Jan 4, 2018 – Weekly Capitol Update

GOVERNOR LEAVES STATE SCHOOL BOARD UNABLE TO ACT

Gov. Eric Greitens on Jan. 3 withdrew and immediately reappointed all five of his picks for the Missouri State Board of Education in an attempt to buy more time for their confirmation by a hostile Senate. The surprise move, however, leaves the board without a quorum and unable to take any official action, including stalling Greitens’ effort to hire a new state education commissioner, which had been expected to happen as early as Jan. 9.

After several misfires, Greitens was finally able to appoint a majority of the eight-member board, the independent governing authority for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in December, and the new members immediately voted to fire K-12 Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven over the strenuous objections of the board’s three veteran members. Greitens has never publicly disclosed why he sought the ouster of Vandeven, a respected educator and administrator who enjoyed broad support among local school officials.

Because they were appointed when the Senate wasn’t in session, Greitens’ board picks were able to begin serving immediately but faced confirmation within 30 days of the start of the 2018 legislative session, which began Jan. 3. Several senators opposed Vandeven’s removal and had threatened to block Greitens’ appointees from being confirmed, a move that would come with a lifetime ban on serving on the board in the future.

By withdrawing the recess appointments and then reappointing them right after the Senate convened, the Senate now has through the end of the legislative session on May 18 to confirm them. However, people appointed to boards and commissions during the legislative session can’t serve until and unless they are confirmed. As a result, the state school board currently only has three members, two short of a quorum necessary to conduct business.

Whether the governor’s gambit will pay off remains an open question as several news organizations reported that Senate opposition to Greitens’ nominees over the firing of Vandeven remains strong. According to the Missourinet, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, is undecided on whether he will even hold a hearing on Greitens’ school board picks.

If the Senate blocks the nominations for the duration of the legislative session, the board would remain without a functioning majority until June. At that point Greitens could again fill the vacancies with new recess appointments, who could serve until facing Senate confirmation in January 2019.

 

GREITENS REMOVES SENATE CRITIC WITH PSC APPOINTMENT

Gov. Eric Greitens on Jan. 2 appointed state Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, to the Missouri Public Service Commission in a move that removes one the governor’s harshest Republican critics from the Senate in exchange for a plum posting. However, Silvey’s departure gives Democrats an unexpected opportunity for an electoral pick up in a swing district that wasn’t scheduled to be on the ballot until 2020.

Positions on the five-member PSC, which is the regulatory authority for investor-owned utilities that do business in Missouri, carry six-year terms and six-figure salaries and are highly sought. With Silvey’s appointment, the PSC consists of four former state senators, with the fifth spot held by a former top staffer to a previous governor.

The Senate moved quickly to confirm Silvey’s appointment on Jan. 4. Silvey had frequently criticized Greitens for his reliance on secretive “dark money” contributions and general lack of transparency in his administration. He also was part of a bipartisan group of senators who in June called for the creation a special legislative committee to investigate Greitens over allegations that he illegally procured the donor list of the non-profit organization he founded and used it to raise money for his campaign.

Greitens will have to call a special election to fill Silvey’s vacant seat, which encompasses Clay County. The earliest it likely would be held is April 3, though the governor also could choose to set it to coincide with the Aug. 7 primaries or Nov. 6 general election.

 

NET STATE REVENUE UP 4.13 PERCENT SO FAR IN FY 2018

Net state general revenue collections through the first six months of the 2018 fiscal year increased 4.13 percent compared to the same period in FY 2017, going from $4.26 billion last year to $4.44 billion this year, according to the Missouri Division of Budget and Planning. Net collections had been up 5.1 percent through the first five months of FY 2018.

Net general revenue collections for December 2017 were essentially flat compared to December 2017, coming in at roughly $813.1 million in both years.