Nov 30, 2017 – Weekly Capitol Update

ASHCROFT CLEARS RIGHT TO WORK FOR STATEWIDE VOTE

Secretary of State John Ashcroft on Nov. 22 certified that a referendum petition on the so-called right-to-work law that was slated to take effect earlier this year has sufficient signatures to go before voters. The measure automatically will appear on the Nov. 7 general election ballot, although it is possible the Republican-controlled General Assembly could seek to redirect the measure to Aug. 8 primary.

Senate Bill 19 would make it a crime punishable by jail time for employers to negotiate labor contracts requiring workers to pay dues for the union representation that they receive. The legislature granted final approval to SB 19 in February and Republican Gov. Eric Greitens quickly signed it into law. However, SB 19 was blocked from taking effect as scheduled on Aug. 28 when opponents submitted a referendum petition to give Missouri voters the final say.

Roughly 100,000 signatures from registered Missouri voters were required to put SB 19 on the ballot. Ashcroft, a Republican, said more than 250,000 valid signatures were submitted. SB 19 marks the first time about 35 years that a referendum petition has been used to force a statewide vote on a legislative act slated to become law. Missouri voters have rejected 24 of 26 legislative acts forced onto the ballot by a referendum petition in Missouri history.

A right-to-work proposal last went on the Missouri ballot in 1978 and 60.1 percent of voters opposed it. 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.

 

FEDS GRANT STATE EXTENSION ON REAL ID COMPLIANCE

Missourians will be able to continue using their driver’s licenses to board commercial flights and enter federal facilities through Oct. 10, 2018 after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted the state another extension for complying with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. Without the extension, Missourians would have been at risk of being turned away at airports and federal buildings as of Jan. 22, unless they have an alternate, compliant form of photo identification, such as a passport.

The REAL ID Act mandates that government-issued identification include certain security features designed to combat falsification. Although many states initially resisted the federal law due to privacy concerns, Missouri was among just a handful of remaining holdouts when the General Assembly finally enacted legislation this year authorizing REAL ID compliant state driver’s licenses and non-driver ID cards.

However, it will take time for the Missouri Department of Revenue to implement the new law and begin issuing compliant identification. In late August, the department predicted full implementation would take at least 18 months – or through February 2019. As a result, the state might have to request another extension if implementation isn’t completed by October 2018.

 

LAWSUITS FILED OVER STATE SCHOOL BOARD REMOVALS

One of the two State Board of Education members recently removed from office by Gov. Eric Greitens in apparent violation of state law filed a lawsuit on Nov. 28 challenging his ouster. A separate lawsuit filed on the same day also questions the governor’s removal of board members and claims the board itself violated the state Sunshine Law by handling related issues in closed session.

Since July 31, Greitens, a Republican, has appointed three people to a single seat representing the 7th Congressional District on the state school board. Greitens unilaterally removed first Melissa Gelner of Springfield and then Tim Sumners of Joplin, her replacement, from the board after each refused to support his plan to fire Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven.

However, state law prohibits the governor from removing a state school board member absent charges of wrongdoing and a hearing thereon. Greitens didn’t follow that law in removing either Gelner or Sumners. In his lawsuit, Sumners alleges that he and not his replacement, Jennifer Edwards of Springfield, is the lawful board member from the 7th District. Gelner has not filed suit challenging her removal.

In the second lawsuit, Springfield teacher Laurie Sullivan claims the removals of both former board members were illegal and further argues Edwards was illegally sworn in during a closed board meeting. Under Missouri’s Sunshine law, public governmental bodies face tight restrictions on actions that can be taken in closed session, and swearing in a new member doesn’t appear to fall under any of the statutorily authorized reasons for a secret meeting.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem was scheduled to hear both cases on Nov. 30. Expedited action was necessary to address who is legally entitled to the disputed board seat since the board was scheduled to meet on Dec. 1.