Freshman senator Crowell named committee chair

Friday, January 7, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State Sen. Jason Crowell was named chairman of the Senate Pensions, Veterans Affairs and General Laws Committee on Thursday, making him the only freshman member of the upper chamber to head a legislative panel this year.

Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, spent the last two years as House majority floor leader, the No. 3 leadership post in the lower chamber. That experience may have helped secure him a chairmanship as a rookie senator.

Southeast Missouri's other new senators, Republicans Rob Mayer of Dexter and Kevin Engler of Farmington, were named to vice chairman spots on different committees.

Broadest scope

As a catch-all committee for bills that don't fit neatly into specific categories such as transportation and agriculture, the general laws panel has the broadest scope of the 15 standing Senate committees appointed Thursday by Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood.

"It gives me tremendous flexibility to be an advocate for a variety of legislation," Crowell said.

Since the committee also handles veterans affairs, Crowell will wield significant clout on policies affecting the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau and the Bloomfield State Veterans Cemetery.

Crowell was also named vice chairman of the Financial, Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee. He will serve on three other panels: economic development, tourism and local government; judiciary and civil and criminal jurisprudence; and gubernatorial appointments.

Mayer will be vice chairman of the judiciary panel, which handles bills related to the court system as well as criminal laws. In that capacity he will be positioned to continue working on issues he dealt with in his prior role as chairman of the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee.

Mandatory sentencing

"We have more legislation dealing with curbing the methamphetamine problem," Mayer said. "We might look at filing some legislation requiring mandatory sentences for meth offenders."

The position will also make him a player in efforts to overhaul Missouri's civil litigation system -- a top priority of Republican governor-elect Matt Blunt and the GOP-led legislature.

"I'm confident we can put together a bill that will have a positive impact on the state," Mayer said.

He will also serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will give him substantial input in drafting the state budget. His other two committee assignments are to the education and the agriculture, conservation, parks and natural resources panels.

Engler will be vice chairman of the Commerce, Energy and Environment Committee. He will also serve on the economic development, tourism and local government; financial, governmental organizations and elections; and education committees.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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