My fellow senators and I have returned to the Missouri Capitol from our legislative spring break to begin the second half of the 2019 legislative session.

As some of you may know, I recently fell off a ladder at home and broke my leg, giving a new meaning to “spring break.” I am recovering, but require the use of a wheelchair for the time being. Several people have asked me why I returned to the Capitol so soon after my fall and why I’m not at home resting. The answer is simple. My responsibility is to represent my constituents and be their voice in the Missouri Senate, and I cannot do this from home. It is important for me to be present in the Capitol so I can stay updated on the legislation being discussed on the Senate floor and bills being heard by committees.

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mike Ramsey from KFMO when his radio show was broadcast live from the Capitol Rotunda. During this interview, I discussed Senate Bill 259, which is the Title IX legislation I have filed. This is one of the most important pieces of legislation I am sponsoring this legislative session. It would give any individual involved in a Title IX proceeding at an institution of higher education the right to their due process protections granted under the Bill of Rights. This legislation does not favor the claimant or the respondent, but rather ensures that all individuals involved receive their due process rights during the Title IX proceeding. I also talked about the importance of passing Senate Bill 17. This legislation would allow any person retired from the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) of Missouri to continue to receive their retirement funds while being employed at a public community college. I am hopeful that the House will pass this important piece of legislation and send it to the governor’s desk before the end of the legislative session.

This week, the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee heard appointments to various boards and commissions across the state. I would like to congratulate Mary Sheid on her appointment to the State Board of Education. She is a constituent of Missouri’s 8th Congressional District, which contains part of the 3rd Senatorial District. I believe she is an excellent candidate for this position and would like to congratulate her on this impressive achievement.

This past week, my colleagues and I began discussing Senate Bill 65. This tort reform proposal states that punitive damages will only be awarded if the plaintiff proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without cause or acted with a deliberate disregard for the safety of others. Currently, in trials involving a claim for punitive damages, there is a bifurcated trial. During the first stage, the jury determines liability, the amount of compensatory damages and the liability for punitive damages. In the second stage, the jury determines the amount of punitive damages. This act would change the process so that after the award of compensatory damages, the court will decide whether punitive damages may be considered. After the court’s determination, the jury will decide whether to award punitive damages and the amount to be awarded. This legislation has the potential to drastically change the way punitive damages are awarded, so I look forward to further discussing this legislation with my colleagues.

I would like to recognize one of my fellow senators for his work with at-risk youth in southeastern Missouri. Senator Doug Libla, from the 25th Senatorial District, is active with the organization E.R.A.S.E., which stands for Education, Responsibility, Aspiration, Steadfastness and Empowerment. This organization works to provide opportunities for children and teenagers living in impoverished areas that often have limited access to after-school programs. The organization funds a trip to Jefferson City to visit the Capitol Building, Supreme Court and the Missouri State Highway Patrol headquarters and museum. This trip is a great way for the kids to learn more about state government and how it functions, while also learning more about the opportunities available to them when they graduate high school. Providing at-risk youth with a support system and access to various opportunities has an incredible impact on their lives, and I want to applaud Sen. Libla for his work with this organization.

The construction on the Capitol Building is moving along, and I wanted to share some pictures of its progress and the hazards of severe weather. As you can see in the final picture, the high winds we experienced a few weeks ago tore the protective cover off the building in certain areas.

I always appreciate hearing your opinions and concerns regarding your state government. 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. For more information, please visit my official Senate webpage at www.senate.mo.gov/romine.

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