Passing the budget
It is crunch time in the Missouri General Assembly. With a deadline for passage of the budget looming and the last day of session barely more than a week away, the Senate worked diligently to meet our constitutional obligation and pass legislation to benefit all Missourians. This week, committees of House and Senate members met to reconcile differences between budget bills passed out of the two legislative chambers. The compromise budget fully funds K-12 education in Missouri and also provides a one-time bump in funding for school transportation programs. The additional transportation money will help districts weather rising fuel prices and allow local school districts to devote more of their resources to educating children.
With an unprecedented infusion of money from federal pandemic relief and infrastructure funding programs passed by Congress, Missouri is experiencing a record budget surplus. As we considered the budget, I was committed to making sure we didn’t fall into the trap of thinking this money would be available in the future. Most of our efforts were focused on funding one-time projects that do not require on-going revenue streams. We were able to provide money for road and bridge construction, rural broadband expansion, clean water infrastructure projects and for long-neglected maintenance and capital improvements at state facilities, including colleges and universities in the 21st Senatorial District. I’m pleased to announce the Legislature also decided to return some of this money back to the taxpayers. We approved a $500 per person tax credit as part of next year’s budget.
Increased federal funding is already producing benefits for residents of the district. The supplemental budget bill passed earlier in the legislative session will allow the resumption of the twice-a-day “Missouri River Runner” train service to the Warrensburg Amtrak station. Service had been cut to once a day due to budget constraints. This week, I attended a National Travel and Tourism Week kick-off event at the Warrensburg Amtrak station and was able to visit with area residents who take advantage of this service. The budget approved by the Legislature this week also includes funding for a Carrollton Amtrak stop for passengers on the “Southwest Chief,” which runs between Chicago and Kansas City and to points beyond.
This week, the Senate gave initial approval to House Bill 1878. This legislation includes a number of provisions to enhance election security in Missouri. If this bill receives final approval and is signed into law by the governor, Missouri voters will need to present photo identification when casting their ballot at the poles. The bill also requires hand-marked paper ballots and bans the use of drop boxes for the collection of absentee ballots. In addition, HB 1878 specifies electronic voting tabulation equipment cannot be connected to the Internet. Finally, the bill prohibits changes to election laws during the 26 weeks prior to a presidential election. These are all critical reforms that will reduce the possibility of election fraud, give voters increased confidence their ballots are counted correctly and election results can be trusted.
Another major piece of legislation approved by the Senate this week will place limits on the use of an electric utility’s eminent domain condemnation power going forward. House Bill 2005 would not prevent a utility from confiscating private land through eminent domain, but make the process more difficult and costly for utilities that pursue it. The bill also provides greater accountability by ensuring long-time local residents are involved in reviewing eminent domain actions. The legislation was inspired by a controversial electric power transmission line expected to cut a swath across north Missouri.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.