Thursday, January 05, 2017

Sullivan Republican: Senate will focus on budget issues

(From Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan)

As we begin the 2017 legislative session this week, I am heartened by the fact that this will be my first legislative session while serving with a conservative governor. This means I will not have to be as worried about bills being vetoed and, most importantly, it means the House and Senate can get to work on reforming state government right away.

New sessions always bring changes. Our caucus doesn’t even know who will be chairing some of our committees as some of our former chairman have termed out of office or moved on to higher office. Still, work will begin right away as Governor-elect Eric Greitens will be submitting important appointments that require Senate confirmation.

The General Assembly will be dealing with many hot button issues this year, but I have a feeling that budget issues will begin to dominate the discussion before long. The state is facing deep shortfalls in projected revenue in 2017 (over $200 million) and those shortfalls could be even steeper in 2018. Projected tax revenues have not turned out to be as strong as were expected and that means we will have to find savings and new ways to be more efficient.

Our first duty as Missouri’s General Assembly is to balance the state budget and be wise stewards of taxpayer dollars, so we will have to find waste to cut and make some tough decisions. We will also have to be more creative about delivering services to Missouri citizens and I believe the incoming Trump administration will give the states more flexibility to handle programs like Medicaid than the previous administration did.

Top legislative priorities for the Senate will include things like prevailing wage reform to give our local governments and school districts more buying power for their dollar and I expect to see serious pushes for tort reform to keep medical costs down.

My bills include measures aimed at making life easier for everyday Missourians like Senate Bill 65, which legalizes the already common practice of leaving boat railings off small fishing boats, and larger bills like my Narcotics Control Act, also known as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database (PDMP,Senate Bill 231). Recent survey results collected by my office show that 70 percent of respondents support establishing a PDMP and that support has grown substantially from last year. This demonstrates that our district understands the growing problem that the opioid epidemic presents to our community. I plan on fighting for passage of this bill.

Other legislation I have filed will memorialize a bridge for Lyndon Ebker, the Missouri Department of Transportation employee who was tragically killed in an accident while inspecting a bridge (Senate Bill 64, the first bill I filed this year). I have pre-filed 15 bills total for the 2017 session and those can all be found at www.Senate.MO.Gov/Schatz.

With the prospect of a new governor, new statewide office holders, and many new senators and representatives joining us at the Capitol, I expect 2017 to be the busiest session in which I have ever served. I look forward to keeping my constituents informed as the legislative session progresses.

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