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Emery, Pike get ready for January

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Vernon County will have a new state senator and representative when the 97th Missouri General Assembly convenes Jan. 9, and Ed Emery of Lamar and Randy Pike of Adrian are taking steps to ensure their freshman status does not scuttle their goals.

Much has changed in the Show-Me State, including political redistricting and Republicans' achievement of a "super majority" in both houses to render their legislation immune to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes.

The leadership of both houses is new, possibly giving St. Louis more influence, according to news reports.

Representing the 31st Senate District in Barton, Bates, Cass, Henry and Vernon counties, Emery's top issue is education. "I will work on some education reform issues that I think are crucial to the future," he said Thursday.

"We need to get our students' test scores up, dropout rates down and parents more involved. I'll look at states like Louisiana, Florida, Indiana and Massachusetts, which have had effective reforms and are seeing real success. I'll seek appointment to the Education Committee."

Emery said Senate President Pro-Tem Tom Dempsey, of St. Charles, with whom he served in the House, and Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, of Joplin, may be depended on to treat other senators fairly. The Senate lost two Republicans but retains a 24-10 advantage.

Asked if he expects any gridlock, Emery said Jefferson City is different from Washington, but he liked some of the budget-cutting demands last spring of a group of senators called "The Gang of Nine."

Referring to the group's leader, term-limited Cape Girardeau Republican Jason Crowell, Emery said, "I don't know how effective Jason was in terms of relationships, but I can't say I disagreed with a lot of his views.

"He was belligerent on some issues, for lack of a better word. Some people felt he was a roadblock, but a lot of the things they blocked, I was happy they got blocked."

Returning Republicans who backed Crowell are Sens. Will Kraus of Jackson County, Brian Nieves of Washington, Brad Lager of Savannah and Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, reports say.

Emery has known Nixon for many years, but is unsure what effect the super majorities will have on the governor's sometimes tense relationship with GOP lawmakers. "We're not close friends, but I know Jay pretty well," he said.

"He has quite a bit different public persona than he does legislatively. I hope he'll be more conciliatory and that there are some issues we can agree on. If we can't, the House and Senate can certainly pass bills even over a veto."

Emery visited the Missouri Division of Youth Services' Rich Hill Youth Development Center Wednesday with Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, the Senate Education Committee chairman who represented Vernon County until being redistricted north into the 21st District. "It may well work out that there are some issues David and I work together on," said Emery.

"I'm thinking about my limited time and getting ready to hit the ground running because a lot of initiatives die with their champion in this age of term limits."

Pike was completing a statewide tour he had started Nov. 28 with 60 freshmen to learn about economic and health issues, and he said Friday from their bus, nearing St. Louis on Interstate 70, that he has confidence in Speaker of the House Tim Jones, of Eureka, and Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, of Town and Country, both from the St. Louis area.

House Republicans gained five seats, or a two-thirds advantage, in the Nov. 5 election for a 110-53 edge over the Democrats.

Pike will pursue the concerns he was most interested in as the northern Bates County commissioner and seek appointment to the House Economic Development and Agricultural Business and Ag Policy committees. "One thing that needs to happen is to make this area more work friendly and business friendly," he said.

Representing Vernon County and all but the north sliver of Bates County in the 126th Representative District, Pike said, "We've got to do something to stimulate economic growth.

"Everything seems to be going over to Kansas and we don't need to have it leaving this state. I know John and am looking forward to working with him. He is a nice guy who is willing to help all the young legislators and give them any guidance they need."

Having hired former Rep. Barney Fisher's legislative assistant, Beth Rohrbach, Pike approaches the session confidently. "As a new legislator, I've got a lot going on," he said.

"It's kind of running together, but I understand the process. It's all in the particulars."

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