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Senate bill targets Greitens’ appointments to state boards and commissions

File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens

The Missouri Senate is weighing a bill that would revoke the governor’s ability to appoint and remove people at will from state boards and commissions.

The measure would require the governor to notify the Senate in writing of any appointments made while the legislature is not in session, bar appointees from being sworn in until the Senate has been notified, and bars the governor from withdrawing appointees if he doesn’t like their decisions as board members.

It would also specifically change the appointment process for the State Board of Education – no more than two members of the board can be classified as independent when it comes to political party affiliation. Current law requires that the number of Democrats and Republicans on the State Board be a roughly even number. Swearing-in ceremonies for new appointees would have to be open to the public, and could only be conducted by the education board’s president or vice president.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, who presented it Wednesday before the Senate committee on government reform.

“This bill makes sure that if someone is appointed by the governor during the interim, and they’re sworn in, that they have the opportunity to serve and make votes and decisions based upon their own understanding of the information before them and their own conscience, without fear of retribution or being removed from that board,” he said.

Otto Fajen, left, testifies in favor of SB 794. At center is the sponsor, Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, and at right is Matt Michelson of the Missouri State Teachers Association.
Credit Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Otto Fajen, left, testifies in favor of SB 794. At center is the sponsor, Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, and at right is Matt Michelson of the Missouri State Teachers Association.

Romine filed the bill after Greitens removed and resubmitted five appointees to the State Board of Education who voted to fire former education commissioner Margie Vandeven, and the more recent resignation of Greitens’ three nominees to the Missouri Housing Development Commission after they voted to cut off low income housing tax credits for 2018.

Otto Fajen of the Missouri National Education Association testified in favor of the bill.

“The process for the appointment should be by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate,” he said. “From our perspective, Senate Bill 794 comes in and really clarifies and stabilizes that process to make sure that that second part of the process, the advice and consent of the Senate, is critically involved in the vetting and ultimately the appointment and work of state board members.”

Matt Michelson with the Missouri State Teachers Association also wants the bill to become law.

“Our teachers work hard to collaborate with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” he said. “I think this bill adds some transparency and some certainty for them that when they’re working with DESE on work groups or other projects, that their voice gets all the way to the board, and they actually know who those board members are going to be.”

No one testified against the proposal, and no action was taken on it by the committee Wednesday. The governor’s office has not responded to requests for comment.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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