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Final weeks focus on budget

The Senate is gearing up for this year’s budget debate. The 13 bills that make up our state budget have been approved by the House and sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where they will be amended to reflect the Senate’s fiscal priorities. After that, the bills will go to the floor to be considered by the full Senate.

Normally, we’d already be well into this process, but a few lawmakers have postponed our taking action on the budget this year because of a difference in opinion. There are only six weeks left in the session, so that doesn’t leave us much time before the May 11 deadline to pass the budget.

We considered a lot of different bills in the Senate this week. We debated Senate Bill 675, which would modify people’s eligibility for the property tax credit. However, many members of the Senate feel if we’re going to start reforming Missouri’s tax credit system, we should look at all of them and not just one. Tax credit reform has been a hot-button issue for the last couple years, and without any consensus between lawmakers on how to undertake this task, it’s unlikely we’ll see much progress this session.

We also considered Senate Bill 588, which would create a tax incentive to help attract amateur sporting events to our state.

This week, the House Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee conducted a hearing on Senate Bill 689, which would add undue influence — using authority over an elderly or disabled person to take unfair advantage of that person — to the types of acts that constitute the crime of financial exploitation. Current law has protections in place for people who use deception, intimidation or force to financially exploit elderly and disabled individuals, but there is no law that prevents someone from using their influence. Senate Bill 689 would go far in increasing protections for the elderly and disabled in Missouri.

The House Local Government Committee also approved Senate Bill 736 on Wednesday. This bill will help St. Francois County. This would be a big stride forward for St. Francois County. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

There were a number of visitors at the Capitol this week. On Tuesday, the Missouri University’s men’s basketball team and Coach Frank Haith were recognized by the Senate for their victory in the Big 12 tournament this year. Representatives of the disabled community also came to the Capitol on Wednesday for Disability Rights Legislative Day.

After this busy week, I am looking forward to spending Easter with my family back in the district. I wish you a happy holiday with family and friends.

 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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