CARROLLTON, Mo. — Rep. Rusty Black was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives for the first time in November of 2016 and has only been in the job since being sworn in on January 4. KMZU’s Brian Lock had the opportunity to sit down with him to talk about his adjustment to the job and work he is doing to improve the lives of his constituents in Missouri’s 7th House District.
Click below to hear their conversation which aired live on KMZU.
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“I was sworn in on January 4, and my new job started.” Rep. Black said. “I’m on the first floor of the capitol which means that I am a freshman, that’s where we are at. I do have a window, that part is really nice. I’m starting to learn where the light switches and bathrooms are at, as well as some of the people who effect some of the policy going down.”
Before Rep. Black decided to get into politics, he was an Ag teacher at Chillicothe for 27 years. He shared that his old job and his new one have some major differences.
“It’s been a long time. After you’ve taught 27 years, to go back at zero again and have to learn at the speed I’m learning not because I want to, but because I must,” Black explained. “Making new relationships with people to try to figure out how to make a difference for the residents of the Seventh.”
Rep. Black was given a seat on the Education Appropriations Subcommittee for the House Budget Committee as well as on the Pensions Committee. A third committee he was assigned to, he admitted, wasn’t one that he had requested the day after the election in November when incoming lawmakers listed their choices for committees.
“The final one was consent and rules, and I really, Brian, don’t think I wrote that down, but that’s where I ended up at,” Black told KMZU News. “At first it was, ‘Oh this is where I’ve been dumped,’ but I really have enjoyed that committee and what that committee takes care of. It helped me learn things about state government that I didn’t know before and made me research some things that aren’t on my other committees.”
The fast pace of state politics, Black explained, is extremely time consuming and can’t be fully appreciated by a candidate until they actually get into office.
“Budget committee without a doubt is the one that has taken a tremendous amount of time,” Rep. Black advised. “Sitting and listening to how the state spends our $27-28 billion. There are a lot of books to look at, and I’m still a paper person. To listen to all the departments come in and listen to testimony about where all their money goes, we had one line item, I remember it being about $1.3 billion, and to try to understand what that is. Those kinds of things were very interesting to me.”
“As some of your listeners know, it’s not over. The House budget didn’t reconcile exactly with the Governor’s Budget,” Black admitted. “The Senate, the budget that they’re doing, it’s got several differences compared to ours, and supposedly by May 5 we’re supposed to have a final product, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”
Given that the Republican Party effectively controls the vast majority state government in Missouri, Rep. Black compared the inability of the party to come together on a coherent budget to a family dynamic.
“Well yes, Republicans, or my party have control of [the government],” Black acknowledged. “That’s no different than in my family at home. You know, we all sit down at the same table but we don’t all have the same ideas for how we are going to get the chores done for the afternoon, and those things happen.”
Rep. Black recently put forward a bill which would attempt to provide pension relief.
“The base of the bill is college and university retirement plans for teachers or professors at those colleges,” Black explained. “As I’m learning, we pass a state law, it’s got unintended consequences. That’s what happened here, some unintended consequences, because of something that happened in 2011.”
Black also said that in the past he supported term limits, but once he got to the legislature, he said he came to understand the importance of experience and that often a person who has held office is only getting the feel for the job by the time their term limits are approaching, something he hopes is remedied in the future.