The 2018 Missouri legislative session could start with another showdown between the Republican governor and the GOP-led state Senate.
Governor Eric Greitens used numerous appointments to make changes to several boards last year. Education commissioner Margie Vandeven was fired after he made changes to the state Board of Education.
Republican State Senator Caleb Rowden of Columbia says those appointees probably won’t get confirmed. “That’s going to take up a lot of time,” said Rowden. “I think there are a lot of Senators who are really frustrated. And I think there are some of us who are trying to find paths forward just so we can do what we need to do there, and then move on and start talking about policy.”
All of the governor’s appointees must be confirmed by the Missouri Senate to keep their seats. Rowden spoke with Missourinet affiliate KSSZ. He says legislators did not appreciate the governor’s attempt to supersede the confirmation process.
“I think doing it in a way that alienates folks, now, probably those appointees are D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival). They’re not going to get through. You’ve got to go back to the drawing board, as far as appointees, just to even get a quorum on the state Board of Education.”
Greitens had been working for several months to select members to the board that were willing to terminate Vandeven. Rowden thinks the governor should get the education commissioner he wants, but he disapproves of the way the changes were made.
“The way that they did it was, kind of, outside the bounds of what I think is acceptable for the Senate,” Rowden said. “There are going to be consequences for that.”
A bill has already been filed by Republican Senator Gary Romine of Farmington to place restrictions on how the governor appoints and replaces members of boards.
It requires the Governor to inform the Missouri Senate, in writing, of any appointments to state boards or commissions made while the legislature is not in session. Once an appointee is designated, the Governor is prohibited from withdrawing or rescinding the appointment, unless the appointee is involved in wrongdoing.
The measure also requires that a majority of board members have Senate confirmation in order to conduct business.
Two court motions were filed after Greitens withdrew and replaced some of his appointees to the board who voiced support for Vandeven. Cole County Judge Jon Beetem then denied two temporary restraining orders.
One of the judge’s decision prevented former appointee John Sumners of Joplin from retaining his position on the board. The judge said Sumners’ request to bar his replacement from serving on the board would have to be submitted by the Attorney General or an elected county official.
A second lawsuit was filed by Springfield teacher Laurie Sullivan against the board about whether the panel going into closed session last week and making decisions or votes about who should be on the board was done in a legal manner.
Senator Romine told Missourinet that language in his bill could be revised after the judge issues a final decision in the lawsuits, but said lawmakers need to make sure the integrity of state boards is protected.
Governor Greitens has said Commissioner of Education Vandeven needed to be replaced because of what he considers to be poor student academic achievement.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Greitens’ campaign committee paid Kenneth Zeff to visit Missouri in early August. Zeff, of Atlanta, is a charter school advocate with more than a decade of work in education. The two were in the same class of White House fellow under the George W. Bush administration.
There are questions about whether Zeff would meet the employment requirements of the commissioner job. According to Ed Counsel Law firm in Columbia, he does not appear to have the qualifications.
After the Board of Education voted to fire Wandeven as commissioner, the governor said its action meant kids, teachers and families had won. He said it took a major step in the right direction to improve public education.