ERIC GREITENS BECOMES MISSOURI’S 56TH GOVERNOR
Republican Eric Greitens took the oath of office as Missouri’s 56th governor on Jan. 9, promising a “new direction” for the state. Greitens is just the second Republican elected governor in Missouri in the last 24 years.
“For decades, Missourians have talked about change,” Greitens said. “Not it’s time to fight for that change. No one imagines that all of these battles will be won overnight – or over four years or even eight. But we begin today.”
As with his campaign for office, Greitens’ inaugural speech was long on aspiration but short on policy details. Greitens is expected to outline his policy agenda on Jan. 17 during his first State of the State address, which will take place at 7 p.m. in the House chamber before a joint session of the General Assembly.
Breaking with longstanding practice, however, Greitens will not present his proposed state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year during at the State of the State. Due in large part to several special-interest tax breaks the Republican-controlled legislature has granted in recent years that are costing the state far more money than expected, the state is facing a $456 million revenue shortfall for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The delay in announcing his budget appears to be an attempt by Greitens to focus on positive policy pronouncements during the State of the State while saving the dismal reality of Missouri’s financial situation for another day. However, the delay means the legislature will get a late start in beginning its work on the budget.
In addition to Greitens, four other new statewide elected officials, all Republicans, also were sworn-in to office on Jan. 9 – Lt. Gov. Mike Parsons, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, State Treasurer Eric Schmidt and Attorney General Josh Hawley.
GOP BLOCKS ATTEMPT TO SEND RIGHT-TO-WORK TO VOTERS
House Republicans on Jan. 11 rejected an attempt by Democrats to ensure that Missouri voters have the final say on so-called “right-to-work” legislation that would make it a crime punishable by jail for companies to agree to labor contracts that require workers to pay dues for the representation they receive.
During a hearing on House Bill 91 before the House Economic Development Committee, state Rep. Doug Beck, D-St. Louis, offered an amendment to put the measure on the statewide ballot, but it was defeated on a straight party-line vote.
Republicans have long opposed putting right-to-work before voters, who defeated the issue when it last went on the ballot in 1978. In passing a right-to-work bill in 2015, supporters could have avoided a veto by then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, by putting the measure on the ballot, but they opted not to and the veto was upheld. New Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, has said he will sign right-to-work into law.
ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS REGAIN FULL ACCREDITATION
The Missouri State Board of Education on Jan. 10 voted unanimously to grant full accreditation to the St. Louis Public Schools, effective immediately. The board took its action after the district scored in the fully accredited range on its state evaluation for two straight years.
The state took control of the district’s governance shortly after it became unaccredited in June 2007. The district regained provisional accreditation in October 2012. Despite the move to full accreditation, the district will remain under state control through at least June 30, 2019.
COURT RULES AGAINST STL COUNTY OVER POLICE STANDARDS
A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District on Jan. 10 ruled that the St. Louis County Council acted without constitutional authority when it enacted a 2015 ordinance purporting to impose strict new minimum standards on municipal police departments that operate in the county. In its opinion, the appeals court upheld a lower judge ruling against the county.
The county enacted the ordinance in response to complaints in recent years about allegedly sub-standard police departments operated by many small municipalities in St. Louis County that primarily focus on generating revenue by writing tickets. Both the trial and appellate courts ruled that the county has no authority to regulate the affairs of local cities.