JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – One year has passed since Republican Governor Eric Greitens assumed the mantle of the top executive in the Show-Me State and delivered his first State of the State address.
Taking over the reins from former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, the newcomer delivered a rousing round of promises to Missourians, echoing the very campaign he ran on.
Our goal is to take a look at those promises and evaluate whether the Governor’s goals reached fruition or still seek to cross the finish line. You can read the full State of the State address from last year here.
Ban on lobbyist gifts
What the Governor said: “Last week, I signed an executive order banning gifts from lobbyists to state employees of the executive branch. I think all elected officials should do the same.”
Greitens has continuously pushed a campaign of ethics reform in the State Capitol, and it seemed that, following the House’s passage of a bill banning most lobbyist gifts to elected officials just hours before Greitens’ first address, that such a lofty goal could be within grasp. But the measure stalled in the Senate, along with other ethics reform proposals, leaving this promise on the side of the road in the first year.
Lobbying cooling off period
What the Governor said: In our first executive order, we also slammed shut the revolving door between employees of the Governor’s office and lobbyists. The people in my office come to work knowing they will never be able to lobby our office. I urge the legislature to do the same.
This goal, it seems, is only fair to say it was partially met. While any meaningful legislation addressing such an issue failed to move anywhere, Greitens did impose a cooling off period for those in his office.
Term limits for all statewide officeholders
What the Governor said: “I also call on this legislature to put on the ballot, term limits for every statewide officeholder. I know that the people of Missouri will vote for term limits, and people are counting on us to put an end to politics as a lifelong profession.”
It’s safe to say that this idea was dead in the water from the start. Any legislation on the matter failed to reach the floor in either chamber.
What the Governor said: “The people have sent us a message: We must do everything in our power to put people back to work in good, high-paying jobs. That’s why we must join 27 other states and sign right-to-work.”
As promised, the Republican-led legislature pushed through right-to-work, promptly putting it on the Governor’s desk well before the end of the session, marking a victory against labor unions in Missouri. And while all the criteria indicating that the Governor delivered on his promise seems to be there, it’s also worth noting that, because of the early delivery, right-to-work supporters gave their opposition ample time to mount a counter-attack in the form of an initiative petition. Due to a record number of signatures, right-to-work is set to appear before Missouri voters on the November 2018 ballot.
What the Governor said: “We must repeal our state’s version of the Davis-Bacon Act, which drives up the cost of important construction work that needs to get done. It hurts rural workers. It sets back rural families.”
Prevailing wage proved to be a tough one in 2017, with neither Sen. Dan Brown or Rep. Warren Love’s full repeal bills crossing the finish line. However, legislators are already eyeballing it for 2018.
Project Labor Agreements
What the Governor said: “That’s why we must do away with expensive Project Labor Agreements that drive up the costs of construction and slow down important projects in our communities.”
Sen. Bob Onder championed the bill, which made it to the Governor’s desk, where he promptly signed it into effect.
State workers’ pay
What the Governor said: “Because of this, we are 50th out of 50 in state employee pay. We need to change that. Our government employees do important work—often really important, life-saving work. We need to reward the greatest in government service with better pay.”
Greitens stated in his State of the State address that the state needed to address the fact that the state’s employees are the lowest paid in the nation. But while those in the executive branch now enjoy more time of paternity leave, an executive order that rankled some in the legislature, there has been no movement in terms of a state worker increase.
What the Governor said: “There are some common sense changes we can make to fix this. We need to move to the Daubert standard for expert witness testimony. Right now, our standards are far too low. By moving to the Daubert standard, we’d be adopting the same standards used by the federal government and 39 other states.”
Greitens got his wish with this particular item, replacing the old expert witness standard with the Daubert Standard when he signed Rep. Kevin Corlew’s bill into law in March.
Change joinder and venue
What the Governor said: “We need to change our joinder and venue rules to end these out of state lawsuits.”
This particular issue proved to be one of the most contentious in the legislature, where both of Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer’s HB 462 and 463 stalled. The bills seek to address the issue in St. Louis which was described as the “Number One Judicial Hellhole in the Nation.” But it seems that the issues of joinder and venue require much debate, as well as attention to detail, meaning more time is needed if they are to be addressed.
Missouri merchandising practices act
What the Governor said: “And we must end frivolous lawsuits by reforming the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.”
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard’ SB 5 would have overhauled the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, but in truth, it proved to be one of the biggest headaches for senators in 2017, with multiple media reports and requests for investigations into Richard’s filing of the bill and his connection to Joplin mega-donor David Humphreys. That bill was placed on the informal calendar and never heard from again.
End frivolous regulations
What the Governor said: “We need to end frivolous regulations like these so that our people can start their own businesses and create jobs.”
The Governor ordered every department in the state to review all of their rules and regulations in order to identify areas of unnecessary red tape, and that process is moving its way along, expected to wrap later this year.
Tax code reform
What the Governor said: “Together, with a team of outsiders and legislators, we are going to do a thorough, end-to-end audit of our tax credit system—and create a tax code that works not to benefit privileged insiders, but instead is fair to all.”
The Governor did put together a special task force to look into the state’s tax policy and review tax credits, and a report was issued, but no changes have been made except to withdraw funds to certain tax credit programs within the Missouri Housing Development Commission’s authority.
What the Governor said: “I want to establish a Blue Alert system, so that we can find and bring swift justice to anyone who assaults a law enforcement officer.”
The legislature did allow the Governor to make good on one of his top priorities, the Blue Alert bill, which would create a new notification system to provide citizens with information and alerts when a police officer is injured or killed in the line of duty.
Penalties for assaulting peace officers
What the Governor said: “And my administration will work with this body to pass the toughest laws in the country for anyone who assaults a peace officer.”
Greitens hoped to see a bill pass through allowing for harsher penalties for those who assault officers, but it never made it through the legislature.
Expanded access programs
What the Governor said: “We need to expand course access programs, so that every child in Missouri can use technology to get the education they need.”
Multiple pieces of legislation exist in the Senate that would have accomplished this, but nothing substantial came about. The most notable of these would have been Sen. Gary Romine’s SB 327, which would create more provisions for virtual education and increase course access.