Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update – March 29, 2018

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March 29, 2018

Protecting the First Amendment Rights of Students and Providing New Opportunities for Retired Teachers


Protecting Students’ First Amendment Rights

As we move into the second half of the legislative session, the Missouri Senate has begun considering legislation passed by the Missouri House of Representatives. As the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, I have the opportunity to hear public testimony about bills that concern students, teachers and administrators throughout our state.

This week, the Missouri Senate Education Committee heard testimony from students, teachers and legal experts about House Bill 1940. This legislation, also known as the Cronkite New Voices Act, is designed to protect the First Amendment Rights of student journalists in Missouri’s high schools and universities. The bill provides student journalists the right to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of the press in school-sponsored media. If passed, HB 1940 would require school districts to adopt a written freedom of the press policy that includes reasonable provisions for the time, place and manner of student expression.

There are several checks and balances included in HB 1940 that prevent offensive or threatening speech and protect the editorial powers of media advisors and teachers. Additionally, a media advisor or the administrative team can conduct an annual review of school-sponsored media to ensure professional grammar and journalism standards are being observed in the publication. These exceptions will ensure the produced content is held to high journalistic standards while educating students about journalism, current events and critical thinking. I believe the Cronkite New Voices Act is a balanced approach to protecting free speech while maintaining the educational value of student journalism. Participating in journalism as a student is an invaluable opportunity, allowing students to engage in their communities and encouraging them to have a voice about issues important to them.

Several students from around Missouri testified in support of this legislation and made a compelling case about the importance of their work, the benefits they receive from school-sponsored media programs and their desire to create high-quality and informative publications. Several teachers, administrators and legal experts also testified about the legislation’s provisions to ensure checks and balances remain in the process. The First amendment of the United States Constitution is one of the most important foundations of our society, and the Cronkite New Voices Act ensures students’ rights are protected and provides them the opportunity to actively participate in their community.

Creating Supplemental Income Opportunity for Retired Teachers

Missouri is facing a steadily increasing shortage of school bus drivers throughout the state, and there are several other positions that desperately need to be filled. Under current law, retired teachers cannot hold these positions without taking a cut in their pension. With this in mind, I filed Senate Bill 1045 which allows any retired teacher to be employed in a position covered under the Public Education Employee Retirement System without stopping or reducing their retirement benefits. These teachers could earn up to 50 percent of the minimum teacher’s salary set forth by state law in addition to their monthly retirement benefits. This legislation provides retired teachers with an opportunity to earn supplemental income while also addressing a practical need in our school system.

Senate Bill 1045 was heard in the Missouri Senate’s Health and Pensions Committee and received support from the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) and a representative from the Public Education Employee Retirement System (PEERS). If approved by the Health and Pensions Committee, SB 1045 will move to the Senate Floor for debate.


I always appreciate receiving visitors to my office. This week, my staff and I were privileged to meet the following constituents: John Powell, John McMahill, Lee Asher, Melvin Barnes, Rodney Lashley, Daniel Svoboda, Richard Hawkins, Donnie Barton, Jon Casey, Linda Casey, Jan Romo , Lisa Umfleet, Ashley Merritt, Julie Berghaus, Kurt Parker, Steve Stone, Shane McGuckin, Frank Hayes, Cindy Young and Leslie Wigger. 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