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Turning down a pay increase

** Missouri 3rd District State Senator Gary Romine, R-Ste. Genevieve, files his Capital Report at the end of each week during the state legislative session.

As many of you have undoubtedly heard, this fifth week of session got off to an interesting start. On Monday evening, a somewhat bizarre series of events unfolded as state senators took up a resolution to reject a recommended pay increase for ourselves and our fellow elected officials.

Every two years, the Missouri Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials is required by the Missouri Constitution to recommend pay for legislators, statewide elected officials and judges. Unless a two-thirds majority in both chambers adopt a resolution by Feb. 1 to reject the recommendation, it will automatically take effect July 1. This week, the Senate voted 25-2 to pass House Concurrent Resolution 4; it passed in the House by a vote of 154-5.

While I will not rehash the specifics of Monday evening, I do want to address one of the outcomes. With a projected revenue shortfall of about $450 million, Missouri is currently looking at a tough upcoming fiscal year. This is part of the reason state lawmakers feel it is an inappropriate time to increase our pay. Of course, the fact that Missouri state employees’ pay ranks lowest in the nation is another big reason we rejected an increase.

With three correctional facilities and the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center, the 3rd Senate District is home to the second largest population of state employees. Despite the physically and mentally demanding toll that comes with these jobs, as well as their inherent risks, our corrections employees and mental health workers are consistently underpaid. We must do better for all our state employees — most especially those who perform the work many others are unwilling to do. I want my constituents to know that I shared these concerns and frustrations in a one-on-one conversation with the governor on Monday evening. I look forward to continue working with my fellow lawmakers and the executive branch as we figure out a way to more fairly compensate the hardworking men and women of Missouri.

In other legislative news, on Tuesday, I presented Senate Bill 294 in committee. As I detailed several weeks ago, I filed SB 294 to rename the Jay Nixon State Park as Proffitt Mountain State Park, with any associated costs to be paid by the DNR. 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 Proffitts were known as hardworking people and good neighbors. Today, many geological formations and areas in our region are named for this pioneering family.

Senate Bill 294 comes on the heels of a decision by the former governor’s administration to use funds from the ASARCO settlement to purchase land in Reynolds County for the new Jay Nixon State Park. That decision marks the second time the former governor’s administration subverted local, county and state officials by using ASARCO funds — meant for lead remediation efforts — to purchase land without making a good-faith effort to be open and transparent about their plans. To add insult to injury, the former governor has chosen to name the new state park after himself. I believe residents of the 3rd Senate District have a legitimate reason to be upset, and it is my hope SB 294 will make this frustrating situation more palatable.

Finally, I presented Senate Bill 293 in committee Wednesday. This measure modifies the $2 per ton fee that is paid to the Division of Fire Safety for the use of explosives under the Missouri Blasting Safety Act. The fee pays for the costs of administering the law and funds two full-time inspectors, who are responsible for investigating complaints of blasting activity. These individuals help ensure blasts meet statutory requirements and blasting safety standards, and they decide if a citation is warranted.

The state fire marshal’s office has done an excellent job making do with the original $2 fee for nearly 10 years, but that small amount is no longer enough to cover the costs of administering the law. Senate Bill 293 seeks to raise the fee ceiling to $7.50 so that the fire marshal’s office does not have to keep coming back to the Legislature, should they ever need to raise the fee again; one important note — my legislation includes a provision that prohibits the fee from yielding more revenue than what is required to administer the cost of the program.

Finally, I am pleased to say we have already had quite a few visitors from the 3rd Senate District stop by the office this session. They include Karen White, CFO of Missouri Highlands Health Care, and board members Lance Mayfield, Donald Black, John Brewer, Debbie Tarvin and Heather Ray; Herb Fallert and Eileen Bauman with Citizens Electric; Mineral Area College President Dr. Steve Kurtz; Jefferson College President Dr. Ray Cummiskey; Larry Burmeister of Festus; and Dee McCormack, Mike McCormack and Thomas Heady from Big River Telephone Company.

We were also happy to have Jacob Briley job shadowing the office this week. Jacob is a junior at West St. Francois County High School. He was in Jefferson City as part of the Missouri Family Career and Community Leaders of America legislative shadowing project. Students were able to tour the Capitol and Missouri Supreme Court. It was great having Jacob in the office, and we wish him continued success.

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

Sen. Romine

Sen. Romine

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