JEFFERSON CITY - While consumer protection and national issues motivated most of the legislation filed in the Missouri General Assembly on Monday, Columbia legislators said they plan to focus a little closer to home.
Despite health care and immigration being state-wide concerns, Columbia legislators said they will continue to focus on university education and the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center.
Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia
Robb said his biggest concern for the 2008 session is the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and improving state health care.
He said the biggest issue for the legislature in the upcoming session will be to keep the budget under control.
“There’s a rumor going around that there are piles of money laying around in state government,” Robb said. “I’m looking at my office and I don’t see any.”
He said during election years, there is pressure to pump money into state departments and programs which the state does not have the money to support in the long term. Robb said those programs are often cut later.
Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia
Baker said she plans to focus on health, education and the environment and chooses what to support based on the merit of each bill. In the 2008 session, she said she plans to focus on increasing physical education requirements in schools and creating a driver’s education program.
Baker said she attempted to pass bills on both issues during the last session. Neither passed.
She said the upcoming session should be easier because she has three years of experience in the House.
“I actually know what I’m doing now,” she said.
Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia
Harris was Minority Floor Leader during the 2007 session and is running for state attorney general in 2008.
Harris said that some of the legislation he tried to pass last session had bipartisan support, “but some folks on the other side weren’t interested in getting it passed.”
Harris said he plans to focus on consumer protection and increasing the punishment for persons convicted of shaking a baby.
“I know what my values are and what areas exist that need to be addressed,” he said.
Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia
Graham was out of the state and could not be reached for comment. His chief of staff Ted Farnen spoke in his place.
“In general...he looks out for the university’s well-being on the fiscal side and policy side,” Farnen said.
Farnen said the senator has pieces of legislation he plans to file, including changing how the state budget is considered and giving the student curator a vote on the MU Board of Curators.
Farnen said he thinks the big issues of the 2008 session will include funding for MU capital improvements, open records and health care.
“Every year there’s one issue that no one expects, but by the time May 15 swings around, it is one of the most important issues of the year,” he said.