Aug. 24, 2017 – Weekly Capitol Update


Opponents of making Missouri a so-called right-to-work state submitted a referendum petition to the Secretary of State’s Office on Aug. 18 that will force the issue to a statewide vote. As a result, Senate Bill 19, right-to-work legislation the Republican-controlled General Assembly enacted earlier this year, won’t take effect as scheduled on Aug. 28 and will remain suspended until and unless approved by Missouri voters at the November 2018 general election.

Opponents of SB 19 submitted 310,567 signatures from registered Missouri voters, more than triple the amount needed to put the measure on the ballot. Under SB 19, businesses would be subject to criminal prosecution and jail time for negotiating labor contracts that require workers to pay dues for the union representation they receive. Such requirements currently are a common feature of organized labor contracts in Missouri.

SB 19 marks the first time in more than three decades that a referendum petition has been submitted. A referendum petition forces a statewide vote on a bill that has already been passed by the General Assembly, signed into law by the governor and otherwise would become law. It is cousin to the more common initiative petition, which proposes legislation independently of lawmakers and submits it directly to voters. The referendum petition process last was used to force a 1982 vote on legislation that sought to allow larger trucks on state highways, which voters rejected.

A right-to-work proposal last went on the Missouri ballot in 1978 and failed with just 39.9 percent of voters in support. During legislative debate on SB 19 in January, Democratic lawmakers attempted to include a provision to automatically put the measure on the ballot. Majority Republicans, however, voted down efforts to give voters a say on the matter.

The Secretary of State’s office will review the SB 19 petitions in the coming weeks to ensure they contain a sufficient number of valid signatures, but with such a large surplus of signatures, no problems are expected.



Gov. Eric Greitens on Aug. 23 appointed a Kansas City lawyer with strong professional and personal ties to prominent Missouri Republicans to fill a Democratic slot on the Missouri State Board of Education, marking the second time in recent weeks he has made an appointment seemingly aimed at giving Republicans a working board majority despite a constitutional prohibition against members of any one political party controlling the panel.

The eight-member State Board of Education is the independent governing authority for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which in turn oversees the state’s 520 public school districts. The Missouri Constitution says that no more than four members of the board can be from the same political party, but Greitens’ recent board appointments could be construed as creating a de facto 6-2 Republican majority.

Greitens most recent politically suspect appointment is Claudia Oñate Greim, an attorney in Kansas City for the Lockton Companies, an independent insurance broker. Oñate Greim is a former partner in the law firm of John Ashcroft, a Republican former Missouri governor, U.S. senator and U.S. attorney general. In addition, she is married to Edward Greim, a top Missouri Republican Party attorney. Oñate Greim and her husband have made political donations exclusively to Republican candidates. Despite her background, Greitens designated her as a Democrat in naming her to the state school board.

Greitens made a similar move earlier this month when he appointed Melissa Gelner of Springfield to the board as an independent, even though her family has exclusively donated to Republican candidates, including giving $500 to Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign last year.

In a do-over appointment, Greitens also named Lebanon businessman Doug Russell to the state school board on Aug. 23 as a Republican. Greitens originally had picked former state Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, for the spot, but Scott withdrew after learning he is statutorily ineligible to serve due his current job as president of Kansas Christian College in Overland Park, Kan.

All four of Greitens’ recent state school board appointments will be subject to confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate in January, although they can begin serving immediately.



Gov. Eric Greitens called off the scheduled execution of convicted murderer Marcellus Williams just hours before he was to die by lethal injection on Aug. 22 for the 1998 murder of Lisha Gayle of University City. Greitens said recent DNA testing of evidence taken from the crime scene merits further review before a death sentence can be carried out

Williams’ lawyers contend the DNA tests exclude Williams as the murderer, although prosecutors have called the results inconclusive and both state and federal courts had declined to stop Williams’ execution as a result of them. Greitens will appoint a five-member board of inquiry to reconsider the evidence.

“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” Greitens said in a statement. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt.”