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Budget debate looms in Senate

This week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 804, which would increase protections for landlords against tenants who refuse to pay rent or vacate a property. Currently, there’s not much landlords can do if they have tenants who refuse to pay their rent. If they take the case to court, it can take months to get a judgment issued, and even then, there’s no real way to enforce the judgment. This is one of the few areas where a person is basically allowed to steal from a business with no consequences.

Senate Bill 804 would make it a misdemeanor if a tenant fails to vacate a property within 10 days of a court judgment mandating them to do so. Landlords are legitimate business owners, and we need to do more to protect their rights. Senate Bill 804 now goes to the House for consideration.

This is my sixth bill to pass the Senate and move to the House. I am happy to have these bills moving and I am hoping for one more.  I am drafting amendments for my other bills and hope to add these in the coming weeks to legislation that is moving.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to finalize the Senate’s version of the budget soon. Those bills will likely go to the full Senate for debate sometime next week. Senators on the Appropriations committee have been meeting since before January to dissect the budget, look at the governor’s proposals, examine the House budget and come up with their own ideas on where to make cuts and balance spending. It is a very lengthy and detailed process.

This year there are four senators who have been meeting independently and circumventing the standing committee. I’m not sure what will happen if two independent budgets are introduced or if a barrage of amendments are proposed on the Senate floor. Traditionally, if senators have a problem with the budget they voice their concerns on the floor while we debate the budget bills. Those concerns are then addressed and worked out when the House and Senate move to a conference committee to finalize the state’s spending plan. If some senators break from this, it could be chaos on a whole new level. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, and we’ll work together to create a fiscally responsible budget that is truly balanced.

The Big River Telephone Company celebrated the grand opening of its broadband headquarters in downtown Farmington this week. Big River is launching a multi-million dollar project to bring broadband Internet service to rural counties in southeast Missouri, including St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve and Washington. The company has installed 22 wireless broadband towers in the areas the network will serve and is planning on constructing a total of 58.

There are many people, myself included, who are still using dial-up Internet service because broadband isn’t available. If you haven’t used dial-up in a while, let me tell you, it’s slow, really slow. It can take minutes to load a website that would pop up in seconds on a broadband connection. This makes it difficult to do just about anything on the Internet, which has become a staple of modern life. Making broadband Internet available to southeast Missouri residents would be a welcome improvement.

Next week, the Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee, which I chair, will consider House Bill 1266, which would designate the regal fritillary as the official state butterfly. Meanwhile, the Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee will consider House Bill 1063, which would designate the jumping jack as the official state exercise. The exercise is named after General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, a Missouri native, who is credited with inventing the callisthenic to help condition his soldiers during World War I.

These bills come up just about every year and are usually filed on behalf of some school group that is learning how state government works. I appreciate that, and I fully support students becoming familiar with how the legislative process works. However, a number of real education issues have yet to be addressed this session, and we’re getting ready to try and balance one of the most difficult budgets the state has seen in decades. Also, every time we pass one of these bills the state spends thousands of dollars reprinting publications to add the new designation.

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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