Twenty-six Missourians appointed by the governor to serve on a state board or commission are awaiting state Senate confirmation. Those appointments include Robert Knodell, the acting director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, and Paula Nickelson, the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services.
But since the legislative session began, a super minority of further right-leaning Conservatives has delayed a variety of business, including these appointments. Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said that things could get tough if something is not done this week.
“The possibilities if we, you know, get up into a deadline would be, you know, we aren’t able to take action on them,” Rowden said. “If that doesn’t happen, then they are permanently banned from being able to serve in that capacity, which, to your point, would be incredibly harmful for DHSS and DSS with department heads who are there, have been serving, have been doing that.”
But Rowden said there is one workaround to this week’s deadline.
“The governor could withdraw them,” Rowden said. “We would have to approve that withdraw and could reappoint them and then their clock would basically start over, and we’d have to approve them by the end of the regular session.”
The small faction of lawmakers, known as the Missouri Freedom Caucus, has pledged to block confirmation until their its priorities pass through the chamber. A top priority is changes to voter-approved initiative petitions.
Rowden said that if someone is in an acting role, the person gets to serve.
“One key difference would be if they are withdrawn, right now, if you are appointed in an interim capacity, you get to continue to serve,” he said. “So, Robert Knodell, Director Knodell, Paula Nickelson, they have been serving in that capacity because they are interim appointments.”
If the appointments are withdrawn and are brought back as an appointee during the regular session, they would not be able to serve until they receive senate confirmation.
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