Legislative Session Begins
On Wednesday January 4, 2023, the First Regular Session of the One Hundred and Second General Assembly convened. As legislators were sworn into office, leaders were selected in each chamber and then they outlined their priorities for the session in speeches. Leaders in both chambers spoke of optimism to continue to move Missouri forward and govern with responsibility and respect.
President Pro Tem, Sen. Caleb Rowden spoke of reimaging Missouri’s schools and expanding school choice opportunities. He also tasked the State Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to make greater progress.
“We have not done enough. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has not done enough. The State Board of Education has not done enough, and our students have suffered. That has to end,” Rowden said.
Rowden called for the legislature to ensure that Missouri has world class schools, taught by world class teachers that are paid like world class teachers.
The Missouri House of Representatives officially elected Dean Plocher as Speaker of the House. Plocher also used his opening day speech to outline his priorities for the session and education was included as a top priority. Although not giving specific details, the newly-elected speaker did speak of raising teacher pay.
“For too long our teachers have been compensated by an out-of-date pay scale. It’s a flawed system that rewards time served instead of output and innovation,” Plocher said Wednesday. “Teaching is difficult, and our state needs to reward teachers for success, so our children have access both to great teachers and choices for education.”
Beyond increasing teacher pay, Plocher hinted at a legislative push to regulate school curriculum saying, “parents should have a stronger voice as it relates to the substance of what is taught to their kids each day.”
Many bills have been pre-filed pertaining to school curriculum include bans on what is known as “critical race theory” and a “Parents Bill of Rights” that would allow parents to object to and opt out of “any instructional materials” they find objectionable.
New Leadership for each chamber
Speaker of the House, Rep. Dean Plocher
Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Mike Henderson
Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Jonathan Patterson
Assistant Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Jamie Burger
Majority Whip, Rep. Hardy Billington
Minority Floor Leader, Rep. Crystal Quade
Assistant Minority Floor Leader, Rep. Richard Brown
Minority Whip, Rep. Ashley Aune
President Pro Tem, Sen. Caleb Rowden
Majority Floor Leader, Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin
Assistant Majority Floor Leader, Sen. Jason Bean
Majority Caucus Chair, Sen. Tony Leutkemeyer
Majority Caucus Secretary, Sen. Sandy Crawford
Majority Caucus Whip, Sen. Karla Eslinger
Senate Minority Floor Leader, Sen. John Rizzo
Assistant Minority Floor Leader, Sen. Doug Beck
Minority Caucus Chair, Sen. Angela Mosley
Minority Caucus Whip, Sen. Steven Roberts
Committees in the House and Senate have not yet been announced.
When the Public School & Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri Board of Trustees meets in early February, a new member of the board will be sworn in. Katie Webb, an MSTA leader and teacher from Hannibal will serve on the board due to the retirement of Dr. Melinda Moss, former superintendent from Joplin Public Schools. Webb is an experienced educator with a passion for facilitating learning. Since 2009, she has served the Hannibal community as a K-5 music teacher at Mark Twain Elementary. Webb also served as Administrative Intern at Veterans Elementary during the summer of 2022 where her responsibilities included preparing curriculum, creating referral forms, and handling student discipline situations. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English from Truman State University in 2008, Webb earned a Master of Arts in Elementary Education the following year. In May of 2021, she completed the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership – Principal Track through Arkansas State University. Webb has been a member of the Missouri State Teachers Association since 2008 and has served in several leadership roles including: Building Representative, Vice President, and President for Hannibal CTA; Executive Committee member, Vice President, and President for the Northeast Region Teachers Association; and as Chair for MSTA’s statewide committee on Education Policy. She currently serves as the Chair of the MSTA Articles, Bylaws & Rules committee. Webb serves as the Lighthouse Coordinator for the Leader in Me program at her school and is an active member of the PTO. She is also involved with her church community and the Evening Etude Music Club. When she's not teaching, Katie enjoys spending time with her daughters and assisting her husband in tending to their small sheep farm.
Thousands of teachers from around the state submitted signed petitions to place Katie on a ballot to serve as a Trustee. Her signed petitions were verified by a committee selected by the board. Because there was only one candidate that met the signature threshold to be placed on the ballot, in accordance with the retirement system rules there will not be a formal election and Mrs. Webb will serve the remainder of vacant term.
The seven-member Board of Trustees oversees the operation and administration of PSRS/PEERS. Trustees serve without compensation but are reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred through Board service. The Board is made up of one elected Public Education Employee Retirement System of Missouri (PEERS) member, three elected Public School Retirement System of Missouri (PSRS) members, and three governor-appointed trustees.
Four elected trustees are selected by vote of the members and retirees of both Systems. Two are elected each even-numbered calendar year to serve four-year terms. Three trustees are appointed by the governor, one of whom must be a PEERS or PSRS retiree. The appointed trustees must be residents of school districts included in the Retirement Systems, but not employees of such districts, or state employees or state elected officials.
The retirement system has three goals, to provide retirement security to Missouri’s educators and education employees after a full career of service, to help school districts attract and retain the best and brightest educators and employees for Missouri’s school children, and to manage the systems in a prudent and cost-efficient manner while continuing to provide exceptional service to all members.
PSRS/PEERS is the 46th largest defined benefit plan in the United States and the 96th largest investor in the world with a total market value of assets of $53.5 billion. As of June 30th, 2022, over 103,000 individuals received benefits from PSRS/PEERs. The total amount of annual benefits paid were approximately $3.4 billion.
New Missouri executive branch officials set to take office
In November, Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick won election to serve as Missouri State Auditor. Mr. Fitzpatrick started MariCorp U.S., a Shell Knob-based marine manufacturing and construction company that does business coast-to-coast. He is a member of the Cassville and Shell Knob Chambers of Commerce and has been recognized in Springfield Business Journal’s “40 under 40” and was a 2020 Man of the Year. Mr. Fitzpatrick graduated from Cassville High School and the University of Missouri. He and his wife Mallory have three sons, Luke, Carson, and Noah.
The State Auditor's Office is Missouri's independent watchdog agency. The State Auditor’s Office works to ensure the proper use of public funds and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Missouri government by performing audits of state agencies, boards and commissions, the circuit court system, the counties in Missouri that do not have a county auditor, and other political subdivisions upon petition by the voters. The State Auditor's Office performs annual financial audits of the state's financial statements and the Office of the State Treasurer, and annually audits compliance with federal requirements applicable to major federal programs of the state. The State Auditor serves as a member of the State Records Commission and as an ex officio member of the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight.
Due to new vacancies in office, Governor Mike Parson made appointments for the offices of the Missouri Attorney General and the Missouri Treasurer.
Gov. Parson appointed Andrew Bailey to serve as Missouri’s Attorney General. He previously served as the general counsel to the governor. Bailey has also served as the general counsel for the Missouri Department of Corrections and as an assistant attorney general. Mr. Bailey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Missouri and his Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri School of Law and is an Army veteran. Mr. Bailey and his wife, Jessica, have four children ranging from 6 months to 10 years old.
Attorney General serves as the chief legal officer of the State of Missouri as mandated by our Constitution. The Attorney General is elected by Missouri voters, serves a four-year term, and is not subject to constitutional term limits. The Attorney General’s Office represents and provides legal advice to most state agencies; defends challenges to the validity of state laws; enforces civil law, including consumer protection and environmental laws; defends the State’s interest in civil actions, including bankruptcies, workers’ compensation claims, professional licensing cases, and habeas corpus actions filed by state and federal inmates; and serves as a special prosecutor in criminal cases when appointed. In addition, the Office handles all appeals statewide from felony convictions.
Vivek Malek is the State Treasurer designee and will soon take office. Mr. Malek was appointed by Governor Parson to serve the remaining term as State Treasurer. A vacancy in that office was created with the election of Scott Fitzpatrick to the office of State Auditor.
Mr. Malek established his legal practice, Law Offices of Vivek Malek, in 2011. He has been practicing law since 2000 and has practiced law in the State of Missouri since 2006. Mr. Malek works extensively on legal immigration litigation and business immigration consulting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor from Mahrishi Dayanand University in Rohtak, India. Additionally, he holds a Master of Business Administration from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau and a Master of Laws from the University of Illinois College of Law in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Mr. Malek has been married to his wife, Riju, for 18 years. They have three young children together and reside in Wildwood.
The State Treasurer serves as Missouri’s Chief Financial Officer. The Treasurer oversees more than $1 billion in unclaimed property, manages a small business and agriculture economic development program, and administers the state’s education voucher program.