The Missouri General Assembly has let another session come and go with little that’s likely to improve the quality of state services or to reflect, as the state motto says, that “the welfare of the people be the supreme law.”
On an immediately pressing issue – maintaining roads and bridges and expanding the system as needed – legislators all but took a pass. Even Gov. Mike Parson’s bridge plan, which he called a Band-Aid months ago, got watered down and now depends on the state winning federal money. The broader issue – adequate funding for safe roads to move people and products – remains untouched again, and this isn’t even an election year.
On a more long-term issue – employers’ inability to find skilled workers – the governor’s plan did squeak through. The state will help some people go back to school to finish their degrees for work in high-demand fields. This is modest and reasonable. The connection between degrees and paychecks is clear. This will pay dividends for earners and families, for employers, for communities and for the state.
How can it be that Missouri remains the only state without a prescription drug monitoring database, a key tool in detecting and stopping opioid abuse and addiction? This crisis persists, and our state does nothing. For years, it was one senator – think about that – who blocked this bill. He’s gone. The bill still didn’t pass this year.
This is about health and safety, an area in which we can demand that our government act responsibly. It hasn’t. Will the governor or key legislative leaders step up and make PDMP a priority next year? It’s a no-brainer.
Not only has talk of expanding Medicaid stopped, leaving hundreds of thousands of working, tax-paying Missourians without health insurance, legislators showed a disturbing lack of curiosity about why tens of thousands of children and adults have been dropped from the state’s Medicaid rolls in the last year. We deserve answers on that.
Legislators did make it a high priority to again the test the courts’ limits on abortion, this time with a so-called heartbeat bill. Advocates look to the current lineup at the U.S. Supreme Court and think they have a clear shot at essentially outlawing abortion. We’ll see.
This does give the lie to the popular Jefferson City cliche that you can’t pass anything in one year. No, we are told, you have to bring people along, session by session. Justice William Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court 10 months ago. And here we are. State after state is going after Roe vs. Wade, and Missouri has jumped on too.
Our legislators can act quickly and decisively when sufficiently motivated.