Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update: Senate Considers Religious Freedom; Passes Key Telehealth Legislation

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Last year, the Supreme Court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges to give same-sex couples the right to marry. After the decision, there was a lot of discussion in the General Assembly about protecting religious liberty in light of the decision. This week, the Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee moved Senate Joint Resolution 39 out of committee. If passed by the Legislature and approved by voters, this constitutional amendment will provide Missourians with the legal protection they deserve and require in order to operate their businesses in a manner that does not violate their profoundly held religious beliefs.

Specifically, SJR 39 prohibits the state from imposing a penalty on a religious organization or individual who acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief.  Protected acts include refusing to perform a same sex marriage ceremony or allow this ceremony to be performed on the organization’s property, as well as declining to provide goods of ex­­pressional or artistic creation for the ceremony.  Nothing in SJR 39 prevents the state from providing lawful marriage licenses or other marital benefits, and it does not allow a hospital to refuse to treat a marriage as valid for the purposes of a spouse’s right to visitation or to make health care decisions.

Time and again, those who have sought to do nothing more or less than remain faithful to their religious beliefs have been trampled by the liberal media. They have been labeled as bigots by individuals who fail to see the difference between simply serving a customer and taking a supportive role in a ceremony.

The freedom of religion is explicitly delineated in the First Amendment, and no liberal interpretation of the Constitution can change that. Now more than ever, we must do everything we can to stand up for and defend our religious beliefs.

On Wednesday, the Senate gave its initial approval to legislation I am sponsoring to establish a permanent Joint Committee on Public Assistance. Despite public assistance programs (Medicaid, food stamps, etc.) consuming roughly 37 percent, or $9.5 billion, of our state budget, Missouri lawmakers do not have an independent source of information to help guide us in allocating funds.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 688 will help remedy this lack of oversight by allowing Missouri legislators to conduct a more 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 to the General Assembly on ways to reduce dependency and promote self-sufficiency among benefit recipients.

I would also like to quickly mention Senate Bill 1028, which modifies provisions relating to ratemaking for public utilities. The measure provides that the state’s policy is to modernize the regulatory process for electrical corporations to more closely align their interests with the customers they serve. We appreciate all of the electrical corporation employees in our district, and we are working to find an appropriate balance between our electric companies and consumers. Senate Bill 1028 has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee.

The eighth week of session ended on a high note, as the Senate voted to send my telehealth legislation (Senate Bill 621) to the House for further consideration. Telehealth allows doctors to practice remotely, via a computer or telephone connection. This increases the availability of health care in every corner of the state, most especially in rural communities that often do not have as much access to specialists and the most advanced technologies.

Finally, I was pleased to welcome the following individuals to the Capitol this week: Lee Asher; Levi Asher; Travis Barnes; Stephanie Bennett and Missy Parrott with Family Violence Council; Ashlynn Roberts, of Farmington, who was here representing Missouri State University; and too many constituents from BJC Behavioral Health, Comtrea and Community Counseling Centers to mention by name. I was also happy to have the opportunity to visit with Congressman Jason Smith — I sincerely appreciate his voice and leadership in Washington, D.C. on our behalf.

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