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Senate back in session

The Senate is back in Jefferson City this week for the special session called by the governor, and while we’re all committed to passing legislation to create jobs, we’ve seen some moments of intense debate on how we’re going to get that done.

When Governor Nixon called the special session, there were members of the House and Senate who were confident the economic development package was a done deal. Most of us in the Senate, however, weren’t informed of the details. We’re now taking this time to study every angle and view-point of the legislation so we can make the most informed decisions possible.

The economic development measure contains many provisions to spur job growth while maintaining fiscal responsibility, including tax credit reform, the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), which will help bring high-tech, scientific companies to Missouri, and tax incentives to lure data-storage centers to the state. These measures could create hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs all over the state. The bill has already been changed so that, for example, if an employer from Bunker is able to attract 25 new jobs, they can get a portion of the funds in the economic package.

A major point of controversy, though, has been the Aerotropolis Trade Incentive and Tax Credit Act, which seeks to transform the St. Louis-Lambert Airport into an international cargo hub. Some critics have taken offense that Missouri would become a major port for importing Chinese goods. The reality is that Chinese goods will come into America either way. This is just the nature of our global economy. The “Aerotropolis” bill could make Missouri a major player in international trade with Midwest products being exported. The game will go on. The only question is whether Missouri is going to be on the sidelines, or out on the field. I don’t object to the bill, but I want to make sure we can pay for it and that lots of jobs are created.

The Senate’s Education Committee also met this week to discuss changes to what has been called the “Facebook law.” The original legislation, aimed at regulating electronic communication between students and school employees, was passed during the regular session and met with initial approval from the Missouri State Teacher’s Association. After it was signed into law, however, many teachers’ organizations felt the language restricting teachers’ private communications with students on social media sites was too vague.

The governor called on us to repeal the electronic communication language altogether. Instead, the committee has amended it so that the primary goal of the bill — protecting our students — remains. The changes clear up some of the language while making sure our students are still protected. Local school boards will have control and will need to create a set of rules and guidelines regarding the use of electronic media for teacher’s and staff.

Next week the Senate will begin its annual veto session. On the agenda is the possible veto override of Senate Bill 282, legislation I sponsored, which moves the presidential primary in Missouri from February to March to adhere to Democratic and Republican Party rules. Even though the governor included this provision in his call for special session, it’s my hope that we can override his veto. We will also work towards overriding the veto of House Bill 430, which among other things would ensure bringing the state into compliance with federal regulations for the CDL-Medical Examination requirement. If we don’t do this, the state could lose up to $60 million from the federal government.

The Senate has adjourned for the weekend to study Senate Bill 8, the 268-page economic bill we were presented with on Thursday. We will come back next week to continue debating the legislation. I am committed to only passing legislation that will create jobs and steer our economy in a positive direction.

This report is filed at the end of each week during the legislative session. This report was filed at the close of business last week.

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