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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Black's House term expires

Friday, December 29, 2006

Lanie Black
CHARLESTON -- As his eight-year run as 161st District State Representative comes to an end, Lanie Black said he's looking forward to starting a soil sampling business, spending a little more time in Florida and possibly working as a lobbyist.

Black was elected in 1998 to serve portions of Mississippi, New Madrid, Scott and Stoddard counties. Like his cohort, 160th State Rep. Peter Myers, Black's run officially ends Sunday due to term limits.

"I'm not opposed to term limits, but I think they should be 12 years instead of eight years," Black said. "I think we should elect representatives every four years, and a representative could serve three four-year terms.

"By the time you learn to do the job well, you're done," Black said.

In the time he served office, Black spent countless hours working to represent his district in the legislative process. And there are a couple accomplishments he's most proud of, said Black, who most recently was the chair of the appropriations-transportation and economic development committee.

"The image that Missouri's Department of Transportation has today is much better than it was when I got to Jefferson City," Black said.

Eight years ago the highways were in bad shape and deteriorating in the rural areas, Black recalled.

"The rural people were pretty angry because they felt money had been taken away from rural areas and invested in urban areas, particularly in the St. Louis area," Black said.

And there was a lot of distrust among the public with the functioning of the Missouri Department of Transportation and Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.

"We did an awful lot to improve that and several of those were my ideas," Black said.

One of those ideas included creating a system where there would always be two highway commissioners with four years experience, two with two years experience and two newly appointed commissioners.

The governor appoints the two new commissioners who are confirmed by the Legislature. One of the appointees is to be a Republican and the other a Democrat.

"The effort was to remove politics from building highways," Black said. Prior to the new system, people would resign, and the governor appointed somebody who would serve for six years, Black explained.

Black said he was also proud of his work in favor of Southeast Missouri ports.

"I was a big supporter of the ports and was able -- in a very tight budget situation -- to increase slightly the funding made available to the ports on Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Black said he was able to get people in Jefferson City to understand those ports are critical to Southeast Missouri because they can operate in ice-free conditions.

"I think ports have a lot of potential to bring jobs to the Bootheel region and that potential will increase with the deepening and widening of the Panama Canal, which was voted on in that country in October," Black said.

Every year since he was elected Black read and gave books to all first and second graders in the 161st District.

Black said he thinks he listened well to people involved in the education process. Last year he was one of two politicians to receive an award from Missouri State Teachers Association for his support of education. "That was quite an honor," Black said.

Black said there is work he hopes will continue long after he's out of office.

"My biggest concern that I leave with -- and I think will be a concern and ought to be a concern for everyone -- is our state budget, and specifically, the healthcare portion of that budget," Black said.

During Gov. Matt Blunt's initial year, the Republican party ran through Medicaid cuts that were not very pleasant, Black said.

"I recognized the need as a member of the budget committee for passage of those cuts. There were NO good choices to be made," Black said.

Black said those choices were: to raise taxes considerably (close to $1 billion); severely cut funding for education at all levels, including substantial cuts to elementary and secondary education; or make huge reductions in the Medicaid program.

"Some of the cuts in Medicaid were inappropriate and there are very few who are involved in the House and Senate in the state this year who do not recognize that some mistakes were made, and those mistakes will be made correct this year, I suspect."

Ultimately, it was people's trust and belief in him that led to his accomplishments over the years, Black said.

"I've tried to work hard and tried to listen to people and respond to their needs as best I could," Black said. "Sometimes I can help, and sometimes I can't."

Black, who turns 60 on Saturday, lives with his wife, Ann, in Charleston, where he operates a poultry farm. They have two children and one grandchild.

Black said he plans to spend a little more time in Florida, where his youngest son is growing vegetables. And from time to time, he might be found in Jefferson City.

"I'm going to keep growing chickens and start a soil sampling business," Black said about his future. ". . . I may do a little bit of lobbying, but I don't see an evolution of a professional career as a lobbyist."