Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update: Gaining Ground on Last Priority Measures of 2016

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My fellow senators and I returned to the Capitol this week, following the annual legislative spring break and the Easter holiday. I know we were all thankful for the opportunity to spend some quality time with our families and friends, as well as the chance to recharge our batteries for the final weeks of session.

To help make the most of the time we have left, Senate leadership has asked for our district’s remaining priority measures. Two of my top priorities have already passed out of the Senate.  Senate Bill 620, relating to career and technical education, will be heading to the House floor; and Senate Bill 621, relating to telehealth, is awaiting its House committee assignment. Of the Senate bills that have made it to the House during the first half of session, I’m very pleased that two of them were ours.

My last three pieces of priority legislation for the 2016 session continue to make progress in the Senate, and I hope to see them taken up in the House in the very near future. The first of these is Senate Bill 858.

As you may recall, the U.S. Supreme Court hit pause on implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) in early February, granting a stay until numerous legal challenges are resolved. If signed into law, SB 858 will statutorily suspend all activities by the Department of Natural Resources relating to the state implementation plan for the CPP. If the stay is lifted, the DNR must then present a two-year extension for submitting a final state plan to the EPA.

Considering the CPP’s legality is still in question and moving forward would undoubtedly cause consumer electric rates to skyrocket, suspending the DNR’s work is a necessary step at this time. Last year, legislation I sponsored requiring the DNR to prepare an implementation impact report before mandates are passed down by the EPA was successfully passed into law. Senate Bill 858 is a continuation of those same efforts to fight against the heavy hand of the EPA and the federal government.

My other two priorities for the remainder of session pertain to property taxes. Senate Bill 622 ensures only mining property that has been bonded or permitted for mining activity is to be assessed at the commercial rate. Other real property will continue to be assessed based on how the property is currently being used. I filed this legislation to prevent any further instances in which a property is assigned a commercial classification based on the possibility that it may someday be used for mining-related activities.

Senate Bill 622 seeks to standardize the property assessment process, which will help ensure that our mining companies do not see huge increases in their property tax bills from year to year, unless they expand their operation. Providing greater certainty to the mining industry on the property tax front will allow them to more confidently plan for the future, and it will help keep these well-paying jobs in our area for years to come.

Standardizing the process will reduce the need for costly litigation and tax appeals by ensuring that mining property is assessed in the same manner by every county. This will also alleviate the financial strain placed on our public schools and vital county services that rely on property tax money to operate, but which are unfortunately stuck in limbo until a property tax appeal has been settled.

This is exactly what happened to both the Bunker R-III and Southern Reynolds R-II school districts, which are currently preparing to make severe budget cuts for the next school year. And earlier this year, Bunker went to court to request that some of the money in escrow be released. We can and must do better than that, which is why, in addition to SB 622, I also filed Senate Bill 1034.

Very simply, SB 1034 allows county collectors to disburse an amount up to the last agreed assessment rate to the proper official, with the rest being placed in a separate fund. I presented SB 1034 to a Senate committee on Wednesday. It was well-received, and we are currently working to clarify language dealing with disputed and protested property taxes.

As state senator of the largest mining district in Missouri, the issues addressed in SB 622 and SB 1034 are especially important to my constituents. These are good bills that will benefit the 3rd District immensely by allowing our county officials to carry out their duties, and adding greater stability to the mining industry, our schools and our county service providers. I thank everyone who has helped work toward a compromise.

Finally, I was happy to meet with the following individuals and groups at the Capitol this week: Margie Hinkebein, of Farmington; Larry Joseph and Mike Ramsey with B104/KFMO Park Hills; Rodney Lashley, of Iron County; Ameren employees Mike Lamb, Mark Litzinger, Charles Statler, Brad Daugherty, Kenneth Hampton and Ron Ruess, all from my district; from Reynolds County, Assessor Rick Parker and Presiding Commissioner Joe Lloyd from were here to testify at a committee hearing; and local pharmacists Lisa Umfleet and Ashley Merritt.

I was also happy to see many of my constituents representing their unions during their lobby day: Frank Hayes, Dakota Gau, Cozetta McKillop, Gabe Bowles, Lucas Basler, James Hastings, Kyle Koenig, Clarence and Karen Wideman, Frank Lewis and Steve Bradley.

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