The House Elections Committee has approved House House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith’s (R-Salem) proposal that 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. It also would block a temporary office holder appointed by the Governor from running to fill the seat he or she is appointed to fill.
Smith told the Committee, “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.”
Critics say Smith’s bill is politically motivated, aimed at keeping a Democrat Governor, Jay Nixon, from naming the replacement for a Republican Lieutenant Governor, Peter Kinder, who is pursuing the 8th District Congressional Seat being vacated by Jo Ann Emerson. Smith says, not so.
“It’s legal reasons, not political reasons, because the law’s not clear. The law provides in section 105.030 that upon a vacancy of a statewide office, for example Lieutenant Governor, it’s filled by special election, but then the governor of the state is saying that no, he gets to appoint it.”
Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis County) is skeptical.
“I think the public is suspect, too. We talk about transparency and we hear all the time about smaller government. This bill has some elements that are more government.”
Newman was the only “no” vote in the Committee. She believes this bill wouldn’t have been filed if there was not a Democrat in the Governor’s Office.
“I think this issue has arisen because of potential vacancies in the Lieutenant Governor’s office now. That potential has been there for some time and I think if that wasn’t part of the discussion we wouldn’t be pushing this so fast.”
This is Smith’s fifth year to file the bill. He says it’s been changed to address the concerns of Governor Nixon, who vetoed it two years ago.
The bill is scheduled to be heard by the House Rules Committee today. Smith hopes it will be debated on the floor next week.