You might imagine, there was plenty of red on display at the Capitol this week. How about those Chiefs? Congratulations to Missouri’s NFL team for a much-deserved victory. The Chiefs did Missouri proud! We had an abbreviated week at the State Capitol as a forecast of severe weather raised concerns that lawmakers could get stranded in Jefferson City. The decision was made to adjourn legislative activity mid-day Wednesday and send folks home.
Despite the short week, lawmakers did manage to get a lot accomplished. Most importantly, we had a number of opportunities to meet with visitors from back in the district, as several groups held grassroots advocacy days at the Capitol. I had the pleasure of meeting with visitors from west-central and northwest Missouri and welcoming them to our spectacular Statehouse.
Among those visiting from Caldwell County were Economic Development Director Terry Rumery, Presiding Commissioner C.R. “Bud” Motsinger and Western District Commissioner Rex Hibler. Also in town for Great Northwest Days was Darin Chappell, city administrator of Chillicothe.
Visiting the Capitol with a delegation from the Sheriff’s Association were Johnson County Sheriff Scott Munsterman, Scotland County Sheriff Wayne Winn and Clark County Sheriff Shawn Webster. The electric cooperatives had their annual legislative conference in Jefferson City this week as well and we were happy to greet some of their folks as they stopped by the office.
When not meeting with constituents, members of the Senate had a full slate of committee hearings and several eventful floor sessions. This week I presented Senate Bill 644 to the Agriculture Committee. This legislation makes it a misdemeanor to misrepresent service dogs or support animals for purposes of receiving accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act or the Rehabilitation Act. This measure ensures that Missourians can have some confidence that animals presented as providing services for their owners and handlers have actually received training to provide those services. SB 644 also creates a new category of service dog, a “mental health service dog,” trained to assist owners with certain medical conditions or psychiatric and developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders, major depressive disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, PTSD, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia, among others.
I also testified in support of two resolutions before the Senate Rules Committee. Senate Concurrent Resolution 34 calls on the U.S. Congress to pass its House Resolution 2174. This measure currently before the U.S. House of Representatives removes the protection of fish and wildlife as an authorized purpose of the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System and makes flood control the highest priority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s management of the river. Senate Concurrent Resolution 35 encourages Congress to adopt House Resolution 3779. That measure authorizes FEMA to provide grants for disaster mitigation.
The Senate again took up Senate Joint Resolution 38 and approved the language before sending it onto the Oversight Committee for its review. SJR 38 will likely come up for a final vote in the Senate in the coming days. I discussed this legislation in my column last week. This measure asks voters to take another look at changes made to Missouri’s redistricting process as part of 2018’s Amendment 1. SJR 38 increases limits on lobbyist gifts and lowers campaign contributions even more than the previous measure.
More importantly, SJR 38 protects local representation by scrapping the requirement that legislative districts contain a partisan party mix that matches the previous three statewide elections. If that sounds complicated, it is. Amendment 1 created a new government position of state demographer who will be tasked with drawing new legislative district boundaries. That person will be required to create districts that contain equal numbers of voters from both major political parties. If the statewide vote count in the last three elections show that Missouri is split 50-50 between the parties, then each legislative district will have to look like that. We all know that many areas of the state aren’t equally populated by red and blue voters. That doesn’t matter. The state demographer will have to find some voters from other parts of the state to lump together with you in order to make a “fair” district.
Many legislators believe voters may not have fully understood how this new system would work. Consequently, we’re asking you to take another look at redistricting. Our passage of this resolution alone does not cause redistricting to revert back to the traditional system that relied on bipartisan citizen commissions. Our vote merely sends the question back to you. Assuming SJR 38 is passed, you will see a question about redistricting on the November ballot. It will be up to you to decide. I encourage everyone to study up on this issue and carefully consider what it means for you and local representation.
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.