On the 76th day of his short tenure as governor, Eric Greitens signed Rep. Kevin Corlew’s expert witness standards bill that would move Missouri to the Daubert standard as opposed to its current statutory standard. It was a key tort reform measure Greitens mentioned in his State of the State address in January, near the beginning of his term. The signing indicates the governor looks well on his way to accomplishing some of the goals he campaigned on, though others have continued to elude him.
Greitens has signed only three pieces of legislation in fewer than three months in the executive role, and each one has shown a commitment to a different part of the Republican platform as well as his own campaign promises. His signature on right-to-work legislation struck a massive blow to the state’s union community on the pretense it will invite bring jobs and companies to the state as it comes into effect. The Daubert standard bill was opposed by the state’s trial attorneys, but corporate defense lawyers said the change was necessary to remove a costly part of the legal process that could also dissuade businesses from investing in the state. The third bill, from the desk of Rep. Don Rone, should put more teeth into laws designed to prevent illegal pesticide spraying. It sped through the General Assembly quickly and was signed by Greitens with the same haste, despite most of the state’s agricultural groups endorsing his opponent, former Attorney General Chris Koster, during the campaign.
— Eric Greitens (@EricGreitens) March 31, 2017
On top of those pieces of legislation, Greitens has signed executive orders instituting a paid family leave policy for some parts of the executive branch, banned lobbyist gifts to members of his staff, and put in place a dictum where members of his staff cannot leave and then return to lobby in the name of private interests.
In those respects, Greitens has accomplish a great deal in his first 80 or so days in office, but there’s plenty still to be done, especially on perhaps his largest plank of his campaign’s platform – ethics reform. However, many legislators have discussed their own meetings with the Governor about ethics, making it clear it is still in the forefront of the Capitol’s mind.
Greitens ascended to office on the promise of his status as a political outsider. He had never held public office and the scandals, both real and purported to have gone on in Jefferson City, gave him an opportunity to differentiate himself from Koster, who had worked on both sides of the aisle in the Capitol for more than two decades. So, he promised large ethics reforms, ranging from term limits on all statewide offices, a lobbyist gift ban, among some other changes.
Lobbyist gift ban stumbling in Senate again?
So far, Rep. Justin Alferman’s lobbyist gift ban bill has yet to leave the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee, chaired by Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe. Greitens said in a press availability Tuesday that he was eager to sign such legislation, but did not comment if he was frustrated that Alferman’s bill had not left committee after nearly two months.
“I’m excited to work with Senate and House leaders to make sure we get our entire ethics package done,”
Kehoe also said the bill was a priority of his, but the committee was still attempting to work out the kinks on the bill to make sure they was not any kind of “gotcha” language in the bill.
“The problem with the gift ban is you had members worried they’re doing something that they thing is alright, like lunch at a rotary club or breakfast with the Cattleman’s Association, and all of a sudden that’s seen as a gift because one of the guys is a lobbyist,” Kehoe said.
The Senate failing to find compromise on a lobbyist gift ban would be nothing new. The body failed to reach a compromise last year, and Greitens’ predecessor, Gov. Jay Nixon, frequently lamented the lack of ethics reform legislation reaching his desk, including a lobbyist gift ban bill. On the eve of Nixon’s final legislative session last year, he called for any change to get out of the Senate.
“When the public demands something for a number of years, a response by those that are in elected office to that, even if it doesn’t get the full loaf, if it moves forward, is important,” Nixon told the Associated Press last May. “So I would really like to see them get something done in that.”
Democrats, led by Minority Whip Kip Kendrick, have also attempted pushing a set of bills based on Greitens campaign promises, but they have languished in a House committee since they were heard in early February.
However, some have questioned Greitens’ tough stance on ethics, considering a lack of transparency from his campaign on historic multi-million dollar donations. His office has also declined to release a full list of donors who contributed to his inaugural festivities, and a new PAC opening its doors in Jefferson City is set up in a way that it does not have to disclose the names of its donors as well. He has also thus far had a frosty relationship with the Capitol press corps; members of his staff typically block members of the corps after events in the Capitol and full-fledged open question press availabilities have been rare. But that relationship may thaw, if he continues to answer questions on a range of policies as he did Tuesday.
Regardless of those concerns, the early expectation of Greitens’ first year in office being impactful has largely come true already – which would have been true if all he had signed was right-to-work – and with a wide range of bills expected to hit his desk in the next six weeks, he’s poised to have a massively successful first year in office.
Days in office
Executive orders signed
Times met with President Donald Trump