WEBB CITY, Mo. — After COVID-19 interrupted the state’s 2020 legislative session, many Southwest Missouri lawmakers say they’re busy with the number of bills now on the table.

State lawmakers met with business leaders during an “eggs and issues” forum Friday hosted by regional chamber of commerce offices to discuss what to expect during this year’s legislative session.

In attendance were state Sen. Bill White, of Joplin, and state Reps Ben Baker, Neosho; Bob Bromley, Carl Junction; Dirk Deaton, Noel; Ann Kelley, Lamar; and Lane Roberts, Joplin.

When legislators last convened for a special session shortly after the Nov. 3 election, their work was delayed into December after several lawmakers and staff tested positive for COVID-19, according to The Associated Press.

The first regular session of the 101st General Assembly of Missouri convened on Jan. 6, and nearly 1,500 bills are currently in the House of Representatives, with 630 more in the Senate.

“This is an exceptional year for us to get things done,” said White. “It’s very seriously the most busy year I’ve had in my 11 years now up there. We are doing a tremendous amount. I have not seen the Senate be as efficient as we are.”

The Missouri Senate recently approved and sent to the House the COVID-19 liability protections bill. The measure would protect businesses, churches, health care facilities and other entities from liability for COVID-19 exposure.

But White said not enough members voted for the emergency clause, which means it won’t be effective at the time of the governor’s signature. If passed, the bill would take effect Aug. 28.

Rep. Ben Baker, of Newton County, discussed a bipartisan bill he’s introduced that would allow individuals to make certain baked goods from home and sell them on the internet. It would remove a lot of unnecessary roadblocks for people trying to make a living by working from home, according to Baker.

Another piece of legislation he’s focusing on is the Students Right to Know Act, which would provide a “one-stop shop” for high school students to see the outcomes of different careers, starting salary, cost of school, student loans, etc.

“A lot of times, they just need information, and this is information that’s really out there, but it’s in a lot of different places,” said Baker. “It’s spread out. It’s hard for them to find, so we’re trying to consolidate that and say here’s this document and page where you can look at all of this information and make informed choices.”

Baker has also proposed a bill that would allow individuals who are concealed-carry permit holders to conceal carry firearms in churches and other places of worship.

“Currently, the law in Missouri, you have to have permission of the pastor or whoever’s in charge of that church or religious organization to be able to carry a weapon lawfully in the building,” he said. “The problem with that is this “a lot of pastors came to me and said they don’t want to have to be the one that picks and chooses in my congregation who can carry a gun.”

The session will end May 28.

Other topics discussed at the forum included:

Measures to

  • collect online sales taxes and raise the fuel tax.

Competency-based

  • education, charter schools and educational scholarships.

Senate Bill 369

  • modifies a dated law and protects property owners and the valuation of their insured property.

House Bill 746

  • prohibits restrictions on the free exercise of religion during an emergency.

House Bill 578

  • modifies the motor vehicle biennial registration option so that all motor vehicles, regardless of model year, have a two-year registration option.

The Second Amendment Preservation Act

  • creates additional protections to the right to bear arms.

Expanding broadband

  • internet in rural areas.

House Bill 744

  • modifies the duration of certain orders of protection.

House Bill 292 modifies the definition of “stalking” when applying for an order of protection, which is used to prevent harassment and abusive behavior.

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News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction, Carthage and Webb City.