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This Week in the Governor’s Office: Week of June 26

   

Gov. Eric Greitens received widespread and bipartisan praise for an initiative he announced Thursday that will look to overhaul the state’s prison system. Greitens created the new Justice Reinvestment Task Force that will look to better the state’s embattled correctional system while also trying to find ways to reduce recidivism.

“Tonight, a young man will leave a prison in Missouri. He will grab what he brought with him, step outside a chain-link fence, and go back to his old neighborhood,” Greitens said in an accompanying statement. “He doesn’t know what to do. He has no job. He has no money. So he will do what he did before he went to prison. And odds are, he’ll end up right back in prison.

“Here’s what should happen. In prison, that young man learns a trade. He goes to a program to help him become a better father. Faith leaders teach him right and wrong. He works hard, stays out of trouble, and earns his GED.”

Greitens also credited his appointed Director of Corrections, Anne Precythe, with working in her first five months on the job to change the culture of the department. A House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Jim Hansen met often this year in response to allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse from corrections staff towards prisoners and between staff themselves.

The response for the new task force was overwhelmingly positive on social media, but the governor did not have as much luck with his first veto.

Greitens sent a measure that would fund upgrades to the University of Missouri-Kansas City conservatory back to the General Assembly Wednesday, calling it money for “dancers and art students.”

“Politicians are addicted to spending your money,” Greitens said in a Facebook post. “This year, they passed a bill that would put taxpayers on the hook for over $75 million to build and run a conservatory for dancers and art students. I’m vetoing the bill, and I’m ready to fight them on this. They had no plan for who would pay the bills—about $55 million in state debt and interest and $20 million in operating costs. Worse, this spending was hidden in the budget at $1 because politicians were ‘borrowing’ the money.”

The project was heavily supported by the General Assembly and passed through both chambers with veto-proof majorities. When Sen. Mike Kehoe, who carried the bill to enable the funding, said it was a smart fiscal move because the project would be state owned and private-sector donors had already put forth almost $50 million to help fund the project.

The governor also celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Trinity Lutheran case, which found the Department of Natural Resources had improperly discriminated against a Columbia, Mo. church for a grant program to install new mulch in their preschool playground. DNR claimed it could not give Trinity the grant because it was a religious institution, but the court ruled otherwise because the grant would not fulfill a religious purpose.

“The Supreme Court decided that people of faith should not be discriminated against,” Greitens said. “Missouri is home to many excellent religious organizations that serve our kids, our families, and our communities. We will continue to work together with these organizations to help the people of Missouri.”