Tracking federal COVID-19 relief money coming into Missouri, redistricting and education will be the focus of legislators in January, said Dean Plocher, the majority leader of the House of Representatives.
“We’ve got a lot going on and we have redistricting to contemplate,” said Plocher, R-Des Peres, after an event in Chesterfield last week. “We have a lot of money coming into the state and we need to make sure we know where it’s spent, how it’s going to be spent and who’s responsible. I think we need to work on transparency.”
Plocher was unanimously selected on Sept. 14 to become the next Speaker of the House. He will continue to serve in his current role during the upcoming session and will serve as the Speaker designee. An official election with the full House will take place during the 2023 session.
Plocher was elected to the House in a special election in November 2015 to represent the 89th district, comprising west St. Louis County. He currently manages his own law firm in Clayton and previously served as a municipal court judge in the 21st judicial circuit. He served on the board of directors for the Missouri Municipal and Associate Circuit Judges Association.
Plocher earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Middlebury College. He earned his juris doctorate degree from St. Louis University.
The legislature will be drawing and approving new alignments for 197 state legislative districts – 34 for the Senate and 163 for the House. Districts for eight congressional seats will be drawn and approved.
Last week, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft told the Jefferson City Rotary Breakfast Club he advocates for a map moving from an 8-2 Republican-to-Democrat ratio in the state to 7-1, according to a report in the Jefferson City News Tribune. Instead of Democrat Emanuel Cleaver representing the Fifth District, Ashcroft said making the district more favorable to a Republican would more accurately reflect Missouri’s political makeup.
“A lot of eyes are going to be on the maps with the redistricting,” Plocher said. “That’s one constitutional duty we have and the other is passing the budget. In an election year, I don’t know if you can really predict what is going to come up the following day or the next week. Like anything else you have to take it one day at a time and make sure we’re doing good work for Missourians.”
Ongoing support of education and the pandemic’s effect on student outcomes concerns Plocher, the father of children ages 12 and 14.
“My wife and I are astutely aware that we need to offer them a good education and then work to give them opportunities,” Plocher said. “As elected officials, I think we have an obligation to work toward providing a good education for all of Missouri’s children. My children’s education is really at the forefront of my thoughts these days.
“It’s personal, but I’m living it. I’m grateful this disease was not the bubonic plague or something malicious that could have swept through. The mortality rate, thank goodness, is low. I’m not saying that people don’t die from it, but you have to look at how much we are mortgaging our children’s future living inside and in fear.”
Plocher believes most people are ready to move away from issues surrounding mask and vaccine mandates.
“I’m seeing people want to move forward,” Plocher said. “We’ve had a tough road for what will be two years in March. Let’s get the economy back. Let’s stop borrowing so much money and start building jobs and working on education and workforce development as the governor has alluded to.”
Republican Gov. Mike Parson joined Plocher and several other state and local elected leaders at a groundbreaking for a 330,000-square-foot, $150 million facility for Gateway Studios & Production Services. The business will provide rehearsal space and production coordination for music and other groups planning national concert tours.
“This is that type of investment that we need in Missouri and in St. Louis,” Plocher said. “It’s going to bring jobs and bring new opportunities to the region. It’s the kind of industry that I don’t think we’re well-versed in right now. This is going to be new and great to see coming to the Midwest. It’s using our central location to our advantage.”