Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update: Senate Reaches Midpoint of Session

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Upon adjournment today, state lawmakers began heading back to their districts for the annual legislative spring break, and that means we have reached the midpoint of session. Since January, we have been working hard to pass measures that will establish a more business-friendly environment in the Show-Me State, and I am proud of the progress we have made so far, especially in the area of tort reform. Now that Missouri is well on its way to having the type of fair and balanced legal climate businesses are looking for, it is essential that we are able to provide a highly skilled workforce whenever job creators come calling. I am pleased to report we have taken two big steps forward on that front just since last Thursday.

On March 9, presidents and chancellors from each of Missouri’s 12 community colleges gathered in the Capitol rotunda to sign on to an exciting new partnership called the Missouri Community College Workforce Development Network. The network’s mission is simple — address the longstanding challenge Missouri businesses have faced when needing to hire a skilled workforce.

Unlike other states, Missouri’s community colleges do not share a governing authority; rather, they operate independently of each other. While this provides them with more flexibility, it also makes it more difficult to share resources with other community colleges and organize larger collaborative efforts. With this new initiative, community colleges will be able to draw upon the collective resources of the other network members. Likewise, through their local community college, businesses can access the job-training resources of community colleges in every corner of the state.

In other job training news, the Senate today approved legislation that will make it easier for businesses to access Missouri Works Training benefits. The Missouri Works Training program brings together businesses in need of employee training and the community and technical colleges that can provide it. Although it is a great program, the current system makes accessing these funds both time-consuming and expensive — so much so that most small and medium-size businesses are unable to take advantage of it. A large part of the problem stems from the fact that Missouri funds our job training program through withholding tax, whereas other states appropriate dedicated funds. Since companies are only required to report their withholding tax quarterly, it takes a long time for community colleges to recover their training costs.

Senate Bill 10 creates a mechanism for Missouri to move to a system where the Department of Economic Development is able to provide up-front funding from general revenue appropriations. For every year the Legislature appropriates more money for job training, a business will be able to reduce the amount of withholding tax they are required to collect. This way, the job training will get done, the community college will get paid immediately, and the state will get its money back from the withholding tax on the new employees. It also changes the reporting requirements from quarterly to annually, making it easier for smaller businesses with less accounting staff to participate.

This legislation is also about investing in Missouri’s workers. By making it easier for companies to access job-training resources whenever a need arises, they will be more inclined to invest in the training or retraining of the employees already on their payroll. And any new training an employee receives, any new skillset they acquire, makes them more marketable in the long run and increases their earning potential.

For years now, the business community has been telling us that a skilled workforce is one of the most important factors, if not the most important factor, they consider when choosing a location. This is a message I have very much taken to heart — working to expand access to career and technical education programs in Missouri’s high schools and make it possible for our community colleges to offer more advanced degrees to meet the local workforce needs of their specific geographic region. Along with SB 10 and the new Missouri Community College Workforce Development Network, these are the type of innovative solutions we need to continue developing and pursuing if we want to be competitive in a 21st Century economy.

The Senate will reconvene on Monday, March 27, with the budget being the main feature of the final seven weeks of session. While we have accomplished a lot already, more work remains, including several of my legislative priorities.

Switching gears for a moment. I consider it one of my foremost responsibilities as a lawmaker to help facilitate communications between my constituents and our various state departments and agencies whenever the need arises. This week, I was pleased to be able to do just that a couple of times.  We were able to coordinate guardrail funding for Washington County with the U.S. Forestry Service and MoDOT and we worked with Ste. Genevieve county and MoDOT to help keep the ferry operating in Ste. Genevieve.  We also worked with area residents of the Ste. Genevieve Levy District No. 2.  When the levy originally breached, the farmers and landowners affected by the flooding had to act very quickly to help save their fields and property. While they were eligible to receive compensation from the federal government through SEMA after they completed their remediation efforts, they have been struggling to cut through bureaucratic red tape and have yet to be paid. My staff and I were able to bring together all the various stakeholders for a conversation about how we can best help these folks. I want to thank all those who took time out of their schedule to do so, including representatives from SEMA and the governor’s office, Donna Hickman with Congressman Jason Smith’s office and Rep. Kevin Engler.

Finally, my staff and I were happy to welcome the following guests to the Capitol this week: Liz Galt from Farmington; Paul Bauman and Chris Kertz, both from Ste. Genevieve; Ste. Genevieve resident Kathy Kreitler with NAMI; Sara Cruse of Park Hills; Pat Allgier of Fredericktown; Laura Keenan of Caledonia; and Paulette Berry, Lisa Dye, Debbie Kirkwood and Courtney Mouser, all representing DCAI from Viburnum. Courtney McIntyre brought up a group of Farmington students who were at the Capitol representing Tobacco Free Youth. And last but certainly not least, the Show-Me Life Rally brought a great crowd from the district, including Reynold Naumann and family, Terri Jones, John Jones, Vera Knight, Nicole Chadderdon, Nate Jones, Julienne Jones, Sharon Rodgers and William Rodgers. Thank you to everyone who stopped by.

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