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Perspective: Good first half of legislative session

Perspective: Good first half of legislative session

March 20th, 2017 by State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City in Opinion

Thursday, the Legislature began its annual spring break, traditionally considered the halfway point of the session. Prognosticators and pundits have varying opinions about the odds of success for particular pieces of legislation given their status at spring break. Many believe a bill is dead if it does not pass out of its chamber of origin before spring break, while many are of the opinion that the session does not really even start until after spring break. I am persuaded that the appearance of life or death of legislation is often deceiving. Bills that seem to have no chance can gain momentum in an instant just as "sure things" wither on the vine. The only bills I am certain will pass are those that have already gone to the governor's desk and the budget bills.

I am pleased with the work the Senate has completed in the first half of this legislative session. In comparison to the six years I have been in the Legislature, this session has had the most consistent focus on big, and sometimes controversial, issues. Coming into this session, the Senate's focus of effort was creating an environment in Missouri that maximizes businesses creation and growth, provides more job opportunities for Missourians in good jobs, and expands Missouri's economy. We have made a good start in this regard, sending bills to the house relating to labor, tort, and regulatory reform, but ample work remains when the Legislature reconvenes on the 27th of March.

This session is unique for my time in the Legislature, in that we have a governor that advocates for and supports legislation that will transform Missouri's business climate and allow the economy to grow. This is a radical difference from the previous eight years, and this difference is evident in the labor, tort, and regulatory reform bills the house and Senate have already passed and sent to the governor for signature.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 10 without a great deal of fanfare or press coverage. This is unfortunate, because this bill is critically important for a well-trained workforce, a workforce that is essential for businesses to stay and grow in Missouri. SB10 streamlines the Missouri Works Training Program to allow smaller companies to access critical job training resources. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, SB10 recognizes the critical role of community colleges in providing business and industry-specific training by allowing companies, both large and small, to participate in developing the job training curriculum in the community colleges. This is a natural marriage of interests that is mutually beneficial to both the businesses and the community colleges. As this bill was being discussed, I was struck by the example of a $75 million business expansion in southeast Missouri, an expansion that absolutely would not have happened without a partnership between the business and a community college. All businesses should be able to collaborate with community colleges to develop a curriculum that facilitates employment opportunities growth. I am grateful for the leadership of Sen. Jay Wasson on SB10, and I look forward to the house acting quickly on this important issue.

Every year, in this letter, I note the one thing the Constitution requires the Legislature to do, which is to pass a balanced budget. Soon after spring break, the House will pass their version of the FY2018 budget and will send these bills to the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee, under the leadership of Sen. Dan Brown, will then make necessary modifications and shepherd these House bills through the Senate. Ultimately, any differences between the House and Senate versions will be addressed by conference committees composed of members from both chambers. These conference committee reports will then be approved by both the House and the Senate and sent to the governor for signature. Though the process is simple in theory, practically it requires hundreds of hours of testimony and work, as it should when spending your tax dollars. I am grateful for Sen. Brown's leadership, for the members of the committee, and for the appropriations staff. Their willingness to put in these long hours makes a balanced budget that reflects the priorities of Missourians a possibility. I will be sure to provide budget updates as the appropriations bills move through the Senate.

Finally, as I write this on St. Patrick's Day, we are one calendar month away from what has been unofficially dubbed the greatest Monday of the year: the first day of spring turkey season. Somehow, my chief of staff managed to have some hunting success last year, proving that even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and again. Personally, I think he hired a guide without telling anyone. Regardless, the odds of him having two successful years in a row are astronomical, which means I will have some wonderful ammunition for teasing him mercilessly. I will, of course, share some of the grief I give him, as well as his outlandish excuses for defeat, with you.

I encourage you to visit our new blog - https://mosenatesidebar.wordpress.com/. Here you will be able to find more information about the bills in progress as well as watch videos and read some news.

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, represents the 6th District, and shares his perspective on statehouse issues each week.