Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update: Priority Measures on Track to Become Law as 2016 Session Comes to an End

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The 2016 legislative session has officially come to a close. Overall, the last five months have been very productive, and I’m pleased to say we have passed some great pieces of legislation that will help make the Show-Me State an even better place to live, work and raise a family. While each session presents its own unique challenges, I am proud of how often our conversations resulted in real compromise and genuine progress.

The long road to passing voter ID legislation in Missouri is just one example from this session of how we worked together as a legislative body. Sent to the governor last week, House Bill 1631 requires that all Missouri citizens wishing to vote must present a valid, non-expired form of government-issued ID at their polling location. It also requires the state and all fee offices to provide free photo IDs as well as any underlying documents necessary to obtain an ID.

As part of a compromise, HB 1631 permits any person who doesn’t have a valid ID and who is otherwise qualified to vote to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, attesting to their identity; the voter may then present an alternative ID (e.g., a student ID) and cast a regular ballot. Any person who doesn’t want to sign the statement may cast a provisional ballot.

I believe HB 1631 is a common-sense solution that will strengthen the integrity of Missouri’s public elections while also ensuring that no eligible voter is disenfranchised. The measure will only take effect if Missouri voters approve its companion constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 53, which was approved by the Legislature on Thursday.

Senate Bill 620 was my first bill to make it to the governor’s desk this session. This important legislation will expand career and technical education (CTE) in Missouri by requiring the State Board of Education to establish minimum graduation requirements for a CTE certificate that a student can earn in addition to their high school diploma. Under SB 620, students entering high school in the 2017-2018 academic year and thereafter will be eligible for a CTE certificate.

From better preparing our students for life after high school to ensuring we will always have a qualified labor force to fill in-demand jobs, a robust CTE network will benefit Missouri and its citizens in myriad ways for years to come. Passing CTE legislation has been an effort two years in the making, and I sincerely look forward to seeing the real life positive impact SB 620 will have in the Show-Me State. Senate Bill 620 was truly agreed and finally passed on April 26 and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

In other education-related news, I was honored to once again be named as chair of the Joint Committee on Education, which is comprised of 14 state senators and representatives. Among other duties, the committee is responsible for reviewing and monitoring the progress of education in the state’s public schools, colleges and universities and making recommendations to the General Assembly for legislative action.

In 2013, I chaired the Interim Committee on Medicaid Transformation and Reform, which was tasked with examining MO HealthNet and finding innovative solutions to a host of complex issues affecting the state Medicaid program. Expanding telehealth services in Missouri was one of the recommended reforms to come out of that committee. Passed by the Legislature as part of Senate Bill 579, my telehealth legislation (Senate Bill 621) will allow doctors to practice remotely, via a computer or telephone connection. This will increase the availability of health care in every corner of the state, most especially in rural communities that don’t often have easy access to specialists and the most advanced technologies.

Despite public assistance programs (Medicaid, food stamps, etc.) consuming roughly 37 percent, or $9.5 billion, of our state budget, Missouri lawmakers don’t have an independent source of information to help guide us in allocating funds. If signed into law, legislation (Senate Bill 688) I filed this session will help remedy this lack of oversight by creating the Joint Committee on Public Assistance. This committee will give Missouri legislators a dedicated tool for conducting an in-depth analysis of our public assistance programs by studying their efficacy, determining what resources are needed to continue and improve them, and making recommendations on ways to reduce dependency and promote self-sufficiency among benefit recipients. Senate Bill 688 has been sent to the governor as part of Senate Bill 607.

Another issue relating to MO HealthNet that I know will be of interest to some residents of the 3rd District is House Bill 1565, Missouri currently has the lowest asset limits in the country for Medicaid recipients who are aged, blind or disabled. House Bill 1565 raises the MO HealthNet asset limits for these populations of benefit recipients. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018, the asset limit for individuals will increase from no greater than $1,000 to $2,000 and from no greater than $2,000 to $4,000 for married couples. The measure excludes medical savings accounts and independent living accounts from the asset limit calculations. The Legislature voted on Tuesday to send HB 1565 to the governor.

As state senator of the largest mining district in Missouri, I understand the importance of crafting legislation that allows the industry to thrive while also protecting our citizens and providing a stable economic environment for our local communities. This session I sponsored Senate Bill 622, which seeks to standardize the property assessment process to help ensure our mining companies do not see huge increases in their property tax bills from year to year, unless they expand their operation. I filed SB 622 to prevent any more instances in which a property is assigned a commercial classification based on the possibility that it may someday be used for mining-related activities. Providing greater certainty to mining industry leaders 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. The language of SB 622 can be found in House Bill 2381, which was passed by state legislators on Wednesday.

As you can see, many of my measures that have crossed the finish line this year have done so by way of another legislative vehicle. At the end of the day, however, what matters most is not whose name is on the final bill that passes but whether the final bill is good for Missouri and its citizens.

Missouri lawmakers will return in September for the annual veto session, but the bulk of our legislative work is finished for the year. To view all truly agreed and finally passed legislation for the 2016 session, please visit the Senate website at or click here.

Finally, I’d like to thank my Senate staff, Dan Hutton and Karen Jacquin, whose dedication to serving the citizens of the 3rd District is simply outstanding. I’d also like to thank Haley Tarvin, our legislative intern for this session, for all of her hard work. To my constituents, it has once again been an honor to serve as your voice in the Missouri Legislature, and I look forward to seeing what more we can accomplish in the future.

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