Constitutional conversations

By State Sen. Ben Brown, Missouri's 26th District
Posted 4/12/23

With only six weeks remaining in the 2023 legislative session, the focus in the Senate will now shift to the state operating budget for fiscal year ‘24.

Passing a balanced budget is the …

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Constitutional conversations


With only six weeks remaining in the 2023 legislative session, the focus in the Senate will now shift to the state operating budget for fiscal year ‘24.

Passing a balanced budget is the only thing required of the Legislature in our Constitution. As soon as the House puts finishing touches on its version of the budget, the Senate Appropriations Committee will make its recommendations. The proposed operating budget for fiscal year ’24 tops $50 billion, an increase of approximately $6 billion over FY 2023. Legislators have to send a balanced budget to the governor’s desk by May 5, one week before we adjourn.

Another item outlined in our Constitution relates to amendments. According to Article III, Section 49, “The people reserve power to propose and enact or reject laws and amendments to the constitution by the initiative, independent of the general assembly…”

Multiple bills have been filed on the topic of initiative petitions, but House Joint Resolution 43 has made the most progress. The Senate debated HJR 43 intently for several hours on March 29, but was unable to reach an agreement and perfect the bill.

In committee work, I presented Senate Bill 412 to the Local Government and Elections Committee on March 27. This measure enables the board of trustees of a consolidated public library district to change the dates of the fiscal year. Under current law, libraries’ fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30, however, these dates do not align with their revenue streams and contracts, which run on calendar years. I believe this is a commonsense reform that will allow our libraries to operate more efficiently and remove an unnecessary burden caused by an outdated law.

I’m extremely pleased to report my colleagues in the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 167 on March 30, my first piece of legislation to reach this milestone. Throughout the past decade, the trucking industry has struggled with a shortage of drivers. This shortage affects the entire economy, as over 68% of all freight is moved on U.S. highways. Shortages may also have a significant impact on supplier costs, consumer pricing, shipping delays and inventories for businesses.

In an effort to alleviate part of this problem during the pandemic, the Department of Revenue allowed truck drivers to email or fax information to the agency, but when the state of emergency ended, the state reverted back to the in-person requirement.

This act specifies that medical examiner’s certificates for commercial driver’s licenses or instruction permits may be provided to the state by mail, fax or email, in addition to the currently allowed methods. This policy will increase efficiency and provide some relief to our hardworking truckers. This legislation now advances to the House for consideration.

“Freedom-loving” and “fighting” were the two terms Scott Faughn used to describe Franklin County in my interview with him for “This Week in Missouri Politics” on March 26. During our conversation, I explained how the violent crime situation in St. Louis is now migrating to the surrounding counties, like our community, and how important it is to balance local control with responsibility.

I also enjoyed sharing how my story has come full circle, from testifying against local county ordinances and shut-down orders as a citizen and small business owner in 2021, to presenting Senate Bill 168 as a state senator in the same committee room. My SB 168 closes a loophole in the Department of Health and Senior Services’ rulemaking authority.

This will ensure that our liberties will be protected from over-zealous local health authorities in any future public health crisis.

I closed out last week being a Career Day presenter at my children’s school, Clearview Elementary. I enjoyed meeting with the students and teachers and describing my role as a legislator in the Missouri Senate.

It is an honor serving those who call the 26th Senatorial District home. If you need assistance with navigating state government or the legislative process, please reach out by calling 573-751-3678 or emailing