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Source: US State of Missouri

Resuming the 2020 Legislative Session

This week marked the return of the General Assembly to the State Capitol. The atmosphere and mood in the Statehouse was odd, but we have all come to do our job and help the state through this pandemic. Everyone entering the building was subject to a health screening performed by members of the Missouri National Guard. Most legislators and staff wore face masks and every effort was made to maintain appropriate social distance. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, I was proud to see my Senate colleagues come together and work on legislation that moves our state forward. Throughout the past week, I believe the Senate passed several measures that aim to make a difference in the lives of all Missourians.

On Monday, April 27, the Missouri Senate passed legislation establishing a secure, electronic tracking system for sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kits. Through Senate Bill 569, victims of sexual assault will be able to securely track the status of their kit throughout the legal process. According to the Missouri attorney general’s SAFE Kits Initiative Inventory Report, more than 6,000 SAFE kits — nearly 90 percent of Missouri’s backlogged rape kits — remain untested. It may be easy to see this number as merely a statistic, but each kit represents an individual who deserves our support and the opportunity to have their case investigated by law enforcement. In addition, the legislation also includes language providing additional rights and protections to victims of sexual assault during any forensic investigation, as well as any interactions with law enforcement, the prosecuting attorney and other members of the legal community. Through SB 569, I believe we can further protect victims of sexual assault and give them the resources and tools they need to move forward and seek justice.

The following day, the Missouri Senate approved legislation that grants reciprocity for all individuals with a professional license from a different state that want to move to Missouri and continue their occupation. In order to receive reciprocity, House Bill 2046 requires individuals to have a license for at least one year from another state before being eligible for reciprocity. It would also require the state that issued the license to have minimum education requirements, work experience and clinical supervision requirements. I believe this legislation has the potential to be a game-changer when it comes to our state’s business community. From my perspective, HB 2046 sends a strong message to our country’s skilled workforce that Missouri is open for business and ready to welcome them and their families with open arms. In my opinion, this legislation will play an important role as we work to rebuild the economy, and it could also help the state when it comes to licensing health care professionals.

Also on Tuesday, the Missouri Senate approved legislation that will help our state’s food pantries add more products to their shelves. House Bill 1711 allows deer jerky to be donated to local food pantries. Now more than ever, I believe we should be doing everything we can to help our state’s struggling families. By making this simple change to state law, I believe we are allowing food pantries to provide an important source of shelf-stable protein to families in need.

In addition, this week, the Missouri Senate passed legislation that expands access to rural broadband Internet throughout our state. According the Office of Broadband Development, there are more than 1.2 million Missourians — almost 20 percent of the state — that do not have access to high-speed Internet. Now more than ever, I believe having access to reliable, high-speed Internet is critical to our success as a state. House Bill 1768 allows municipalities to work together to reduce the costs associated with improving existing communications infrastructure, while also helping these communities attract existing Internet providers. The legislation also requires groups that receive rural broadband grants to repay the funds if they fail to deliver on their promise of providing high-speed Internet. The Department of Economic Development will then have the ability to re-issue the returned grant to an eligible, qualified Missouri Internet provider. I firmly believe this legislation has the potential to make a difference in our state’s rural communities, and I am hopeful this legislation will make it across the legislative finish line and end up on the governor’s desk before the end of the 2020 legislative session.

While the Senate discussed and debated numerous pieces of the legislation this week, the Missouri House of Representatives perfected and approved their version of the state’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Passing the state’s budget for the next fiscal year is our lone constitutional duty every year as members of the General Assembly. The 2021 state budget is now in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee. From my perspective, out state’s budget represents the priorities of our state. Despite the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the legislative process, I am confident that we can pass a budget that funds the priorities of our state and ensures our government remains funded, open and able to serve the people of Missouri.

It is an honor to serve you in the Missouri Senate. Please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at dave.schatz@senate.mo.gov if you have any questions or concerns — we are honored to serve you.

MIL OSI USA News