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Best of the Legislature 2018: Rep. Donna Baringer

   

Donna Baringer may be relatively new to the Missouri General Assembly but she is not new to be a lawmaker. 

She came to Jefferson City with more than a dozen years of experience working on citywide legislation on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. It was there that she learned a lot of skills needed to pass laws on a statewide level. 

Baringer learned the need to talk with all sides involved, find out why folks are supportive of a proposal and why folks are not supportive of a proposal, and address the issues with the legislation. 

“I’ve always believed it is okay if you are not with me on legislation because it may not be anything your district wants or believes in or needs,” said Baringer. “That’s okay. I just need to make sure that I understand all sides why people may be for or against it before I introduce legislation. It gives me a good sense of how to introduce it, how to word it, or how to rework it so that I can get it passed.”

As an example of that process in play, the St. Louis lawmaker points to her legislation on temporary license plate permits. Her original proposal faced a lot of opposition, so after talking with her fellow lawmakers, and learning their perspective, she scaled it back to a version that they could get behind. 

The bill requires that temporary permits for motor vehicles be returned to the Department of Revenue upon issuance of proper registration plates and that such permits be destroyed. This was aimed at curbing abuse of the temporary permits.

“Some people were never getting permanent plates and that impacts everyone,” said Baringer. “I was told 30 percent of St. Louis resident without insurance use expired temporary permits. If you get hit by a car that doesn’t have insurance, you pay your deductible and your rates go up…Those using expired tags are not paying their taxes on the vehicle which affects the programs that tax funds.”

In her sophomore term, she is looking at doing more legislation to look at how to address the abuse of the temporary tags that is occurring right now. 

First elected to the House in 2016, and re-elected in 2018, she makes it a priority to focus on the issues her district is concerned about. 

When determining which issues to focus on, Baringer asks the residents the 82nd district, she asks the police department, she asks the fire department, and she asks anyone with an interest.

She wants to know the problems her constituents are facing and what issues can be addressed at the state level.

“I am all about trying to improve the quality of life and however those ideas come to me I am open to them,” said Baringer. 

She is also proud of the work she did in improving the reliability of fiscal notes. A member of the committee that selected the new director in charge of that area, she was focused on improving fiscal notes attached to bills so that members have a more accurate idea of the impact before they vote. 

This piece is featured as part of the Missouri Times’ Best of the Legislature 2018 appearing in the January 2019 Missouri Times Magazine.