Working through the Tough Issues
With the 2022 legislative session in our rearview mirror, I have spent some time reflecting on the 101st General Assembly. Throughout the past two years, my colleagues and I navigated several tough issues. It wasn’t easy, but I am proud of the work we accomplished, and I stand behind my votes on the issues we debated.
Congressional Redistricting: Personally, I would have loved to see an 8-0 congressional map that sent more conservatives to Congress. From the start, I believed anything other than a 6-2 map had little chance of passing the Legislature. After hearing from my constituents on the importance of a 7-1 map, I voted “no” on the map passed by the General Assembly. I believe a 7-1 map was possible, and we should have strived to pass such a map. It is no secret the redistricting process will have consequences that extend beyond any current senator’s remaining time in the Missouri Senate. With this in mind, we need to be thinking not just a few years ahead, but a full decade down the road. I believe the final map keeps communities of interest together and can withstand a court challenge. In my opinion, the 6-2 map also has the real potential of staying strong over the course of the next decade, but I would have preferred a map that had the ability to send more conservatives from our state to Congress.
Women’s Sports: Nearly the first half of the legislative session this year was spent on congressional redistricting, which made getting to most other issues almost impossible. During discussion on a bill relating to the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant program, an amendment was offered that would have prevented transgender women from participating in women’s sports. Despite wanting to have something in state statute that helps protects women’s sports, this was not the legislation for this issue. I was concerned about unintended consequences on intramural sports where males and females are on the same team, as well as extra-curricular activities. As a result, I made the motion to table the proposed amendment in order for it to be studied further.
Throughout the course of the debate on transgender women participating in women’s sports, several individuals have raised concerns that such a ban could have a negative impact on college athletics. While I support such a ban and voted to pass one in committee this year, I believe we must be absolutely certain that whatever we pass does not drastically impact our state’s colleges and universities in an unforeseen way. I had hoped the full Senate would have had the opportunity to discuss both a Parents’ Bill of Rights and women’s sports on the floor this year, but we were never able to get to these specific issues before time ran out on the legislative session.
CRT: The Missouri Senate tried to take steps to crack down on critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in our schools. The Senate Education Committee, of which I am a member, sent several measures to the full Missouri Senate for consideration this year, including Senate Bill 638, Senate Bill 645, Senate Bill 694 and Senate Bill 734, all of which would have effectively banned CRT. I was proud to vote “yes” on all of them in committee. Of these four bills, only one was taken up for consideration on the floor of the Missouri Senate, but did not move any further.
Defunding Abortion Providers: A few years ago, the Missouri General Assembly defunded Planned Parenthood. They then sued. Last summer, a decision was finally issued saying we cannot legislate through the budget. I disagree with this decision. There are many of us in the Legislature who want to defund Planned Parenthood, but we must stay in compliance with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in order to continue to receive federal funding for our state’s various health care programs and services. We have thousands of seniors in nursing homes throughout Missouri, many of whom have exhausted personal savings to afford to live there. I believe making sure those people are protected is pro-life. Today, Medicaid pays for zero abortions in Missouri. This year, the Missouri General Assembly completely defunded Planned Parenthood. We put $0 on their funding line.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program: I had voted against the statewide PDMP for years. Most of Missouri’s population was under a prescription drug monitoring program anyway through a PDMP started by St. Louis County. So the choice was to leave my district on the old PDMP, which had no protections, or finally vote for an improved version that limits how long the records can be kept and how it could be used. I voted for the statewide system, passed by the Legislature in 2021, because I believe it was the best option to ensure the personal information of my constituents was protected.
Vaccine Mandates: Throughout the pandemic, I have opposed heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all policies, whether they’re regarding masks or vaccinations. Such mandates run counter to the idea of free enterprise in our country and represent overreach into a deeply personal decision on whether or not to get vaccinated. Frankly, mandates are not welcome in Missouri. By the way, I supported the measure in 2021 to require local governments to vote on mask mandates, rather than just impose them onto citizens. Where the original Senate language would have required a two-thirds majority, I preferred a simple majority to pass such a mandate, which is now state law.
Expanding Medicaid: I have faithfully opposed the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid since I got to Jefferson City; however, Missouri voters passed Medicaid expansion in 2020. This year, the Legislature simply funded what the voters have told us they want. The courts have now ruled unanimously the ballot proposal was valid and is part of our constitution.
These are all tough, complex issues, but each of you sent me to Jefferson City to represent your views and concerns in the State Capitol. Every time I cast a vote or make a decision in the Missouri Senate, I do so with your best intentions in mind. As I look forward to 2023, establishing a Parents’ Bill of Rights, banning CRT and protecting women’s sports will be my top priorities in the General Assembly next year.
Please feel free to contact my office in Jefferson City at (573) 751-1464. For information about committees or sponsored legislation for the 2022 session, please visit my official Missouri Senate website at senate.mo.gov/Cierpiot.