Greetings from your Missouri Capitol on this beautiful spring day. I am hoping many of you are able to get out and enjoy the spring weather, and I for one have had a chance to get some much-needed yard work and plant transplanting done in this past week. So I encourage you to enjoy this weather because our hot summer is just around the corner.
This has been a very busy past two weeks, and with just two weeks left, we are entering crunch time and deadlines that have been set forth by our Missouri Constitution. We can all be proud to live in a state where we are required by our Constitution to have a balanced budget, and our deadline for passing that is this Friday. It is my hope we can get that done and avoid a special session. While I have a number of bills that have passed out of our chamber, they are now on the Senate side, and I am still holding out hope they will make it across the finish line. Stay tuned; more on that in my next column.
One event I was so honored to attend outside the walls of this building was the 98th birthday celebration for CW4 (Ret.) Wilburn Rowden, and that happened last Saturday in Holts Summit. I got to meet Rowden during the Fourth of July parade, but this time, I had the privilege to visit with him personally. For those who were there, we got to hear his incredible story of parachuting out of a B-17 that was shot down and his captivity for 415 days in a German POW camp. What an honor to be in the presence of a true American hero and help him celebrate this milestone in his life. There are few opportunities to experience and hear these stories from our WWII veterans, and I am grateful for Jeremy Amick for capturing these stories for generations to come and for organizing this Silver Star Banner presentation.
As usual, I wanted to give you an update on the bills I filed and where they are in the process. HB 849 is the Capitol Complex Tax Credit bill that I have filed for the past three years, and this year, it once again made out of the House and is now heading to the Senate. Sen. Mike Bernskoetter has a companion bill (SB 36), and it too made it of their chamber last week so perhaps one of them will make it to the governor’s desk this year. As a reminder, this bill would provide a funding mechanism for the maintenance and upkeep of seven of our historic buildings here in Jefferson City. We will keep our fingers crossed they make it across the finish line.
Another bill, HB 391, the National Guard bill, classifies the guard as state employees for the purpose of driving state vehicles. It passed out of the House, and I had a hearing before the Senate Veterans committee this past week so that too is moving in the right direction. Fortunately, there is a companion bill, SB 120, that Sen. Bill White, from Joplin, filed, and we passed his bill out of my Veterans Committee this past week so it is heading to the floor for final approval. This bill is vitally important especially during the guard’s response to our state’s COVID-19 vaccine deployment duty and how we can support their efforts.
We had a very sad moment a little over a week ago when we had to expel a member from the Missouri House of Representatives for misconduct. By a vote of 153-0, the members of the Missouri House accepted the recommendation of the House Ethics Committee to expel state Rep. Rick Roeber. Shortly before he was elected to office in November 2020, Roeber’s now-adult children accused him of physical and sexual abuse that took place when they were young. The House Ethics Committee then began investigating the allegations made by his children as soon as he took office.
After four months of gathering evidence and taking testimony, the committee released a report saying it found the children to be credible witnesses, and it found Roeber to be not credible. The bipartisan committee unanimously found Roeber’s accused physical, sexual and mental abuse of his children constituted ethical misconduct of sufficient severity to warrant expulsion. The report said his conduct makes him “unfit to serve as a representative in the Missouri General Assembly.”
Following the vote to expel Roeber, the members of House Leadership released a statement saying, “Today we voted overwhelmingly to expel him from this body because the offenses he committed make him unfit to serve. We cannot undo the inexcusable harm he did to his family, and we cannot change the fact his children have been failed by the State of Missouri for decades, but we can make sure their voices are heard and that this body sends a strong message in support of all victims of abuse. Our hope is that law enforcement will continue the work we started by thoroughly investigating Rick Roeber and the serious allegations against him.”
Roeber becomes only the second member to be expelled in House history. The first expulsion took place in 1865 when the body voted to expel John Sampson, of Callaway County, for disloyalty to the Union.
As we enter the final two weeks of session, we are faced with some tremendous hurdles to clear to get some really good legislation passed and to the governor’s desk. For those of us who have lived in this city for any length of time we have seen this before and magically it all seems to come together in the end. It is my hope and prayer that we can accomplish that again this year. Looking at each piece of legislation individually and how that will affect my district as well as the entire state is a great responsibility, and one I take very seriously. I have had personal conversations with many constituents this past week explaining to them why I voted the way I did, and I will continue to make that same commitment to each of you. If you have any questions or concerns I will always take your calls and welcome the conversation.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve you in this historic building and welcome your thoughts and concerns on any legislation being considered on the floor of the House.
State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, represents the 60th District and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.