Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update: 2017 Legislative Session Recap

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The 2017 legislative session came to a close last week. Of the roughly 70 measures sent to the governor this session, I’m pleased to say seven of them were either bills I filed or contained language I sponsored.

Tort Reform

In each of the last three sessions, I sponsored legislation aimed at restoring fairness and balance to Missouri’s employment discrimination laws and better protecting our business community from harmful frivolous lawsuits. After numerous committee hearings and countless hours of debate, the Legislature sent my Senate Bill 43 to the governor’s desk. Among other provisions, it changes the standard for determining whether an employer is liable for a discrimination charge under the Missouri Human Rights Act, as well as the Whistleblower Protection Act, from a contributing factor to a motivating factor.

Since 2005, our courts have encouraged a system that rewards litigious behavior and fraudulent claims. A system that says simply being a member of a protected class is enough to bring a discrimination case against an employer, regardless of the circumstances. A system that has undermined the value of a discrimination case for those who have experienced true discriminatory acts. The bottom line: Missouri has been heading down the wrong path for 12 years, and it’s been happening at the expense of our businesses and job creators. Thankfully, SB 43 will finally allow us to start reversing course. It is truly one of the most significant business measures to come along in years.


Under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), members of the Army or Air National Guard are provided employment protection when they must leave their civilian job for federal National Guard service. Unfortunately, the Act does not apply when a National Guard member must be away from their job because of state service. Each state must pass its own laws enabling National Guard members to gain reemployment rights after active state duty.

Senate Bill 108 provides that Missouri employees who are members of the National Guard of another state and are called up for active state duty by the governor of that state shall be entitled to reemployment rights upon their return to Missouri. Regardless of what state they came from, if members of our military end up finding jobs in Missouri and as a result of their service are then called to serve, they should be afforded the same rights as Missouri residents to return to their employment positions.


Without a doubt, our greatest achievement regarding education was fully funding the Foundation Formula for the first time since the Legislature adopted it in 2005. As you may recall, accomplishing this wasn’t all smooth sailing.

State lawmakers had been talking about fully funding the formula for years, with nothing to show for it. As far as I was concerned, we’d run out of reasons not to take that last step of fully funding it; so I offered a floor amendment to do so by adding $45 million in general revenue back into the education budget bill. The money we voted to restore was the same amount originally passed by the House but later removed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

At the end of the day, education is a nonpartisan issue, which is why it speaks volumes there was an almost equal number of Republican and Democratic senators who believed this was the right thing to do for Missouri’s children, and now was the right time to do it.

My goal as a senator and public servant has been to not only support education at all levels, but also to make it relevant to the business needs of our communities. Our future success as a state depends entirely on our ability to provide business and industry with a well-trained, highly qualified workforce. We can’t do that if we aren’t adequately educating our students from their very first days in the classroom to their last. Fully funding the formula is the right thing to do and is something that will benefit the state for years to come.

Senate Bill 225 is also on its way to the governor and contains language that is identical to my Senate Bill 355. This measure will allow Missouri’s two-year colleges to utilize essentially the same road signs as traditional four-year colleges, irrespective of differences in student housing or degree types offered.

Members of the General Assembly approved language I filed modifying provisions relating to the Public School Teacher Retirement System (PSRS) and the Public Education Employees Retirement System (PEERS). Senate Bill 62 allows a retired PSRS or PEER member to move from a reduced retirement allowance to a single life annuity amount if he or she becomes divorced on or after Sept. 1, 2017. The dissolution decree must provide for sole retention by the retired person of all rights in the retirement allowance. This measure also includes language allowing a divorced PSRS or PEER member to add a new spouse to his or her retirement plan within one year of getting remarried, as opposed to 90 days. My sponsored bill was Senate Bill 394.


Legislation (Senate Bill 148) I filed expanding the authority of the governor to convey easements with the approval of the General Assembly was passed as part of Senate Bill 421. Currently, the governor isn’t required to obtain legislative authorization for the conveyance or transfer of certain properties to certain entities, including easements for rural electric cooperatives, municipal corporations and public utilities. Under SB 421, the governor doesn’t need to obtain authorization for granting easements to political subdivisions or conveyances to rural electric cooperatives, railroads, to accommodate utility service provided to state property or facilities, to accommodate ingress and egress on state properties, or to facilitate the use of common elements of condominium property if the state is a unit owner.

Finally, my Senate Bill 399 will be heading to the governor by way of Senate Bill 225. This act changes what entity may designate the roads on which a 14-foot length limit applies; and who shall issue permits for the movement of sludge disposal units, pump trucks, well-driller’s equipment, and utility wires, poles, and equipment; from MoDOT’s chief engineer to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission (MHTC). It provides that stinger-steered combination automobile transporters up to 80 feet long may be operated on or within 10 miles of interstates and other highways designated by the MHTC, and that automobile transporters may carry cargo on a backhaul, so long as it complies with weight limitations for regular tractor-trailers. No towaway trailer transporter combination vehicles operating on the interstate or designated primary highway system shall exceed a length of 82 feet. It also prescribes separate weight limits for emergency vehicles and vehicles powered by natural gas.

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