July 30, 2015 – Weekly Capitol Update

DHE SAYS IMMIGRANT SCHOLARSHIP BAN ISN’T PART OF LAW

In a July 23 memo, Missouri Department of Higher Education Commissioner David Russell said language Republican lawmakers inserted in the title clause of an appropriations bill purporting to prohibit undocumented immigrant students from receiving scholarships “has no legal authority.” The department administers the A+ Scholarship Program, under which qualified Missouri high school graduates are eligible for two years of free tuition and books at a public community college.

House Bill 3 provides spending authority for the higher education department and Missouri’s public colleges and universities for the 2016 fiscal year, which began on July 1 and runs through June 30. Although the title clause of HB 3, which isn’t law, includes the restrictive language, the actual statutory provisions of the bill, which are law, contain no prohibition on undocumented immigrant students receiving scholarships.

On July 10, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed separate legislation, Senate Bill 224, barring immigrant students who were brought to this country illegally as children from participating in Missouri’s A+ Scholarship Program. During a July 24 speech in Columbia to a group of local school administrators from around the state, Nixon called on them to urge their lawmakers to sustain his veto of the bill when the General Assembly convenes for its annual veto session on Sept. 16.

 

SENATOR RESIGNS AMID SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS

State Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, will resign Aug. 23 in the wake of allegations he sexually harassed two female colleges interns who worked in his office in recent years. In a July 24 statement announcing his decision, LeVota strongly denied the claims but said “I will not put my family, myself and the Senate through the process of dealing with the veracity of false allegations and character assassination against me.”

The University of Central Missouri pulled its student interns from LeVota’s Capitol office earlier this year after one of them said LeVota made unwanted sexual advances.

A Senate investigation into the matter reached no conclusions concerning the allegations, although a separate investigation conducted by the university said the intern’s story likely was true.

After the Senate made public its findings on July 22, The Kansas Star reported another former intern had come forward with a similar story. That intern worked in LeVota’s office in 2010 while he was serving in the House of Representatives

Once LeVota’s resignation becomes effective, Gov. Jay Nixon can call a special election to fill the vacancy in the 11th Senatorial District, which covers northern Jackson County. If a special election is called, the winner would serve the remainder of LeVota’s term, which runs until early January 2016.

 

NIXON CALLS SPECIAL ELECTIONS FOR THREE HOUSE SEATS

Gov. Jay Nixon on July 28 set Nov. 3 as the date for three special elections to fill vacant seats in the Missouri House of Representatives. Two of the open seats were last held by Republicans and the other by a Democrat.

The vacancy in the 89th District in west St. Louis County became open in May when House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town & Country, resigned after The Kansas City Star reported that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with at 19-year-old Capitol intern.

The two other vacancies are in the Kansas City area. State Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence, stepped down shortly after winning re-election in November 2014 in order to take a job as a lobbyist. State Rep. Kevin McManus, D-Kansas City, resigned on July 28 after winning election to the Kansas City Council in June.

 

NIXON NAMES EX-LAWMAKER TO PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Gov. Jay Nixon on July 30 announced he is appointing former state lawmaker Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, to the Missouri Public Service Commission effective Aug. 10. Coleman will replace Robert Kenney on the commission, which is the regulatory authority for investor-owned utilities that operate in the state.

Coleman served in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2002 and in the Senate from 2002 to 2009. From 2005 to 2009, Coleman was Senate minority leader. More recently Coleman has served as director for the Missouri Office of Community Engagement, which Nixon created last year following the social unrest in Ferguson

 

SIKESTON MAN RE-APPOINTED TO CONSERVATION PANEL

Gov. Jay Nixon on July 24 appointed Don Bedell of Sikeston to a second term on the Missouri Conservation Commission, the independent governing authority for the state Department of Conservation. Nixon, a Democrat, first appointed Bedell, a Republican, to the commission in 2009.

Bedell is the founder of Health Facilities Management Corporation, a nursing home management firm. He also owns B&B Boats and Bikes in Sikeston and B&R Marine & Cycle in Batesville, Ark.