With the legislative session taking a week-long hiatus for spring break, we sat down with five of the new freshmen legislators to discuss their perspectives after working in the Capitol for the first half of session.
The first piece in this Q&A series features five questions with Rep. Bruce DeGroot, R-Chesterfield.
The Missouri Times: As an attorney, tort reform has been one of the items you’ve been most outspoken on. What are your thoughts on the progress being made, and what do you still see as some of the issues that need to be addressed?
Rep. Bruce DeGroot: I am very pleased with the progress of tort reform thus far. Governor Greitens and Speaker Richardson have made tort reform a priority. I agree. It is imperative that we enact laws to make our courts fairer and Missouri safe for business again. Thus far the House has passed reforms regarding expert witness, venue, time limit demand, collateral source and .065 agreements. This is a very good start. I look forward to seeing the Senate pass them as well. Workers’ Compensation, asbestos litigation, rules of evidence and equitable garnishment are other key areas in need of reform.
TMT: You serve as a member of the House Committee on Utilities – what are some of the things you’d like to see the legislature do in terms of utilities, and what would you say is some of the best legislation you’ve seen in that committee?
DeGroot: I have undergone a HUGE learning curve regarding Utilities. Prior to being named to this committee, I didn’t know that PSC stood for Public Service Commission. I am very proud to say that one of my bills, HB 827 dealing with a fairer apportionment of costs between industries regulated by the PSC has passed thru committee and is now headed to the floor. As a matter of personal pride, this is probably the best legislation I have seen come from this committee thus far. Rocky Miller, our chair, might disagree.
TMT: Each session, legislators come together to work on a number of issues, sometimes leading to late nights and long hours. But during that, legislators learn more about each other, and friendships grow. So, which legislator would you say you respect the most, and who would you say you spend the most time with or are your closest friends in the Capitol?
DeGroot: Prior to session the majority caucus leader, Glen Kolkmeyer, must have said a thousand times how important the bus tour was to forming relationships with the other freshman representatives. I didn’t believe him. Man, was I wrong. I serve with really good people. It is really hard to single out any one representative I am closest too. I have found something in common with virtually everyone of them I have met. Naturally, the representatives I am closest to are my suitemates, Dan Stacy, David Gregory, Phil Chistofanlli and Curtis Trent.
TMT: You’re now roughly three months into your first term as a legislator. Are things different than you expected, and what’s the biggest changes you’ve had to deal with?
DeGroot: Things are much busier than I expected. Much. Fortunately, I have the BEST legislative assistant in the world, Allison Swopes. Allison is new to the building but a very quick learner. She is way smarter than I am and has made it her personal mission to keep me out of trouble. She works very hard to make sure that my own inexperience doesn’t show. Too much. Leadership has also gone out of its way to make my transition to legislator as easy as possible.
TMT: What, in your opinion, is the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with as a legislator so far, and what has been your best memory so far?
DeGroot: This is an easy answer. I miss my family. It is so hard being away from them during the week. This year I have missed plays, games, Survivor Night, Bachelor Night, etc. In fact, as I am typing this my whole family is in Orlando at Disney World waiting for me to arrive on Friday. The best memory is also easy. It has to be the Governor’s ball. So many friends and family were present and having a great time. At one point my whole family was dancing in the rotunda of the Capitol. We were all having so much fun. At that second I thought, “Wow, I will never, ever, forget this”.
Bonus Question: How many times have you had to correct people on the pronunciation of your last name?
DeGroot: I have been here what, 69 days? At least once a day. So I will say 69 times. It’s DeGroot, like VOTE DEGROOT!