Looking to the Year Ahead

With Missouri’s 2022 legislative session just around the corner, you can expect to see more frequent communications from my office in the coming months. Since the Legislature adjourned last spring, I’ve been busy visiting with constituents at fairs, festivals, and other public events. I’ve also given legislative updates to county commissioners, chambers of commerce and various civic groups. 
As your senator, economic development, is my top priority. I’ve been engaged in conversations to add a new outer road to serve the Logan-Rogersville School District and improving highway infrastructure in Thayer to support current as well as new business opportunities. I’ve worked to help secure funding for a new building for the Current River Career Center in Doniphan to replace its nearly 100-year-old building with a leaking roof.
In addition, I’ve served as Vice Chair of the Senate’s Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection, ensuring your taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and that Missouri is doing all it can to protect the sanctity of life.
Looking forward to the upcoming session, I am especially interested in watching the redistricting process unfold. Every 10 years, the boundaries for legislative districts change to reflect population shifts. This is an incredibly important process because it determines who represents you in Washington, D.C. and at the State Capitol in Jefferson City. As a member of the Senate’s Select Committee on Redistricting, I am engaged in redrawing Missouri’s eight congressional district maps. I will also be keeping a close eye on the work currently underway to determine new boundaries for Missouri’s 163 House of Representatives and 34 Senate districts. The bipartisan citizen committees responsible for proposing new state legislative boundaries must submit their maps by Dec. 23. I’m writing this column before that date, so I don’t know yet whether the committees will meet their deadlines, or what the maps will look like. If a consensus can’t be reached, the courts will have to step in. 
One of the first orders of business when the Missouri General Assembly reconvenes on Jan. 5 will be the passage of a supplemental budget. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will be heavily involved in this work. Normally, the Legislature reviews the current operating budget early during the session and addresses shortfalls and unexpected expenses. This year, we also have to decide how to spend money Missouri received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Passed by Congress earlier this year, the $1.9 trillion spending bill directed huge sums of money to the states to help the nation’s economy recover from the impact of COVID-19. It will be our job to figure out how to best allocate our share of that money. 
Although the 2022 session doesn’t begin until January, we’ve already started putting our legislative proposals forward. I have pre-filed a number of measures I hope to see passed next year. Addressing concerns many of you expressed about vaccine mandates, I filed Senate Bill 702, which would make it unlawful for an employer to refuse reasonable accommodations from COVID-19 requirements because of an employee’s religious, ethical or moral beliefs. My Senate Bill 703 continues our focus on workforce development in education. It requires high school students to develop a career and academic plan and to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as requirements for graduation. This legislation is aimed at getting our kids to focus on their future and to realize there is help available to further their education if they so choose. Senate Bill 783 is legislation I filed to help the Department of Revenue use technology to more efficiently identify, and ultimately reduce, the number of uninsured motorists. This bill creates a uniform and statewide electronic insurance verification system that will allow the state to identify in real-time whether a registered vehicle is insured. With an aim at helping the logging industry, which is so vital to the Ozarks, I filed Senate Bill 785. This legislation expands the radius local log trucks can operate and clarifies dimension and weight requirements, making it easier for them to comply with state law. 
Another measure I still plan to file would establish performance funding for higher education. Similar to legislation I filed last year, this bill would change the paradigm, so we reward colleges and universities based upon on their success placing graduates into quality, good-paying jobs. Look for more news from me on that front in the near future.  In addition, I will file language to give the Missouri Dental Board the authority to establish a pilot program to explore new methods to extend care to underserved populations.
There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss legislative matters in the coming months. For now, I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. I look forward to visiting with you again soon.
It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Ripley, Texas, Webster, and Wright counties in the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from friends and family back home. If I can help you in any way, please call my Capitol Office at 573-751-1882, or my District Office at 417-596-9011.  You can also visit my webpage at www.senate.mo.gov/mem33, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @SenatorEslinger
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