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Politically Speaking: Sen. Richard on Missouri's new legislative reality

Senator Pro Tem Ron Richard answers questions from reporters.
File photo by Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Senator Pro Tem Ron Richard answers questions from reporters during the final day of the May 2016 session.

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum welcomes Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard to the show for the first time.

Rosenbaum interviewed the Joplin Republican in Richard's Jefferson City office. Richard is the only legislator in Missouri history to serve as both the speaker of the Missouri House and the president pro tem of the Missouri Senate.

A native of Parsons, Kan., Richard spent most of his professional career managing bowling alleys in several states. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Missouri Southern State University in 1969 and a master’s degree from Missouri State University in 1972.

Before getting elected to the Missouri House in 2002, Richard cut his teeth in local government. He served on the Joplin City Council and the Joplin Planning and Zoning Commission. As the chairman of the House Economic Development Committee, he was largely responsible for passing an economic development bill in the 2007 special session. 

Richard won a contested race for the House speakership at the end of the 2007 session. His speakership coincided with a downturn in the nation’s economy – as well as an influx of federal stimulus funds. Near the end of his tenure, the legislature approved substantial changes to the state’s pension programs – and tax credits to keep auto plants open.

In 2010, Richard ran unopposed to succeed Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, in the Missouri Senate. In the process, Richard became the first speaker in decades to win another elective post. (Most of his predecessors ran unsuccessfully for statewide office.) He served as the Senate’s majority leader from 2013 to 2015. And when President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey resigned in 2015, he was elected to serve as president pro tem.

Here’s what Richard said during the show:

  • Certain businesses, including some car manufacturers, prefer right-to-work states. He expects right to work to be placed on Gov. Eric Greitens' desk in the next few weeks.
  • Republicans can avoid the missteps made in the mid-2000s, which was the last time the GOP controlled the legislative and executive branches. While then- Gov. Matt Blunt and the GOP legislature were able to pass lots of bills, they also at times became embroiled in infighting.
  • The legislature is in sync with Greitens on a multitude of issues, including restricting the parameters of lawsuits and curbing regulations. “With a new Gov. Greitens, it’s going to be an even more interesting dynamic," he said, "because he wants to go full force on job creation and do things that I agree with.”
  • When asked what's changed since he entered the legislature in 2003, Richard quickly responded: "People don't keep their word, adding "make sure when you give your word, you have all the information to give your word."

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Ron Richard on Twitter: @RonFRichard

Music: "Country Grammar" by Nelly and "Over My Dead Body" by Drake

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.