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Higher education, bingo legislation heard in committee

While my career and technical education bill (Senate Bill 44) is waiting to arrive on the Senate floor for debate, my second piece of priority education legislation has now been heard in committee. As you may recall, in January, the Joint Committee on Education received a report by the Missouri Higher Education System Review Task Force that recommended creating more pathways to expanded degree offerings at our public institutions in order to meet our changing workforce needs. I filed Senate Bill 328 in response to that report.

When it comes to obtaining higher education degrees from Missouri’s public universities, our students have a limited selection of schools to attend. This makes things very difficult for those who would like to further their education but cannot quit their jobs or be away from home for extended periods of time in order to attend a more traditional degree program.

Very simply, SB 328 provides that community colleges may grant baccalaureate degrees if authorized by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. In addition, the West Plains Campus of Missouri State University and the State Technical College of Missouri may offer bachelor’s degrees if authorized. When certain requirements are met, the Coordinating Board may also authorize a degree program outside of an institution’s approved mission. The University of Missouri will remain the only state college or university authorized to offer doctor of philosophy degrees or first-professional degrees, such as dentistry, law, veterinary medicine, etc.

One of the things I am most excited about with SB 328 is its focus on tailoring educational offerings to the local business needs of a geographic region. For example, here in southeastern Missouri — and not unlike countless other communities — we are in great need of skilled nurses. This also means area employers are looking to fill nursing positions. While nearby Mineral Area College (MAC) offers an associate degree in nursing, they are currently prevented from offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

My legislation will make it possible for MAC to offer a more advanced nursing degree that local students can pursue close to home. In doing so, students will increase their marketability, area health care providers will have an abundance of qualified applicants and our regional nursing shortage will be addressed. I really cannot stress enough what a great thing this will be for our community, and I am looking forward to the day SB 328 is signed into law.

On Wednesday, I presented Senate Bill 147 to the Progress and Development Committee. This measure reduces the amount of time a bona fide member of a licensed organization must wait before they can participate in conducting or managing a bingo game from two years to six months. It also reduces the required membership period of a person working under the direction of such a member from one year to six months.

Bingo games are a social staple in many communities throughout Missouri, most especially in our service organizations. I am happy to assist in making it a little easier for these organizations to staff their events. Since bingo is permitted by the Missouri Constitution, the Legislature is also considering Senate Joint Resolution 9, which would bring the issue to a vote of the people in the November 2018 election.

In other news, several weeks ago, Rep. Elaine Gannon and I filed legislation in our respective chambers to address the recurring flooding along Joachim Creek, which runs through both Jefferson County and St. Francois County. Due to multiple flooding events in recent years, the Joachim Creek has begun to endanger the health, safety and welfare of citizens. Rep. Gannon’s legislation was heard in committee this week.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 5 and House Concurrent Resolution 9 urges the City of DeSoto and Jefferson County to establish a Joachim Creek Joint Task Force to develop an early warning system that can alert citizens of the need to evacuate during a flash flood event. The Task Force is also urged to conduct a study of areas affected by frequent flooding and determine if an organized property buyout is possible, and to identify methods that allows the Joachim Creek area to use such flooding as an economic development tool. The time has come for all parties involved — citizens, government agencies and community groups and businesses — to work together to provide solutions for those afflicted by these flash flood events.

And last but certainly not least, I had the distinct honor and privilege of roasting my good friend and colleague, fellow southeasterner, Rep. Kevin Engler, of the 116th House District, Friday evening at the Farmington Rotary. And just so Rep. Engler did not have to be roasted alone, we also had the pleasure of roasting Mark Toti. Of course, as those of you who are familiar with Rep. Engler might expect, I think he ultimately did most of the roasting that evening. It was a great night, and I was very happy to be a part of it.

And last but certainly not least, I was happy to welcome the following visitors to my Capitol office this week, including: Janet Akers of Farmington; James Aubuchon of Desoto; Mike Graham of Fredericktown; Vivian Vaughn and Tracey Eatherton, both of Ste. Genevieve; Rob Walsh of Ste. Genevieve; Shirley Gamble and Ginger Pizarro, both of Park Hills; Danielle Basler of Bonne Terre; Kurt Bauche of Farmington; Missy Parrott and Brittany Conway, who were here to discuss the SEMO Family Violence Council; and Sandy Holifield, Megan Berry and Jessica Brown, who were visiting for Dental Hygienists Lobby Day.

I also welcomed Richard Brummett, an advisor with Ironton AV Career Tech Center in Arcadia Valley, and students: Jack Gilmore, Jacob Inman, Justin Morris, Katelyn Young, Emma Wadlow and Chelsie Rice. Finally, I have one correction from last week — Dee McCormack, Mike McCormack and Thomas Heady are with the Ellington Telephone Company, not the Big River Telephone Company. They do a terrific job in their community, and I thank them for paying me a visit in Jefferson City.

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.

Gary Romine

Gary Romine

This report was filed Feb. 9, 2017

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