September 2, 2014

Bill for filling of statewide office vacancies sent to Senate

For the fifth straight year the House has passed a proposal to change how vacancies in statewide offices are filled.

Salem representative Jason Smith says his bill would clarify how vacancies in certain statewide offices would be filled.  (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Salem representative Jason Smith says his bill would clarify how vacancies in certain statewide offices would be filled. (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The bill would require openings for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor, state treasurer and U.S. Senator be filled at the next general election after they become vacant.

Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) says she thinks the timing of the proposal is political..

“Most of us read the newspapers or online and we know that our lieutenant governor may be a candidate in (the special election for the 8th District Congressional Seat) therefore leaving a statewide vacancy. It’s pretty odd that we would have this bill at the same time that situation might arise.”

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Jason Smith (R-Salem) tells Newman the idea of the proposal is not new and not just about the possible vacancy at lieutenant governor.

“We’ve passed it four prior years and we’ve passed it numerous times on Senate bills. For you to try to mislead this body to say that we just decided to do it … I think that you need to realize that this is the fifth year this has happened.”

See the legislation, HB 110.

The legislation includes a provision that prevents a person appointed to one of those offices from running for it until after someone else has been elected and served a term. Newman says that’s her biggest issue with the bill.

“We have no elected office right now in the State of Missouri that has those stipulations. We have sincere doubts that this provision is constitutional.”

Smith says the provision is about preventing what he calls the “power of incumbency.”

“It’s just the purpose that a lot of people brought forward in the past, that they felt like an individual being appointed would have an unfair advantage over someone who is running for the position.”

The bill was passed with an emergency clause, meaning it would go into effect immediately if signed by the Governor, but it next goes to the Senate.