The Missouri Senate has reached the halfway point of the 2018 legislative session. While we have spent countless hours on the floor of the Missouri Senate, I am proud of the conservative, common-sense proposals my colleagues and I have approved and sent to the Missouri House of Representatives for consideration.

In the beginning of February, my colleagues and I gave final approval to legislation giving law enforcement officers another tool in the fight against human trafficking. House Bill 1246 requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a poster that displays information regarding the dangers of human trafficking as well as other vital, life-saving information. The legislation requires these posters to be displayed in establishments where victims of trafficking are most likely to be found. Every state in the nation has reported cases of human trafficking, and because of Missouri’s place at the crossroads of our country, our state ranks among the top 20 in the frequency of reports of human trafficking. Through this legislation, we can provide those trapped in this modern form of slavery the information they need to escape the hellish existence created by those who aim to exploit them for profit. House Bill 1246 was the first piece of legislation to be truly agreed and finally passed by the Missouri General Assembly during the 2018 legislative session.

Promoting economic development and attracting businesses and job creators to the Show-Me State has been my top priority while serving in the Missouri General Assembly. My colleagues and I passed legislation reauthorizing two of Missouri’s top economic development tools. Senate Bill 549 extends the Missouri Works Training Program and the Missouri Works Program until 2030.

The Missouri Works Training Program addresses the No. 1 challenge facing Missouri businesses in today’s growing economy — finding educated, skilled workers. Through this program, businesses receive funding for job training when they introduce new product lines, new technology, competition-driven, productivity improvements or when they are expanding or relocating their business within the state. As a result of this program, Missouri has seen more than 9,500 new jobs and the state has retained more than 121,000 jobs as a direct result of the Missouri Works Training Program.

The Missouri Works Program is the state’s top economic development tool for attracting and retaining businesses. The program incentivizes businesses to expand their operations as well as hire new employees through the ability to retain their withholding taxes on the new jobs or receive refundable tax credits. For every dollar invested by the state in the Missouri Works Program, it has generated more than $3.29 in economic activity. As a businessman myself, this is an impressive return on investment. These two programs have a proven track record of creating jobs and helping businesses grow. Extending these programs sends an important message to our state’s business community, Missouri is open for business.

Opioid-related deaths are at an all-time high in Missouri. Today, one out of every 66 deaths in Missouri can be attributed to opioid overdose. To help combat opioid abuse, the Missouri Senate approved Senate Bill 826. This proposal limits the initial prescription length of opioids to no more than a 7-day supply. According to studies, long-term use sharply increases after the third and fifth days of taking the prescription. The 7-day limit would not affect patients suffering from chronic pain, nor would it affect anyone undergoing treatment for cancer, receiving hospice care or palliative care, or anyone residing in a long-term care facility. In addition, the bill allows pharmacies to house kiosks for the collection of unused drugs. The legislation also expands the number of drugs pharmacies are legally allowed to take back, and it creates a statewide education campaign for Missourians — a plan encouraging the safe disposal of drugs.

While we have approved numerous pieces of common-sense, conservative legislation and sent them to the Missouri House for consideration, there is still much work to be done when it comes to making Missouri a better place to live, work and raise a family.

We must continue to do everything we can to make our state more attractive in the eyes of businesses and job creators. Reforming our state’s civil judicial system plays a vital role in attracting job creators and promoting economic growth in Missouri. Tort reform is critical to improving our state’s economic climate. Too often, Missouri businesses are treated unfairly in the courtroom and as a result, those experiences have forced businesses and job creators out of our state. We must do everything we can to create a better business climate; businesses should be spending their profits hiring new employees and improving their companies not wasting their resources fighting frivolous lawsuits.

In addition to reforming our state’s civil judicial system, I believe it is also necessary to improve our state’s labor laws. Through reforming Missouri’s labor laws, I believe we can fundamentally change the way Missouri conducts business. Throughout the state, I have heard from countless Missourians on the importance of eliminating Missouri’s prevailing wage laws. These laws unnecessarily drive up the minimum wage rates of all public works construction projects and are often in excess of state and federal minimum wages. By eliminating Missouri’s prevailing wage laws, Missouri taxpayers can feel confident they are getting the most out of our every tax dollar spent on public construction projects. These two issues play a vital role in moving Missouri forward, and I believe through effective tort and labor reform we can create a more attractive environment for businesses and job creators looking to expand and grow.

Members of the Missouri General Assembly have one constitutional obligation — to pass the state’s operating budget. Made up of 13 appropriations bills, the state’s $28 billion dollar spending plan represents the state’s spending priorities for the 2019 fiscal year. While the governor’s proposed budget includes several items intended to move the state forward, unfortunately it calls for a $68 million dollar cut to Missouri’s higher education institutions. As a state, we cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of our state’s colleges and universities. These cuts hurt our future, and they hinder our ability to develop the quality workforce needed to compete in a global marketplace. As the budget moves through the legislative process, I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure we properly fund our state’s colleges and universities.

While there are still two months remaining in the 2018 legislative session, I am confident that by the end of this session, we will have passed numerous legislative proposals that will benefit Missourians from all walks of life. As I enter the final stretch of my legislative career, I am committed to doing everything I can to fundamentally change the way Missouri does business while making our state more attractive in the eyes of job creators. As always, it continues to be a privilege serving the residents of the 32nd Senatorial District.