House freshmen call for changes to special election law

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Jay Nixon called for special elections to fill the seats of three House vacancies yesterday, but not everyone in the General Assembly commended the governor for doing his job.

Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, tweeted this morning that the districts which will hold the special elections will not need to wait more than a year to fill the vacant seats, a fresh change to many after the recent longstanding vacancies in the General Assembly.

Jason Chipman, R-St. James, responded. Last legislative session, Chipman sponsored H.B. 1191, a bill which would have mandated that the governor set a date for a special election within 30 days of a seat becoming vacant.

Unfortunately for the freshman representative from Steelville, his unfamiliarity with the process in the Capitol led him to file this bill too late in the process for it to make meaningful progress in the General Assembly.

“I’m pre-filing it this year,” he said. “I want to make sure it gets heard early.”

He said the day the bill was heard, Rep. Sue Entlicher, R-Bolivar, admonished him for not introducing it sooner.

Chipman
Chipman

Chipman says the impetus behind the legislation came when his own district, District 120, went without representation for about 15 months after the former representative from that district, Jason Smith, was elected to Congress. He researched House and Senate vacancies and found that both Gov. Nixon and his predecessor, Gov. Matt Blunt, took an inordinate amount of time filling those seats.

The representative noted that the seats currently being filled are in uncontested districts for the most part, naming former Rep. Noel Torpey’s seat as the only one that either a Democrat or a Republican had a good chance of winning.

“I don’t believe that representation should be a political decision,” Chipman said. “I don’t think that we deserve any less.”

Dogan also dismissed the idea that open seats had anything to do with politics. He noted that Nixon could have jumped on the opportunity to reclaim a seat in the house for the Democrats after Torpey’s departure by announcing a special election as soon as possible.

“It would have helped his party, if anything,” Dogan said. “It’s bad government, it’s a lack of leadership. He just drags his feet on these things, and I think that shows a disregard for Missourians who want representation at all levels.”