State Rep. Dave Hinson believes the Missouri Legislature was successful in accomplishing the “big three” tasks it is charged to do each year.
Hinson, a St. Clair Republican who represents the 98th District, said he basically thought the 97th General Assembly got the necessities done.
“We did a good job on what we’re constitutionally required to do,” Hinson told The Missourian earlier this week. “We balanced the budget, we’re paying our public debt and we funded public education. Anything on top of that is gravy.”
The state’s operating budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 totals about $24 billion. Its approval was one of 114 bills approved by the legislators during the 2012 session.
Hinson, named the freshman legislator of the year last year, finished his second year as a member of the House of Representatives last month. He said he was better prepared for the session this year.
“I felt I had my feet on the ground and was more ready to go,” he said. “But because of that and because I was more involved in the processes this year, there were times I got more frustrated. I know the disagreements happen quite often, but it’s frustrating to see the fighting that takes place, especially in your own party.”
He said that was his biggest disappointment of the session.
“Republicans control both the House and Senate,” he said. “And there was so much back-and-forth talk between the leadership and so much grandstanding against each other. The chambers had different ideas, and a lot of times they couldn’t get together and decide. That was very frustrating.
“There’s always a lot of compromise. It’s a big thing, and we do a lot of it,” he said. “But, we don’t want to push bills down each other’s throats, Republicans or Democrats, if they have good things for all of us to consider.
“We always need to see where everyone is and always consider what’s best, no matter whose idea it was.”
Specifically, Hinson said his goal this year was to do a better job of being better involved.
“Last year, I wanted to hit any part of the target,” he said. “This year, I knew how to better hit the bull’s-eye.”
As far as the budget, Hinson said despite a decline in revenue, he was happy with the outcome.
“I think we did a pretty good job with what we had to work with,” he said. “I thought overall it was a pretty successful budget year. We fought against raising taxes and tried to do things that would help the economy. We worked hard to help businesses and helping with job retention.”
As far as the school funding formula, Hinson said most districts should expect similar funding for the upcoming fiscal year.
“The funding formula is still well short of where it should be,” he said. “We failed to accomplish a foundation formula fix, but we did add $5 million to the formula.
“It will be up to DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) on how to handle the distribution of money.”
Locally, the representative said schools should be able to hold their own.
“Most of the districts in my district shouldn’t be hurt too awfully bad,” Hinson said. “They may take a hit, but it shouldn’t be as bad of a hit as it could have been or what may have been expected. Coming into this year, we were expecting a $212 million shortfall but most of that was because there is no federal stimulus money.
“Because of that and because of what we tried to do, we expect most districts to experience flat funding this coming year.”
Hinson also said a resolution was passed that would prevent additional tax burdens from being assessed to farmers.
“With agriculture our No. 1 industry in the state, we passed several pro-ag bills to protect our farmers and the people who work on farms,” he said. “Farming remains a way of life. We need to take proactive steps to help them.”
Hinson also said a bill was passed that allows Franklin County, as a Class 1 county, to set up a municipal court system.
“This will help get ordinance violations processed and heard,” he said. “It will take some of the burden off of circuit court. Some cases are so far down the docket that they never get heard. Establishing this will help.”
Hinson also commented on why he went against his party line and voted against a bill passed by the Legislature that will modify the way the seven-member Appellate Judicial Commission is put together. The constitutional amendment will have to be approved by voters in the fall before it becomes law.
According to information from the General Assembly, the act would increase the number of individuals who the commission nominates for vacancies in the Supreme Court or court of appeals from three to four, and the act replaces the judge member of the commission with an additional member appointed by the governor.
“Basically, this takes the Supreme Court justice off the commission and gives the governor four picks,” Hinson said. “So now the governor would have the majority of the selections and depending on who the governor is, he or she could have it slanted. It could be one-sided and have the most liberal judges appointed.
“The philosophy would be if the governor has control of the commission, he would appoint judges with the same mind-set.”
Currently, a panel comprised of three gubernatorial appointees, a judge and three attorneys chosen by the members of the Missouri Bar submit a list of three finalists to the governor to fill vacancies on appellate courts. The governor then appoints one of them to the bench.
The measure that passed the Legislature this year gives the governor four choices instead of three while also adjusting the nominating commission by adding the additional gubernatorial appointee. Hinson said the governor’s choices do not need Senate confirmation, and that if passed by the voters, all seven members now could be attorneys.
“The governor has the ultimate power to control the board,” Hinson said. “These judges make important decisions and oftentimes set case law.
“I don’t like that all members of this commission now can be attorneys depending on who the governor is and that there is no Senate confirmation for his or her choices.”