Missouri State Senator David Sater and State Representative Mike Moon visited with community leaders Tuesday evening at a legislative roundtable session organized by Aurora city manager Jon Holmes and Chamber of Commerce executive director Shannon Walker.
With the state legislature preparing to begin a new session in January, the area's representatives took time to discuss both what the past year has brought for Missouri and what they hope to get done in the coming year.
After introductions were made, Sater began by stating that the legislature "had a good session this last year" under new Republican governor Eric Greitens, although he said they were still "breaking him in."
With a Republican in the governor's office, the Republican majority in the legislature has been able to pass a number of its priorities that had had opposition under former governor Jay Nixon. The "right to work" legislation and tort reform passed this year were two of those issues. However, the right to work law, which would end mandatory union membership and fees at certain union businesses, will be put to a vote statewide after the state was petitioned to put it on the ballot next November.
Looking forward to the upcoming year, Sater stated one of his priorities on the budget committee is Medicaid, which he said is "eating our lunch." The senator said he has a bill asking the federal government for a block grant, which would allow the state to formulate a program that will "increase health and save the state money."
Sater cited the need for more "patient responsibility" with regard to Medicaid, saying those on the program tend to over-utilize services such as the emergency room because it costs them nothing. He believes with the help of the Republican president and Congress, his request for the waiver will likely be met.
Other issues on Sater's to-do list include:Work requirements for people on food stamps and able-bodied adults on Medicaid Legislation to clarify language on petitions Foster care legislation Opposing the governor's appointments to the state board of education
Moon shared many of Sater's priorities looking ahead to the upcoming year, although he said the possibility of cuts to "those who are truly needy" will need to be looked at carefully.
He cited a situation from Aurora in which the mother of a young woman confined to a wheelchair received a cut in payments to her for the care of her daughter. The cuts have put a burden on the family's ability to pay for heat and repairs and will probably not be recovered by the government. Moon said it will be important for the legislature to take a look at what can be done to correct situations like this.
Moon said the House has 273 bills filed so far, and that number is likely to triple by the time the session begins. Among those bills is legislation for election laws, tax increment finance bills, tax credits, education bills, ethics reform, more tort reform and gun laws, which he said "wouldn't be well-received in Lawrence County."
Other main items on Moon's radar include:Overturning the Roe v. Wade case Introducing "anti-Sharia" legislation Making a requirement for employees to pay their own unemployment insurance Repealing the prevailing wage
Sater agreed that the prevailing wage repeal would likely be the "number one" issue in the legislature for the coming year. When the discussion was opened to members of the community, leaders such as Holmes, Aurora R-8 Superintendent Billy Redus, and representatives from Mt. Vernon also agreed that the prevailing wage puts a financial burden on small cities and towns.
Some of the biggest concerns also brought up in the discussion included cities' inability to collect sales tax when more and more shopping is being done online and the struggle to collect outstanding fees for services such as water and sewer. While the representatives had no immediate answers for these problems, they promised they would take a look at how to go about solving them.
The 2018 legislative session will begin on January 4.