Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update – May 4, 2018

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May 4, 2018

Missouri Senate Approves Education Reforms

With just a few weeks left in the legislative session, the work days are getting longer in the Senate as we work to pass good legislation. This week, the Missouri Senate approved two important omnibus education bills. As the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, it is my privilege to use these legislative platforms as an opportunity to work cooperatively with my colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives. These bills provide the opportunity to pass several small, but necessary, reforms under one piece of legislation. Many priorities of lawmakers are accomplished efficiently using this method, and it is a great tool for the General Assembly to use as we consider hundreds of bills each year.

Elementary and Secondary education reforms were approved by the Senate this week through the passage of House Bill 1606, sponsored by Rep. Elaine Gannon. This legislation includes a variety of reforms intended to improve our K-12 public school system. One portion of HB 1606 is particularly exciting because it includes my provision changing the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program. This will allow any eligible student to enroll in program courses of their choice, to be paid by their school district or charter school. This legislation expands access to online courses for students across Missouri and provides opportunities for enrichment that are unavailable in their individual districts. Expanding access to online courses for students throughout Missouri is just one example of the great reforms included in HB 1606. This legislation has been preliminarily approved by the Senate and will now be referred to the Fiscal Oversight Committee for review.

Higher education legislation also moved forward in the Senate this week. House Bill 1744 includes several reforms to current state law, and it improves the efficiency of tax dollars being spent on higher education. Two bills that I have been advocating for throughout this legislative session were included in HB 1744. The first measure allows students in close proximity to a community college to qualify for “in-district” tuition even if they do not currently live in the official jurisdiction of the college. This segment of HB 1744 will improve students’ ability to find low-cost colleges close to home, providing the opportunity to pursue a college education without relocating or paying more for tuition.

House Bill 1744 also includes a change to Missouri’s A+ Scholarship requirements. Under current law, students must attend a Missouri high school for three consecutive years prior to graduation in order to qualify for an A+ scholarship. This is a concern for students who also want to take advantage of a foreign exchange or study abroad program while in high school. The A+ program provides two years of college tuition to students who fulfill rigorous academic standards, maintain a high level of attendance and complete mentoring and job shadowing programs throughout their senior year.

Many of our best students in Missouri are motivated to complete the A+ program so they can avoid taking out excessive amounts of student loans. These students shouldn’t have to choose between an enriching study abroad option and an A+ scholarship. With this in mind, HB 1744 includes a provision that stipulates students must be enrolled in a Missouri high school for six total semesters. By removing the requirement that these semesters be continuous, we can give students the flexibility to pursue all opportunities to enrich their educational experience while working toward the A+ scholarship.

Omnibus bills often have a bad reputation, but they are an efficient tool to use while enacting important reforms that might not get attention by themselves. The legislative process is slow, and grouping similar bills together allows the Senate and the House of Representatives to cooperate on important policy issues that affect Missourians of all ages. House Bill 1744 was approved by the Senate this week, and our version of the bill is now under fiscal review in the House of Representatives.


Many of you have called and emailed my office with your concerns regarding Senate Bill 1007 which would make changes to the state’s Merit System.  I voted NO on this legislation.  I heard your concerns, and I was not convinced this was in the best interest of the state.  The bill did pass the Senate and has moved to the House.  I will continue to keep an eye on it.

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