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Staff profile: Eric Jennings, Chief of Staff for Sen. Bob Dixon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Eric Jennings, Chief of Staff for Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Greene County, didn’t have the typical background found in many staffers in the Capitol. He isn’t a political science major, and he wasn’t politically active when he was younger. Jennings, a graduate from Truman State University and the University of Missouri Law School, isn’t a “politics” guy. He’s a “law” guy.

Eric Jennings
Eric Jennings

“Part of what prompted me to look for work [in the legislature] was the idea of crafting legislation that was going to accomplish it’s purpose and also be clear,” Jennings said.

As a law student, Jennings was interested in the legislative process. His focus in law school was primarily on constitutional law and religious liberty issues. During his time in law school, Jennings said he remembered students and professors constantly coming across laws that seemed unclear, had unintended consequences, or were otherwise drafted in a way that didn’t seem functional.”

“You’d have professors saying ‘we’re not sure why they drafted it like that,’” Jennings said. “Or you’d have court opinions trying to piece together what the law meant and what it intended, and it wasn’t always clear. I saw a lot of complaints about that.”

Jennings has served with Dixon for six and a half years between the House and the Senate. During that time, Jennings said he’s felt lucky to encounter a wide range of issues, as Dixon was Chair of the Transportation Committee and Caucus Chair. Dixon now sits on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, which Jennings said had more legislation assigned to it than any other Senate committee during the 2013 session.

Jennings said Dixon has gotten to work on some of the most important issues he’s had as a lawmaker. Dixon has been in on the “ground floor” of two omnibus bills: the first is a judiciary bill that sets up a path to redraw judicial circuits as well as better allocate judicial resources, and the second is a criminal code omnibus bill.

“A criminal code omnibus bill is exciting because that’s something that only happens maybe every 50 years or so,” Jennings said. “And we’re five years into that process, so it’s a significant thing for us.”

Jennings is also pleased with their work on a regulatory reform bill in 2013, which sets up a review process for all state regulations. The process begins in 2015 and it allows for 50-year-old regulations to be reviewed for possible changes.

The 33-year-old staffer intends to stay in the building, mostly because he enjoys the work, but also because he thinks there needs to be as much institutional knowledge in the building as possible. Jennings prides himself on his worth ethic and attention to detail, which he said is key to the services he provides Dixon with.

“One of the most important parts of my job is to make sure he has the right information at the right time to answer the right questions,” Jennings said.