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Thanksgiving is past us, and Christmas is fast approaching. Between Black Friday sales, football (don't get me started on the University of Missouri bowl ban), hanging lights and Christmas music already on the radio, the holidays are in full swing. And approaching just as quickly is the 2020 legislative session. My office is working to prepare legislation for the upcoming session, and it seems it will be here before we know it.

In 1992, bow hunters began a program to donate venison to those less fortunate. That program, Share the Harvest, allows hunters to give all or part of a deer they hunted to local food pantries, and the cost of processing is covered by local and statewide sponsors of the program. Share the Harvest provides a source of protein to needy families, and the venison donated stays in the local area. However, our current state law restricts donations to only frozen, packaged meat. While safety of the donated food is the most important concern, many folks in need of these donations don't have the means to refrigerate frozen meat.

In the upcoming session, I am introducing a bill to allow processors to make deer jerky with donated venison and provide it to local food pantries. The meat will still have to follow all safe handling and preparation standards as frozen meat, but it will provide a shelf-stable alternative for anyone who can't keep or use frozen meat. This will provide a healthy, protein-rich alternative for hungry children and families in our state.

In 2018, the Heartland Port Authority of Central Missouri was approved by the Missouri Department of Transportation. Last session, I introduced a bill to transfer two pieces of unused state land to be used for the creation of a port in Jefferson City, and will sponsor the bill again this year. This is a priority for our community, and it will mean jobs, revenue and growth for Cole County and the surrounding areas.

Anyone driving by our State Capitol in the last year or so will have seen the construction and restoration of the Capitol Building itself. While the work is going well and breathing new life into the building, several more of the historic buildings in the Capitol Complex need restoration as well. This year, I will reintroduce a bill to create a tax credit for anyone donating to restore and maintain the Capitol, the Supreme Court Building, the Governor's Mansion and other historic buildings. The bill also incentivizes the donation of artifacts and historically significant items for display in these public buildings.

The United States Congress is currently considering a bill known as the "Bring Our Heroes Home" Act, which would create a review board to require the disclosure of the armed services records of missing service members. I think our missing veterans and their families deserve closure, and now is the time to provide it to them. I am again planning to offer a resolution calling on Congress to pass that act and bring to an end the unanswered questions for our military families.

I have been impressed with the number of young people who have expressed an interest in the legislative process or contacted me with proposals for bills this year, and I would encourage anyone with ideas for new or existing legislation to contact my office. It is an honor to serve the people of the 6th District in the Missouri Senate.

State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 6th Senate District, and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.

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