Skip to content

Priority legislation assigned to committee

The Senate has now been in session for just over a week. On Monday, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge administered the oath of office to Missouri’s 56th governor and our newly elected statewide officials, among whom include two of my friends and former Senate colleagues: Mike Parson and Eric Schmitt, elected to the offices of lieutenant governor and state treasurer, respectively. It was a pleasure to see such qualified and quality men sworn in for the next chapters of their public service careers, and I wish them both the best.

After Monday’s inaugural festivities, capped off by the Governor’s Ball that evening, it was back to the business of session. On Tuesday, three of my priority measures for the 2017 session were referred to committee. Two of the three (Senate Bill 43 and Senate Bill 45) are part of a larger effort to make Missouri a more business-friendly state by enacting meaningful tort reform. The third measure, Senate Bill 44, creates the Career and Technical Education Certification (CTEC) Program. It is the next step in pushing the CTE process to the forefront. I will go into more depth on each of these bills in the coming weeks. For now, you may find the complete bill texts on my Senate website.

It is my plan to file a fourth priority measure, also pertaining to education, within the coming week. The legislation is in response to recommendations made by the Missouri Higher Education System Review Task Force. The Task Force will present its interim report to the Joint Committee on Education, of which I serve as chairman, on Tuesday, Jan. 17. In short, the Task Force recommends creating more pathways to expanded degree offerings at our public institutions in order to meet our changing workforce needs.

When it comes to obtaining bachelor’s or master’s degrees from Missouri’s public universities, our students have a limited selection of schools to attend. The list shrinks even further when you look at our public institutions that are authorized to offer doctorate programs. While this situation is not new or at all unique to Missouri, it does pose difficulties for many students who would like to further their education but cannot quit their jobs or pack up and move across the state to attend traditional degree programs.

Different geographic regions often have different workforce needs. Here in southeastern Missouri, nursing and engineering are two in-demand professions. To ensure we have a consistent pipeline of skilled workers, Mineral Area College (MAC) offers an associate degree in nursing and Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) offers a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics, as well as a pre-professional engineering program. While area students are fortunate to have these great options available to them, not every student who wants to continue their education in these fields is able to attend the University of Missouri in Rolla or Columbia — perhaps they already have a good job in their field, or they cannot be away from home for extended periods of time.

The measure I am going to file will make it easier for Missouri’s public colleges and universities to offer more advanced degrees. It is my hope that in the near future places like SEMO and MAC can offer their students the higher education degree programs they desire in collaboration with institutions offering those degrees. I have always been a proponent of bringing business and education together, whenever possible. My legislation will reflect a regional approach to education, one where supply actually meets local demands.

In addition to matters relating to education and improving Missouri’s sluggish economy, I am looking forward to addressing a number of other important issues in the weeks and months ahead, working alongside my fellow lawmakers and with our new executive branch.

By all accounts, the governor has been setting a bold tone for his administration and the way Missouri government is going to operate in the future — with increased transparency and accountability to its citizens, two things our former governor seemed to struggle with at times. If anyone needs evidence of this, he or she only has to look at the circumstances surrounding Missouri’s newest state park.

I, along with several other area legislators, have been fighting for years now to see that funds from the ASARCO settlement are used to restore lands affected by lead contamination. Despite what the ASARCO funds were intended for, in 2015, the former governor used those funds to purchase the 2,463-acre Frederick Creek Ranch in Oregon County and turn it into a state park. Oregon County is located over 100 miles away from the Lead Belt and has never been affected by mining activities. What was most upsetting about the whole ordeal is that it was deliberately done in such a way to keep the public in the dark.

The Oregon County purchase was bad enough. Unfortunately, it now appears as though one of the former governor’s last actions before leaving office was to repeat history. On Jan. 5, it came to light that more funds from the ASARCO settlement has been used to purchase 1,230 acres in Reynolds County for the new Jay Nixon State Park. To add insult to injury, while the purchase was made in 2015, the public — including myself and other lawmakers — was not made aware of it until a webpage for the park appeared on the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) website.

I find myself once again incredibly frustrated, and I am not alone in this. I want my constituents to know that I am working to address the situation as best as I can. Just today, I filed Senate Bill 294 to rename the Jay Nixon State Park as Proffitt Mountain State Park, with any associated costs to be paid by the DNR. I believe parks should reflect the heritage of the region. The Proffitt family came to the Ozarks in the early part of the 19th Century, and by the 1930s were settled in the Arcadia Valley region. The two brothers, James and Patrick Proffitt, were settled on the Taum Sauk Creek at the base of the mountain by 1850. The Proffitts were known as hardworking pioneers and remembered as being good neighbors. The land in question remained in their family for many generations. Like many geological formations and areas in our region, the mountain was known as Proffitt Mountain. I will continue to update you on SB 294, as well as all my other legislative efforts, as session progresses.

Finally, visitors to Missouri’s Capitol will find a number of new and enhanced security measures. As of Jan. 10, entrances have been limited, and most visitors will be subject to security searches and must go through metal detectors. In addition, firearms, weapons of any kind, explosive devices and knives with 4-inch blades or longer are prohibited inside the Capitol. For more detailed information, please call the Missouri Capitol Police at 573-751-2764 or visit their website at mcp.dps.mo.gov/capitol-security.html.

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at 573-751-4008. You may write me at Gary Romine, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101; or email me at gary.romine@senate.mo.gov; or www.senate.mo.gov/romine.

Gary Romine

Gary Romine

This report was filed Jan. 12, 2017

Leave a Comment