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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

Hodges ready to get to work

Thursday, January 18, 2007

(Photo)
Steve Hodges
JEFFERSON CITY -- Having completed the freshman orientation tour and being selected as president of his class, Steve Hodges is ready to get down to business as state representative for the 161st District.

"There are a lot things happening and a lot of things to look forward to," Hodges said. "I'm having about as much fun as I can stand."

Being elected by the freshman members of the Missouri House of Representatives as their class president -- the first Democrat to hold the position in many years -- Hodges is off to a great start.

"That's an honor to me personally," he said. "I really think we have a great class."

Hodges said he is impressed with the bipartisan spirit that is being shown by his class.

"I had a number of members of the Republican party express they were happy to see me elected," he said. And choosing two Republicans as class officers along with three Democrats "shows we've got a good working spirit among our freshman class."

Hodges said his fellow House freshmen hope to introduce legislation together "as a show of unity among the class."

This cooperative attitude should be received favorably by constituents, Hodges said: "There is one comment I hear over and over again: voters say they wish we would stop playing politics and just work together."

Hodges said he is now looking forward to seeing what committees he will be asked to serve on by House Speaker Rod Jetton.

"I have been advised that historically as a state representative you would be a member of three, four or five committees," he said. "This year, because of the way Speaker Jetton has reduced the number of members on committees, I have been advised I will probably be a member of two."

Reducing the numbers on House committees is "one of the more dramatic changes," Hodges said.

In the past, having 44 percent of the House's population would have meant the Democrats would have 44 percent of the House committee positions, he explained.

"By reducing the number of members on committees as Speaker Jetton has, we will have a lesser percentage than we have been entitled to historically," Hodges said. "Because of this, Democrats will only have 38 percent of the total committee memberships. You play the cards you are dealt and just make the best of it you can."

Hodges said he hopes to be on the agriculture committee as farming is very important for his district but also has an interest in education, small business and corrections. "I told them to just assign me where I would do best," he said.

One issue Hodges has concerns about is the pay raise slated for legislators. "Personally there's no way I could vote for a pay raise," he said.

During the state of the judiciary address to the House and Senate, Judge Michael A. Wolff, chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, said the state is in jeopardy of losing some judges to private practices if salaries are not raised, according to Hodges.

"I don't really have a problem with that but I didn't take this job to come up here and increase my salary. I think a lot of the other people in the House feel the same way," he said. "It is difficult for me to justify it to my voters. Reinstating some of the health care benefits that were cut last year is more important than a salary increase for legislators."

Recommendations by the salary commission must be rejected by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate by Feb. 1 or they go into effect, Hodges said.

Budget issues are also something Hodges has his eye on.

"We're going into this session with a surplus," he said. "When you have extra money, it's like having an extra biscuit on the plate: somebody wants that extra biscuit."

While some are proposing cutting Social Security taxes for upper income seniors, Hodges said he considers himself to be a conservative.

"Just because we have extra money now doesn't mean we'll have it the year after," he said. "We have to look at the long-term effect an immediate decision might have."

Hodges said he believes the Democratic party will address their concerns about redistricting in the next couple of years.

"They are trying to eliminate partisan interest in redistricting," he said. "Our party feels like it could be done in a more equitable manner."

Democrats will also try to pass a gubernatorial appointments integrity bill identical to the one proposed last year which would eliminate the "spoil system" by preventing people from using money to influence appointments by the governor, according to Hodges.

Hodges said his personal objectives are clear.

"The main thing I am supposed to do as a state representative is represent my constituents," Hodges said.

"The second obligation I have is to consider the appropriations we are in charge of," he continued. "We have to make a lot of decisions as to who gets money and how it is put to use."

The third obligation is introducing, considering and voting on legislation.

"But the number one thing is taking care of the people first," Hodges said.