The View from the Mid-Point
Thu, 03/16/2023 - 11:38am admin
Sen. Karla Eslinger (R-33)
We’ve reached the halfway mark in the 2023 legislative session. On March 8, the Missouri Senate adjourned to begin its annual “spring break.” Although we call it a break, this mid-session week off is anything but. I’ll spend the week making my way around the 33rd District, meeting with constituents, updating them on the session and hearing directly from residents about what they want to see accomplished before we adjourn in May.
I’m happy to report the Senate has made good progress so far. We have “third read and passed” 30 bills and sent them to the House of Representatives for its approval. By comparison, at this time last year, the Senate had only moved six bills to the House.
I’ve discussed several of the measures advanced so far in previous updates. Some of those include legislation to provide direct access to physical therapy, a “regulatory sandbox” to cut unnecessary red-tape for emerging businesses and a Parent’s Bill of Rights. This week, I want to talk about a couple of other bills that might not have gotten a ton of attention, but will make a huge difference in our communities.
Senate Bill 24 is the Missouri First Responder Mental Health Initiative Act. This legislation would strengthen peer support counseling programs for first responders. It also expands eligibility for Missouri’s voluntary critical illness benefits pool. Currently, firefighters who have contracted cancer due to occupational exposure are eligible for financial support through the fund. This legislation would open the program to EMTs, paramedics, dispatchers and other emergency personnel who seek treatment for post-traumatic stress injury or diagnosable trauma. First responders are heroes in our communities. They show up, no matter how difficult the situation, and put their lives on the line. Often, their actions are unsung and their mental health needs go unnoticed. Missouri needs to stand behind these dedicated public servants.
Another measure I’m watching closely is Senate Bill 75. This legislation addresses teacher shortages by allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom without affecting retirement benefits. Schools throughout Missouri struggle to attract and retain teachers. One way to address the teacher shortage is to lean on the pool of retired educators. Many of these professionals are willing to go back to work, but are discouraged by how working additional hours will impact their retirement. Senate Bill 75 allows retired teachers to work up to four additional years while exceeding income limits currently imposed by their retirement system. This legislation seems like a great way to address a serious problem in our schools, and also provide options for retired teachers.
When the Senate returns from our spring recess on March 20, we’ll sharpen our focus on the state budget. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve sat through 17 hearings on the budget so far this year. In each one of these hearings, we reviewed the spending requests of specific state agencies. That work prepared us to carefully consider the appropriations bills coming over from the House of Representatives and make our own recommendations. This is my third year on the Appropriations Committee, and this work has become a passion. I believe ensuring your tax dollars are put to good use, while still funding critical programs to help the 33rd Senatorial District, is among my most important responsibilities. I’ll continue to fight for priorities like infrastructure, broadband and teacher pay while ensuring frivolous spending is cut away.
It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Ozark, Shannon, Stone, Taney and Texas 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. You can also visit my webpage at senate.mo.gov/mem33, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @seneslingermo.