March 7, 2017

Senate observes moment of silence for tornado victims

By Wayne Wallingford, State Senator

JEFFERSON CITY -- It is with heavy hearts that Susan and I continue to extend our most sincere condolences to all the victims and families impacted by the tornado that ravaged Southeast Missouri this week. While words can’t begin to express the depth of our sorrow for the loss and devastation they endured, we hope the folks in Perryville and the surrounding area know that they have been a constant in our thoughts and prayers these past few days. Further, on the evening of the storm, the Senate halted our deliberations to pause and stand for a moment of silence we can only hope was in some small way felt by those affected by this tragedy.

Restoring Balance to Discrimination Laws

A highlight of this week was the final passage of Senate Bill 43, which modifies and creates new provisions relating to unlawful discriminatory practices. Senators spent a combined 17 hours, working well into Tuesday night to finally perfect this key piece of legislation in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Currently, under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), an employee only has to prove that race, religion or another protected trait was a contributing factor in their employer’s decision to discriminate. This low standard of proof has repeatedly exposed Missouri businesses to costly and time-consuming frivolous lawsuits. Senate Bill 43, if signed into law, will require employees to meet a higher standard by demonstrating that their protected status was a motivating factor in their termination or discrimination – not simply a contributing factor.

Due to the strong relationships and high level of respect Senators have with and for each other, we were able to arrive at a compromise with some of the bill’s detractors to make the legislation more amenable to them. Included in that compromise was removal of language requiring an employee to prove their protected class was the sole reason they were fired or discriminated against.

While we worked hard to pass this important legislation this week, getting it across the finish line amid news of the devastation the tornado left in its wake did dim the victory. Times like this lend real perspective, prompting us all to pause and reflect, take stock and express our humble gratitude for our blessings. It is with that thought in mind that I am especially pleased to note that at the end of the day – or a very long night, rather – I believe we arrived at a piece of legislation that truly reflects the comradery, diplomacy and respect for the greater good, for which the upper chamber is known.

Moving Through the Budget Process

Arguably one of the most important responsibilities legislators are tasked with is crafting the state budget. It is the one thing state statute requires of us. If we pass no other bills, we are bound by law to put forth a budget and to have that budget truly agreed and finally passed by both the Senate and the House no later than the next-to-last Friday before the end of each year’s legislative session. This year, session ends on Friday, May 12, so the deadline for passing the 2018 budget is April 28.

Among the many committees on which I serve is the Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee is charged with working with the House to develop and finalize the state’s budget – giving consideration to the governor’s recommendations – for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

As budget bills always originate in the House, the House Budget Committee is currently working to craft their proposed budget. Once truly agreed and finally passed in the House, the budget bills will be sent over to Senate Appropriations, where we will then start our hearings and going through "Mark Up," the process by which we mark up the House bills with our proposed changes. The marked-up bills are then sent to the Senate floor to be truly agreed and finally passed.

From there, both the House-passed versions and the Senate-passed versions will be sent to Conference Committee, where differences will be reconciled between the two chambers and a final budget will be determined and sent to the governor for his signature. As with any piece of legislation sent to the governor, he has the option to veto any bill. In the case of budget bills, he also has the option to veto specific line items. Any vetoes can be overridden by a 2/3 majority vote in both chambers.

Currently, Senate Appropriations has been hearing presentations from the state departments. They present their proposed budgets, make their cases for the funding requests they have made, and address the governor’s recommendations, which sometimes conflict with the department’s requested funding. It’s an informative process, which includes a lot of inquiries made by the committee that really help us understand the intricacies of the departments and will ultimately help us make critical decisions during Mark Up and Conference Committee.

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at wayne.wallingford@senate.mo.gov or www.senate.mo.gov/wallingford.