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This Week in Missouri Politics: Gary Romine was a senator’s senator


Thursday morning the Senate approved the slate of gubernatorial appointments to the executive branch. The list included a couple former senators of immense distinction in former Sens. Ron Richard and Jay Wasson, perhaps the most effective senator of the term limits-era. 

However, included in that slate was an incumbent member of the body, Sen. Gary Romine, who is leaving to serve as chairman of the State Tax Commission. He filled some of the larger legislative shoes in recent history when he took Sen. Kevin Engler’s seat representing the lead belt seven years ago. 

Sen. Romine was a throwback to the days when the mere mention of moving the previous question to shut off debate would result in a member being ostracized for the rest of the session. 

He cultivated a couple areas of public policy where he became one the General Assembly’s foremost experts. Early in his Senate career, he was outspoken on utility issues while later he became known as a leading expert on education policy.  

In fact, by the end of his career, he was the leading advocate for public education in the Republican caucus. He was steadfastly against the manipulation of the State Board of Education by a previous governor to go around the state Senate and fire the commissioner. He was right by the way. 

There are some who were critical that he didn’t sign onto suburban Republican proposals to expand charter schools or support anti-labor laws. I remember he was a no vote on overriding Gov. Nixon’s veto of a paycheck protection bill one year. Believe me, it was a lonely place for him in the well of the Senate that evening, but he never wavered.  

Some were quick to forget that he campaigned for election opposing those issues — and was elected opposing those issues — and while he was in office, he didn’t flip flop.

While solidly Republican today the 3rd district wasn’t always that way. Prior, Sen. Engler had been in Democratic hands for generations, and he was likely with his vast majority of his district on them. 

Whether the majority of his party agreed with him on any single issue isn’t really what I will remember Sen. Romine for. I will remember him for the great respect he had for the institution of the Missouri Senate. 

He was for protecting the institution, only using a PQ in the most extraordinary of instances. When he stood up to speak, he was knowledgeable on the issue, and when he had made his mind up, he would stand up for what he believed in. 

Some have said there was some of the lead belt in that backbone of his. 

The Senate was better for having him; the Tax Commission is better for having him as chairman. 

I’m just a simple hillbilly, but I think the Senate would also be better off to have more who respected the Senate as he did. 

Sunday on “This Week in Missouri Politics,” guest host Joe Lakin will have an opinion maker panel discussing all the events of the week. Also check out The Missouri Times on Facebook and Twitter for our mid-week update Wednesday at 11 a.m.