missourians who are already struggling to put a roof over their head. House Bill 446 states that real estate loans will only be governed by state and federal law.
Protecting Your Privacy
One of the biggest issues that came up during the 2013 legislative session is the matter of Missourians’ privacy. When it came to the Legislature’s attention that the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) was scanning and retaining private information of Missouri citizens, and that information was made available to third-party entities, lawmakers were angry and disappointed. Many have also been disappointed about how the executive administration handled this matter. To help protect Missourians’ private information from misuse, SB 252 would prohibit DOR from retaining copies of source documents used to obtain driver’s and non-driver’s licenses. The bill is on its way to the governor’s desk.
Defending Our Second Amendment Rights
Another top concern in Jefferson City is the looming threat of increased gun control and restricting citizens’ Second Amendment rights. Our Founding Fathers made it clear that American citizens need the right to keep and bear arms. Even though tragedies involving firearms sadly happen, restricting citizens’ right to firearms is not the solution. To protect your liberties, the Legislature sent to the governor HB 436, which would establish the Second Amendment Preservation Act that would reject all federal acts that infringe on Missouri citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Evaluating the Common Core State Standards
Our children are our future, and we need to ensure the best practices are established in the classroom. An initiative coming to light across the country is the Common Core State Standards, which aim to establish a set of national educational standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. Many parents and guardians aren’t aware of these standards and don’t understand the pros and cons of the matter. It’s been noted that states across the country adopted Common Core before it was even written, so there’s much unclear information about the initiative. Senate Bill 210 would have required the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to hold public meetings in each congressional district on the Common Core State Standards to educate citizens about the program. The bill, unfortunately, did not make it to the governor’s desk, but I will continue to advocate for the public’s knowledge of Common Core.
With the conclusion of the 2013 legislative session, I will be heading back home to Rogersville, Mo., to visit with my constituents and spend time in our great community. My Capitol office will remain open throughout the legislative interim, so please don’t hesitate to contact my staff if we can be of any assistance to you.