Ideas, goals set for new session

Virginia Fairchild

Members of the 92nd General Assembly will not only be remembered because of who they are and what they achieve, but also because they are part of one of the largest legislative turnovers in history.

On Jan. 8, 12 new senators and 90 new House members were sworn into office, leaving the House with a republican majority.

Despite all the changes that are being made, it seems the legislatures haven’t forgotten what they came to Jefferson City to do. Area representatives and senators are equipped with goals in mind and bills in hand, ready to achieve what they believe is in the best interest of the citizens they represent.

Gary Nodler, senator for the 32nd District, said his goals in relation to higher education are to “find ways to utilize the state’s resources more effectively and to encourage collaboration and cooperation.”

He said he not only would like to see cooperation between Missouri Southern and other universities, but also with Crowder College.

Besides legislation she has on her agenda, Marilyn Ruestman, state representative for the 131st District, said her No. 1 goal is to learn.

“I plan to read a lot and learn a lot,” Ruestman said.

Gov. Bob Holden presented the State of the State Address Jan.15 to members of the General Assembly. In between comments about tax increases and budget cuts, he spoke of higher education and its direct effect on the Missouri economy.

“Support for our universities is an investment in the jobs of the future,” Holden said. “And that is why I urge all businesses and corporations in this state to strengthen their commitment to higher education.”

He said he is taking two steps to help tighten the connection between those separate entities. He has appointed a commission on the Future of Higher Education, which will make recommendations on how to strengthen the link between businesses and schools. The new commission will also find ways to improve higher education across the state, as well as coming up with new funding sources for the colleges and universities.

“By these two steps, we can better direct and connect higher education and the economy,” Holden said.

“We must make our colleges, universities and technical schools the engines that fuel our economy of the future.”

Although talk of higher education seemed breezy and light at first, Holden went on to warn legislators that without action to approve the tobacco settlement, “deep cuts in education and other vital services will be necessary.”

Ruestman said both the cigarette and gambling tax make her a little uneasy.

“I think gambling and tobacco are a poor foundation for funding your government,” she said.

“We’ll try to prevent any ‘deep cuts’ (in higher education).

“Everyone in the Southwest Missouri Caucus is very education-oriented, so I think we’ll at least try to hold [the budget] where it’s at.”