JEFFERSON CITY - Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, was appointed chairman of the Insurance and Housing Committee. While his first choice was not Insurance, Jacob said he realizes what a key issue it is.
"It's an important fabric in the social affairs of mankind," he said.
Jacob said he has no particular plans or goals, but that he will be open to what other members want. He said the committee will be a challenge because insurance has not been his main focus. Jacob said his education on the subject began last semester when he took classes at the University of Missouri's Law School.
"I am embarking on a new learning experience," he said.
Other members of Columbia's delegation were happy with Jacob's appointment.
Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, said there are two reasons she is pleased by Jacob's appointment.
"It's always helpful to have a chairmanship in the local area," she said. "It is also very appropriate because Columbia is an insurance center."
Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, said Jacob will be a good consumer representative because he is interested in learning about insurance issues.
Harlan will sponsor a bill this session that would help small businesses purchase insurance, and he said Jacob's appointment will only aid his cause.
"He's been very supportive in the past, and it will be very helpful to have him in that position," Harlan said. "We look forward to working with him."
Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said Jacob's chairmanship gives Harlan's bill a chance to get out of the Insurance committee, where it died last year.
Graham said insurance companies with a large presence in Columbia like State Farm and Shelter will benefit from having Jacob at the top of the committee. He also said it will be nice for everyone in the area.
"There's usually several bills that will come up that we could certainly use a friendly ear on," Graham said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, was appointed chairman of the Commerce and Environment committee. Maxwell tried for the top spot on the Appropriations committee, but Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, received that position.
Maxwell said there were several factors in his appointment, including geography. Since the Senate's two top leadership positions are held by members from Kansas City, Maxwell said Democrats decided an eastern balance was needed on other top positions.
"It was a caucus decision," he said. "We want to make the right presentation to the state."
Goode, a member of the Missouri legislature for more than 30 years, agreed the chairmanships were influenced by geography, but he said everyone selected was qualified.
"I think I know as much as anybody about the process, and the way it should work," he said.
Maxwell said Democrats must keep a spirit of balance in the legislature given the challenges in the future.
"We had to come together and balance the state's needs," Maxwell said. "We will lead and prepare Missouri families for the next century."