Freshman representative hits the ground running in Jefferson City
Jefferson City, Mo. — Rep. Keith English, D-68, came to the Capitol with a plan to push bills each week that are driven by the questions, comments and concerns he’s collecting from his constituents.
English, who’s from North St. Louis County, served on Florissant City Council for more than six years. He said because of that experience he understands what state laws directly affect North County that he previously had no ability to influence.
“[After I was elected] I talked to our present mayor and past mayor and people in the community about what I could change on the state level that would affect us right away,” he said. “I felt that although the state representative that was here did work on some things, on local things he might not have been up-to-date.”
English’s most recent piece of legislation, House Bill 297, seeks to add photos of Food Stamp recipients on the debit card provided by the State.
He said HB297 is an anti-fraud bill that could help Food Stamp recipients from having money removed from their card without their consent.
He said there are still questions to answer involving this bill in terms of what caretakers of a disabled person would need to do in order to use these cards. Questions like these are the reason why these bills are discussed in committee and an example of listening to the concerns of the people within his district, he said.
“When my constituents bring a bill up, it doesn’t matter if they’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent,” he said. “If it will help the betterment of our government, I’m definitely going to bring the bill to the table. I’m always in favor of when there’s conversation or good debate: that brings up good legislation and bills.”
Currently, English said he’s working with the Utilities committee — one of four that he sits on — to develop a bill that would reimburse municipalities for doing work along highways that should be MoDOT’s responsibility.
While MoDOT has taken financial hits during the last few years, making necessary cuts, English said there are still some responsibilities to the maintenance of highways and exits that shouldn’t go ignored.
“The City of Florissant is known as the Beautiful City, or the Valley of Flowers,” he said. “When you look at some of the right-a-ways, some of the flowers that are blooming on the side of the highway don’t need to be six feet tall.”
Florissant Mayor Tom Schneider moved forward on the maintenance issue, English said, “eating” the cost of having the City’s parks and recreation department handle areas that needed attention.
“I didn’t think that was fair for the taxpayers to pay double,” he said. “They’re paying state taxes to maintain highways and right-a-ways, and then on a local level paying forestry divisions and parks and recreation to go use weed-eaters and lawnmowers to actually maintain them.”
A more controversial, bill English introduced HB298, which requires an ultrasound to be conducted and reviewed with the pregnant woman prior to the 24-hour waiting period for an abortion.
“A lot of legislation that happens here has to do with personal things,” English, a pro-life Democrat, said. “All of this gun legislation, I believe, is feel-good legislation to make someone feel good about the topic one way or another].”
He said HB298 is an opportunity for a woman to receive all of the correct information before making a decision, but doesn’t remove her choice. This bill personally affected his family, English added.
During the future, English said he looks forward to working on legislation which could level the utility rates for utility companies so that people in Florissant, for example, are paying the same amount to bring a new service, such as a cell phone tower, that people in Crystal City are paying.
“I definitely have my eyes open for the people I represent when I’m here.”