Following months of campaigning and fundraising new legislators head to Jefferson City for the 100th General Assembly that begins Wednesday.
Included in the incoming freshman class of House members is State Rep. Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka.
Although the majority of her district lies in St. Louis County, it does encompass a portion of Franklin County, including the city of Pacific.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “I’ve been so busy the last few weeks it will be nice to kind of get to sit still.”
Like many of the other 63 incoming freshman representatives, Bailey has spent the last few weeks on a statewide orientation tour of the state.
“The tour was great and I really see the need for it,” she said. “It was also a great time for all of us to get to know each other. No matter what party, we all got along and found some common ground. There was a lot of time to talk.”
Bailey added the tour opened her eyes to just how big the state government is and how many institutions and organizations it funds and the number of people it takes care of.
“We’ve all been trained to go to government for solutions,” Bailey said. “I think we need to look to our communities first and start looking at the government as the last resort.”
Ready to hit the ground running, Bailey is in the process of filing her first bill that would ensure educational funding for children with specific disabilities.
She explained her bill will create a permanent funding source for Bryce’s Law, which was originally passed in 2011 and utilized tax credit to fund.
The law established a process for charitable organizations to become scholarship-granting organizations for issuing scholarships to individuals, birth to age 21, diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome, Angelman syndrome, dyslexia or cerebral palsy.
“This is for areas without special school districts,” Bailey said. “Hopefully this will help the kiddos. As a single mom, I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be.”
Bailey added she has asked to be placed on the House Education, Workforce Development and Rules committees, but assignments by leadership may be weeks away.
Dr. John Simmons, R-Krakow, will join Bailey at the swearing-in ceremony Wednesday and like his freshman colleagues is eager to get started.
“I’m excited, of course,” Simmons said. “I’m also humbled by the opportunity.”
Like Bailey, Simmons said the freshman tour, as designed, has given him a bit of a head start on the ins and outs of how the state government works.
He was especially interested in visits to businesses to see how the state can benefit the private sector and small businesses.
As far as legislation of his own, Simmons says he plans to sit back, listen and absorb the goings on around him before he files any bills personally.
“There haven’t been too many surprises,” Simmons said. “I’ve always paid a bit of attention to the state government. It may be a bit different to actually see the sausage-making process.”
He has asked House leadership to place him on either the Economic Development, Utilities, Transportation and Elected Officials committees. Another trait Simmons shares with Bailey is the desire for smaller and more efficient government.
“We have the obvious issue of Highway 47 and the intersection with Highway 50 that needs to be addressed,” Simmons said. “With the lack of new funding approved, we’ll have to see what we can do on our own. I want to look at MoDOT’s (Missouri Department of Transportation) budget and make sure they are going through their budget with a fine-toothed comb.”
On the topic of workforce development, Simmons said during the freshman bus tour two community colleges were featured and with Gov. Mike Parson’s focus on the field, he hopes to make sure East Central College is highlighted for its achievements.
He also plans to look closely at the ballot initiative system, which bypasses the legislative process and allows residents to vote directly on issues.
The 100th General Assembly will be called to order at noon Wednesday. All new and returning House members will be sworn in and the representatives will begin their legislative session set to end in the middle of May.