Driving into Jefferson City this week something was different. There was far less traffic than just a few days prior. The regular legislative session had come to a close. Seasonal residents of the capital city have returned home. It’s a good time to look back at the 2017 regular session.
The inauguration of Gov. Eric Greitens on the Capitol steps was the perfect beginning, loaded with hope and optimism. New legislators in both chambers and a new governor brought the promise of cooperation and accomplishment. From a personal perspective, 2017 was my first year walking the halls advocating on behalf of over 120,000 Missouri Farm Bureau member families from across the state. Having a personal connection to agriculture as well as an appreciation for the grassroots background of MFB adopted policies added to the enormity of the experience.
Session got off to a fast start with leadership in both chambers focusing on priority issues of labor reform, tort reform and ethics reform. Following through on his pledge, Speaker Todd Richardson sent an ethics reform bill to the Senate on January 17. The Senate wasted no time passing labor reform before the calendar turned to February. The Right to Work legislation was delivered to the Governor and he signed the bill on February 6. Major tort reforms were moved in both chambers in the opening months. Moving so quickly so early may have led to the strain as the shine and promise of a new session quickly faded into the routine work of moving legislation through the process.
Addressing the misuse of herbicide was a priority of Missouri Farm Bureau going into the session. From a newcomer’s perspective, it was inspiring to see the interested parties came together to craft a bill that allows the state to address the worst offenders while securing farmers’ access to needed technologies. The legislature passed the bill quickly and Governor Greitens signed it into law March 31.
A surprising issue this session regarded agricultural transportation. In some areas of the state, farmers and ranchers were being told they must park their tractors once the sun sets. Rep. Rick Brattin filed legislation to clarify that agricultural machinery and implements can move any time of day so long as they are properly lit. We applaud the legislature’s effort to back the number one industry in Missouri through the budget process as well. Highlights include funding for the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Fund as well as the Missouri Biodiesel Incentive Fund.
The legislature passed measures regarding labor and tort reform, but the ethics reform measures discussed in each chamber fell victim to the constitutional end of session. There were measures MFB would have liked to have seen pass that didn’t. We saw bills to add surety to the valuation of agricultural land; to secure regulation of seed, soil conditioners and fertilizers remain under the state’s control; to protect agriculturalist from frivolous lawsuits; and to add protection against wrongful animal confiscation.
This was a session of firsts for legislators and me. Looking back there were many accomplishments and a few items left on the table, one of which they’ll revisit during a special session called by Governor Greitens. No rest for the weary, but it looks like the remaining tasks will wait until they start over next January.