Area legislators received committee marching orders from House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, last week and said they hope to use their new positions to shape legislation in the interest of their constituents.
Perhaps most notable was the appointment of 21st District Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, as chairman of the Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. Hobbs, who is in his second term, was a member of the committee during his first term in the House.
Hobbs said committees and their leaders this year will have more control over legislation thanks to changes in House rules that require amendments to be proposed before bills are brought to the floor for debate and that allot each party a specified time for input.
“It puts a lot of responsibility on committee members to know the legislation and craft better legislation with more public input,” he said. “Hopefully, it will tone down the partisan bickering and allow us to work together.”
The same rule changes have drawn the ire of Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, who said the new rules take decisions off the House floor.
“My concern is that it limits the ability of individual representatives to voice their constituents’ concerns and become a part of the lawmaking process,” said Harris, who represents the 23rd District.
Harris’ leadership position makes him an ex officio member of every House committee. That will ensure that the interests of Columbians are considered on every bill, he said.
New Columbia representatives Judy Baker, a Democrat from the 25th District, and Ed Robb, a Republican from the 24th District, landed seats on the Appropriations-Education Committee, which deals with education spending bills and reports to the larger House Budget Committee.
Although Jetton might create a temporary committee to deal with the distribution of state money to public schools, Robb said the appropriations committee could have some input. He said he’s optimistic the issue will be resolved this year. The foundation formula, he said, will be a critical component of budget discussions in the latter part of the session.
Robb said changes to the foundation formula would be important in the state budget discussions later in the session.
“I’m not sure if it will be a budget that a lot of people are happy with, but we will get a budget that meets the needs of the various programs essential to the state,” Robb said.
Robb was also named to the Budget, Elementary and Secondary Education and Ways and Means committees.
Baker won spots on the Senior Citizen Advocacy and Small Business committees. Given her background in hospital administration, she said, she would also have liked to be assigned to a health-care committee. Absent that, she’s working with both parties to form a Healthy Missourians Caucus, which would be subject to approval by the Ethics Committee. About 30 representatives have signed on thus far, she said.
Hobbs and Ninth District Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, were named to the Agriculture Policy and Budget Committee. Shoemyer will also serve on the Professional Regulation and Licensing Committee.