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Politically Speaking: Sen. Romine on Greitens’ frayed relationship with GOP-led legislature

Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, December 2017
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
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Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome Sen. Gary Romine to the program for the first time.

The Farmington Republican represents the 3rd Senatorial District, which takes in parts of Jefferson, Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois, Iron, Reynolds and Washington counties. He was re-elected in November to his traditionally competitive seat without Democratic opposition.

Romine has been the president and CEO of Show-Me Rent-to-Own for more than 25 years. He also served as chief of staff for Republican Sens. Bill Alter and Kevin Engler throughout the 2000s.

Romine first ran for the General Assembly in 2004, when he lost to Steve Tilley in a GOP primary for a state House seat. Tilley went on to become speaker of the Missouri House, and said during a 2013 podcast that he has a great relationship with Romine. In 2012, Romine won a hotly-contested race to succeed Engler in the Missouri Senate.

Since he was first elected to the Senate in 2012, Romine became chairman of the chamber’s Education Committee. He gained some attention this year when he sponsored legislation that made it more difficult for someone to successfully sue for employment discrimination. Democrats, and some Republicans, widely condemned that legislation, while supporters contended it would shield businesses from frivolous lawsuits.

Here's what Romine had to say during the show:

  • He was part of a bipartisan group of legislators outraged by the Missouri Board of Education’s decision to oust Margie Vandeven as education commissioner. He said that the five members appointed by Greitens, but not confirmed by the Senate, acted as “puppets” of the governor.

  • As a result of that decision, Romine filed legislation that would, among other things, require the Board of Education to have at least five members that the Senate confirmed in place before they can vote. That would, in effect, make it impossible to replicate Vandeven’s ouster. “When you have 10 attempts until you get the five to vote the way you want to them to vote, that is a blatant example of politics being played of its worst kind,” he said.

  • Romine expects Greitens to get a rough reception from members of the Missouri Senate when the legislature goes back into session in early January. “Communication is the key to any success,” he said. “We’re going to have some struggles with this governor.”

  • Romine unsuccessfully sought the office of Senate president pro tem in 2015. With current President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, leaving the chamber after 2018 due to term limits, Romine said he “would be honored” to serve in that leadership position. “I believe that the Senate has such a strong function and is a viable part of our state’s legislative process,” he said. “I would like to continue the legacy of that and be honored to serve in that position.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Music: “Everything Now” by Arcade Fire

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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