Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update: Addressing Local Issues at the Capitol

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Much of my legislation for this sixth week of session focused on issues affecting the 3rd Senate District. On Monday I filed two new measures pertaining to disputed property taxes and the sale of land in Oregon County.

Senate Bill 1034 modifies the disbursement of taxes paid under protest. Under current law, a county collector receiving taxes paid under protest must disburse the undisputed amount to the proper official, and place the disputed amount in a separate fund until the matter can be resolved. The money in that fund is essentially frozen, meaning it cannot be used to fund vital community services or, as citizens of the 3rd District have seen firsthand, our public schools.

As a result of a substantial amount of disputed property taxes being held in escrow by the Reynolds County Collector, both the Bunker R-III and Southern Reynolds R-II school districts were recently facing immediate, severe budget cuts just to get through the current school year. Thankfully, a January court decision allowed some of the disputed tax money to be released, helping the school districts avoid budget cuts for the time being.

Under SB 1034, county collectors will be able to disburse an amount up to the last agreed assessment rate to the proper official with the rest being placed in a separate fund. If signed into law, this bill will help ensure Missouri’s public schools are not forced to go without, or go into bankruptcy, simply because the designated tax funds they count on to operate are tied up.

I also filed Senate Bill 1035 to create the Land Reclamation Legal Settlement Commission to develop and implement a plan for restoration projects in southeast Missouri’s Lead Belt. The measure also creates the Land Reclamation Settlement Fund. If and when the Department of Natural Resources sells the Frederick Creek Ranch property in Oregon County, any money derived from the sale will be deposited into the fund. Frederick Creek Ranch is a 2,463-acre piece of property that was controversially purchased with funds from the ASARCO settlement. Senate Bill 1035 aims to ensure those settlement funds make their way back to the citizens and communities that have been affected by lead mining activity.

On Wednesday afternoon I presented Senate Bill 689 to the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. According to state law, it is a crime to possess, deliver, deposit or conceal certain items in a prison or jail. Although it may come as a surprise to many, cell phones are not among the items currently prohibited.

An inmate with a cell phone is an inmate with access to the outside world and resources they should not be able to possess. Even worse, two inmates with cell phones have the ability to coordinate an effort that could wreak havoc within their facility, posing a serious safety risk to the correction officers and other inmates. Despite common sense telling us that inmates having access to cell phones is a bad idea, my colleagues and I have no choice but to spend valuable time passing legislation that explicitly spells it out. Needless to say, it is frustrating.

Identical to legislation I filed last year, SB 689 adds two-way telecommunications devices, such as cell phones and their component parts, to the list of prohibited items. The measure is not applicable to law enforcement officers who are lawfully engaged in their duties or any person who is authorized to use such a device in the facility. Senate Bill 689 is especially important for the residents of the 3rd District, which contains several correctional facilities.

Finally, I’m pleased to say Jefferson County was well represented at the Capitol this week. I was happy to visit with various Jefferson County officials at a legislative reception, as well as Jefferson County librarians in Sen. Paul Wieland’s office. I also had the opportunity to meet with Janet Akers, from the Missouri Society of Radiologic Technologists; Ironton Mayor Bob Lourwood; and dental hygienists Sandy Holifield, of Bloomsdale, and Chelsea Spraul, of Ste. Genevieve, who were here for their lobby day. Visiting from Parkland Pregnancy Resource Center were Becky Lauvinger, of Park Hills; Linda May, of Farmington; and Lindsey Wohlschlaeger, of Ironton. In addition, I was able to meet with Kurt Bauche, President of the Mineral Area Council on the Arts; and John and Terri Jones, Bill and Shirley Rodgers, Geraldine Willert and Judith Brunk, all with MO Right to Life. And lastly, several county assessors were here to testify on my legislation including Linda Wagner, Ste. Genevieve; Dan Ward, St. Francois; Dave Huff, Iron; and Rick Parker, Reynolds.  Thank you to everyone who made the drive up to Jefferson City.

Contact Me

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; or