Five state lawmakers attended the annual Washington Area Chamber of Commerce government forum Friday at the Four Rivers Area YMCA in Washington.
State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, joined State Reps. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, Nathan Tate, R-St. Clair, and Bart Korman, R-High Hill, to talk about projects they are currently working on and answer questions as well.
Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer were represented by district aides.
At the outset, each lawmaker gave a brief overview of his current legislation and its progress in the Legislature.
Paul Curtman, who is currently in his eighth and final year in the legislature, is now running for state auditor. He is pushing to pass legislation involving industrial hemp.
“I’ve worked on legalizing industrial hemp for four years,” he said. “Currently it is illegal to transport it across state lines. There are companies in Missouri who have to have it shipped to them internationally.”
Curtman added he also is continuing his crusade for tax reform.
Halfway through his second term in the House, Justin Alferman, who is vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, is in the process of tweaking the state funding for next year while balancing the budget requests from the governor.
Legislatively, his lobbyist gift ban bill has passed through the House and is now in the Senate rules committee.
Although his bill making it a crime to cheat on a drug test and banning the sale of synthetic urine is gaining him the most attention recently, Nathan Tate focused on a bill he filed to honor law enforcement.
The bill, which cleared committee last week, would designate the first Tuesday in May as “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.”
Bart Korman, also in his eighth year in the House, represents Warren County.
He serves on the House Transportation Committee and has devoted much of his final year to filing bills to fund and fix the roads and bridges of the state.
In all this session, he has filed more than 10 bills relating to transportation either directly impacting roadways or indirectly through vehicles.
Dave Schatz talked briefly on several bills he has filed spanning a wide range of issues from higher education to prevailing wage and other labor-related issues.
He also touched on the recent comments by Gov. Eric Greitens who said he is not in favor of raising the gas tax.
After vice chairing the 21st Century Committee, Schatz has filed a bill to raise the motor fuel tax by 10 cents per gallon on gas and 12 cents per gallon on diesel at the recommendation of the committee that traveled the state this past summer.
“There has been no increase in the state gas tax since 1996,” he said. “The Senate is waiting to see what the House will do.”
Schatz added he would like to see the question of raising the gas tax be put on the ballot and go before the voters.
Alferman and Tate said they support the recommendation of the 21st Century Committee and are in favor of letting the voters decide whether or not to raise their own taxes.
“We could do 2 cents, but what good is it going to do?” Tate said. “There has been a lot of positive movement by the MoDOT director (Patrick McKenna), but the amount of money we have now to fund our roads won’t be sustainable. Let’s put it on the ballot and let the people vote on it.”
Curtman stressed there have been about 10 audits done on MoDOT finance in recent years that have been virtually ignored.
“Asking people to raise their own taxes would be negligent if we don’t hold these bureaucracies accountable,” Curtman said. “The state budget is $3 billion more now than it was when I took office.”
Schatz’s bill, SB734, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety, but no hearing is currently scheduled.
He has said the bill might be passed as a joint resolution to bypass the governor and go straight to the ballot.