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Source: US State of Missouri

A Memorable Week

We just finished another week in the Legislature. We passed the deadline to introduce bills. We saw the official start of the next election cycle in Missouri. We endured the longest Senate filibuster so far this year. We’re also one step closer to passing a measure that has eluded lawmakers for the past eight years.

A statewide prescription drug monitoring program is nearer to reality this week. House Bill 1693 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. This measure to create a statewide PDMP will now be placed on the Senate calendar along with my companion legislation, Senate Bill 677. The General Assembly now has two avenues to finally approve this important tool for physicians, pharmacists and other medical professionals.

Opioid addiction continues to tear families apart and destroy lives. In fact, drug overdoses now account for more deaths in our state than auto crashes. Despite this sobering fact, Missouri remains the only state in the nation that lacks a comprehensive system of tracking narcotic prescriptions. The House has passed a PDMP bill eight times, only to see it die in the Senate each year. I’ve been in conversations with my colleagues about this year’s proposals, and we’re making progress on potential changes that I hope will get opponents on board. I’m looking forward to a robust debate on these bills and remain optimistic we can finally get this important legislation passed.

As we move into March, bills are no longer being accepted in the Senate. Amendments to existing bills are still possible, but entirely new pieces of legislation will have to wait until next year. All told, there were 569 bills and 48 resolutions introduced in the Senate this year. That’s in addition to more than 1,500 pieces of legislation from the House of Representatives. We have more than enough to keep us busy until the end of session on May 15.

This week also marked the opening of Missouri’s election season. The first day candidates could file for office was Tuesday, Feb. 25, and that brought a lot of familiar faces to town. In addition to five of the six statewide offices, elections will be held for every member of the U.S. Congress and the Missouri House of Representatives. There are also 17 Missouri Senate seats up for grabs. Because my Senate seat doesn’t expire until 2024, I didn’t have to go to the secretary of state’s office to file, but I did manage to connect with many of my fellow elected officials. A Senate committee I serve on heard testimony from a U.S. congresswoman this week, and my congressman invited a number of the candidates from his district to dinner. It was great to catch up with my congressman and see a bunch of folks from northwest Missouri.

In floor action this week, the Senate experienced its longest filibuster of 2020. Following a Monday session that stretched well into the evening, we took up a tort reform bill relating to asbestos-related injury claims on Tuesday afternoon. Debate on that measure lasted nearly 20 hours, as opponents held the floor until 10 a.m. Wednesday, when the bill was tabled without a vote. Typically, a filibuster is accompanied by intense negotiations off the floor, as opposing sides work to reach a compromise. The striking thing about this debate was that the discussions outside the chamber related to an entirely different tort reform measure than the one being discussed inside the chamber.

As lawmakers held the floor overnight, the rest of us worked on Senate Bill 591. This legislation changes requirements for the award of punitive damages in lawsuits. The bill also includes modifications to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

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