Sen. Will Kraus, guest speaker for a Noonday Rotary Club meeting on Monday at Best Western, 32nd and Limit, explained a religious freedom bill that is currently under consideration in the Missouri State Legislature.

Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, said that the Missouri Senate spent 39 hours debating the joint resolution, which some opponents are calling a legalized discrimination bill.

“It’s changing the Missouri Constitution to protect individual religious freedom,” Sen. Kraus said, adding that the bill would protect businesses from being forced to take part in a homosexual wedding, whether it be In the form of a minister, photographer, caterer or florist.

Rotary member and retired psychologist Dr. Marge Harlan directly questioned Kraus on the validity of the joint resolution. “I am fairly well aware of individuals’ problems. We don’t need to add to that by having this so-called religious, what, freedom? It’s about as far from freedom as you can imagine,” Dr. Harlan told Sen. Kraus.

In response, Kraus defended the resolution by saying that he believes individuals should be able to say “I object to this philosophy and not be forced to partake. If you’re a minister and someone comes up to you and asks you to marry them, and your religious beliefs, Bible, Koran, or whatever, says that that form of marriage is wrong, do you not believe that they should have the right to say my religious beliefs are opposed to what you want me to do. Therefore, I don’t want to perform that wedding?” And that’s what the bill does,” Sen. Kraus said to Dr. Harlan.

Sen. Kraus also talked about a proposed six-cent gas tax in the state of Missouri.

Randy Kirby

“It was perfected, meaning it was initially approved with a voice vote. This week, it will likely be taken up for a third read, and if it passes, it will move over to the House,” Kraus said, noting that the current rate is around 17 cents. If the proposal passes, it will add 5.9 cents to around 23 cents per gallon.

The state’s gas tax was last increased during Gov. John Ashcroft’s administration over 20 years ago. At that time, the rate was increased by two cents per years for three years in a row, according to Kraus. The fuel-tax money will be used to allow MoDOT to improve transportation in Missouri per Amendment 3 passed several years ago.

“Infrastructure is a function of government, and we need to make sure we provide adequate resources,” Kraus concluded.

The state legislators passed a couple of tort reform bills, one of which is referred to as “expert witness,” which says that a witness has to have certain qualifications to be able to serve as an expert witness in a courtroom. “It puts some teeth in the law; you can’t just bring someone in and say they’re an expert,” Kraus said.

The other bill is called “collateral source,’ which uses the actual cost in relationship to a lawsuit, and that will bring down the overall cost and help some of the small businesses, avoiding some of the huge claims, Sen. Kraus explained.