One of the most important liberties Americans enjoy is the right to petition their government. It is a guiding principle of our nation's Declaration of Independence that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. Here in Missouri, the ability of citizens to appeal directly to their government is clearly stated in our Constitution. At the State Capitol, we see this right put into practice nearly every day we're in session.
From January through May, there's a constant parade of citizens who travel to Jefferson City in hopes of having their voices heard. Meeting constituents and listening to their concerns is one of the best parts of my job as a state senator. It is through these encounters I learn about issues that impact Missourians and hear firsthand accounts about how our state's laws work, or don't work. The information I gain helps me and my colleagues draft legislation to improve the lives of the people we serve. This week, I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives of two groups that are dear to me.
On Tuesday, March 7, Families for Home Education (FHE) held a grassroots advocacy day at the State Capitol. My wife and I homeschool our daughters, so I hold a special bond with families all across the state of Missouri who believe they know best regarding their children's education. It was great visiting with the parents who stopped by my office to discuss issues important to the homeschool community and to join the group during its rally in the Rotunda. I am thankful for those parents who take on the weight of the world while educating their children at home. It's a huge undertaking, and those willing to do it are truly inspiring.
Also gathering in the Capitol this week were pro-life advocates who traveled to Jefferson City. In recent years, Missouri has made great strides to protect the unborn, and now our state is recognized as having some of the strongest pro-life laws in the United States. I proudly stand with these defenders of innocent life, and I look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.
Another way citizens express their views is through legislative hearings. This week, the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, which I chair, heard testimony on three bills related to firearms and the right to keep and bear arms. Several of the witnesses appearing before the committee were citizens who came to the Capitol to advocate for 2nd Amendment freedoms. Senate Bill 224 would allow individuals with a valid concealed carry permit to possess a weapon while using public transportation services, such as city buses or commuter trains. Senate Bill 225 would require a business that prohibits possession of firearms on its premises to assume responsibility for the safety of patrons. The bill also provides immunity from liability for businesses that allow employees or invitees to lawfully possess firearms. Finally, the committee took testimony on Senate Bill 343, a measure that would criminalize celebratory gunfire within city limits. Unusual for legislation relating to firearms, SB 343 received unanimous bipartisan support. Nobody approves of flagrant violations of basic firearms safety rules.
Most of the activity in the Senate chamber this week centered on Senate Bill 49. Known as the "Missouri Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act," this legislation would prohibit children under the age of 18 from receiving puberty blockers, hormone treatments, reconstructive surgery or other gender transition procedures. As strongly as the majority party is united in favor of this legislation, the minority party is adamantly opposed. That led to a protracted filibuster that stalled progress on the bill this week. We're working hard to bring the bill to a vote, and I look forward to negotiations continuing once the General Assembly returns from spring recess on March 20. We may need to set the issue aside while we work on the budget and a few other critical issues, but I'm confident we'll get legislation to protect kids across the finish line before the session concludes in May.
Senator Travis Fitzwater serves residents of Callaway, Lincoln, Montgomery, Pike and a portion of St. Charles counties in the Missouri State Senate. For more information about Sen. Fitzwater, visit senate.mo.gov/Fitzwater.