Area lawmakers get important committee assignments

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Southeast Missouri lawmakers will have a powerful presence in the state Capitol this year, with key committee assignments placing them at the forefront of high-profile issues such as the state's budget crisis, the hurting economy and congressional redistricting.

The committee appointments came from House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, and Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, the men who hold the top posts in each chamber.

"I can tell you it wasn't by accident that Southeast Missouri got important committee assignments and will have a strong voice in Missouri government," Tilley said. "We are fortunate to have people with passion and strong backgrounds in the House, and they are going to do a fantastic job."

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, will chair the far-reaching veterans affairs, emerging issues, pensions and urban affairs committee. He will also be on committees on gubernatorial appointments and small business, insurance and industry.

Crowell dropped two committee assignments from last year to focus on a special committee that will draw new boundaries on the congressional map with eight federal districts instead of the current nine.

"That's an unfortunate process," Crowell said. "It was a devastating blow to Missouri, to lose a congressman. Redrawing the map will be a very, very important topic."

Two freshmen representatives, Wayne Wallingford and Donna Lichtenegger, will serve on four committees each.

Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, was appointed vice chair of the higher education committee, as well as a member of committees that oversee health care policy, appropriations for public safety and corrections and economic development.

The economic development and higher education committees are crucial with the economy still struggling, Wallingford said. The state is in dire need of economic development and higher education is a part of that, he said, because it is a work-force indicator.

"I didn't go up there to be the Maytag repairman," Wallingford said. "I'm very glad they entrusted me with some very important, significant committees so I can help make a difference."

Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, will serve on committees on health insurance, higher education, professional registration and licensing and appropriations for health, mental health and social services.

Expecting cuts

With an estimated $500 million to $700 million revenue shortfall looming over the budget, committee members will also be looking to make cuts.

"Everybody's going to be hurting," she said. "We're going to need to cut to have a balanced budget. These are people's lives that we're dealing with, and we're all very much aware of that."

Rep. Billy Pat Wright, R-Dexter, whose 159th District covers the western parts of Cape Girardeau County and most of Stoddard County, is chairman of the committee on emerging issues in animal agriculture as well as members on committees on veterans issues, agriculture policy and general administration appropriations.

Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie, is serving on committees that deal with issues related to agribusiness, education appropriations, health care policy and rural community development. Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, is serving on committees on economic development, financial institutions, professional registration and licensing and corrections.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Missouri State Capitol, Jefferson City, Mo

Map of pertinent addresses

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