JEFFERSON CITY -- Four Southeast Missouri lawmakers were picked to lead House committees on Wednesday.
Two will assume chairmanships for the first time. State Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Cape Girardeau, will head the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee while state Rep. Gayle Kingery will be in charge of the Higher Education Committee.
Retaining chairmanships they have held for two years are state Reps. Peter Myers, R-Sikeston, and Lanie Black, R-Charleston. Myers heads the Agriculture Committee and Black chairs the appropriations panel that handles the budgets for the state transportation and economic development departments.
Those who chair committees wield a good deal of power in shaping legislation that comes before them. With new chamber rules intended to increase the authority of committees, the clout of chairmen is also expected to grow.
Instead of the House speaker simply picking chairmen as had been the past practice, hopefuls were required to apply for the posts and be interviewed by a panel of House Republican leaders. Applicants were quizzed on their knowledge of the subject matter related to the post they were seeking, as well as their opinions on issues likely to come before that committee.
After vetting the candidates, the selection panel made recommendations to House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill.
For the next two years, the House will have 35 standing committees to handle legislation being considered by the chamber -- three more than last year. Previous House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, had eliminated several committees on the belief that more panels than needed had been created over the years so speakers would have additional chairmanships to dole out to allies.
Jetton, who was unopposed in the Republican caucus for speaker, said taking care of supporters wasnt a consideration. Rather, he said certain committees had too broad a scope to operate efficiently, and it made sense to break some of those up.
It was more out of necessity than anything, Jetton said.
For example, the old House Education Committee had jurisdiction over all education issues. That panel was split in two with one committee handling matters related to elementary and secondary education and the other focusing on higher education.
Committee assignments for rank-and-file lawmakers are expected to be announced later this week. In keeping with recent practice, House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, will decide on what panels Democratic lawmakers will serve, subject to Jettons approval.