A bumpy rollercoaster ride that has turned Missouri politics upside down this year will come to an end on Friday. During a last-minute press conference on Tuesday at the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Governor Eric Greitens announced that his 17-month tenure will be over at 5 p.m. on June 1.
Greitens, once considered a prospect for President of the United States, faces a litany of accusations involving a 2015 affair, misuse of a charity donor list to bankroll his campaign and allegedly hiding foreign campaign donations. His resignation does not mean he’s out of the woods with his legal battles. It means a Missouri House committee will stop investigating him and potentially uncovering more accusations.
When Greitens steps down on Friday, what’s next for state government? Lt. Governor Mike Parson, a fellow Republican, will become Missouri’s 57th governor when he takes the oath of office shortly after Greitens’ departure. Parson will have a massive undertaking to attack head-on when he assumes the role as the state’s chief executive officer.
In a press release, Parson says Greitens’ decision to step aside will allow the state to heal and move forward. He goes on to say that he’s ready to fulfill the duties of the office with honor and integrity.
Greitens ran on a platform of “ending corruption in Jefferson City” and as a political outsider, not a “career politician”. Parson, a former Polk County sheriff, will likely deal with explaining to Greitens’ base that a new sheriff is in town and his intentions to restore order.
A critical step is putting his team in place. Parson will be moving from an office of a few staff members to a supersized staff of lawyers, aides, political advisors, security, assistants, etc. As he forms his group, some Missourians might wonder if Parson will keep key staffers in the current Governor’s Office who are tied to a man facing so much controversy. Retaining them might lead some to wonder how such a move would reflect on his office.
Another top item on Parson’s to-do list will be to analyze legislation passed this year that will be headed to his desk soon. He will need staffers who can help him to examine the bills.
The Missouri Legislature passed 144 proposals during the regular session. Parson doesn’t have much time. House and Senate leadership will sign legislation today. Parson will have a limited number of days to sign or veto the measures or they will automatically become law at the end of August.
Looking over the legislature’s proposed $29 billion state budget will be no small task. Other GOP-friendly legislation passed this session includes a corporate income tax reduction, tightening restrictions on liability lawsuits and a partial repeal of the states prevailing wage law.
During the initial stages, Parson could also look to fill panel vacancies, including on the Missouri Board of Education and the Missouri Housing Development Commission. Greitens stacked both of these panels with controversial appointees who would agreed with his agenda.
Once Parson gets through some of these initial hurdles, he can begin working on his long-term plans. Parson, a third-generation farmer and an Army veteran, is expected to take a natural interest in helping Missouri’s agriculture industry, law enforcement and military, among other things.
Whether Parson’s current position will be vacant the next two years is unknown.
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