JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri state senator Gary Romine has vowed to ensure that Gov. Eric Greitens’ State Board of Education appointees are not allowed to serve, and as the hours tick away for the 2018 legislative session, the senator from St. Francis County is looking to keep the names from being withdrawn.
In a motion made Monday evening, Romine objected to a message from the Governor being read aloud and printed in the Senate journal. That message from the Governor, acknowledging that his appointments would not be confirmed, sought to inform the Senate that the five nominees had withdrawn their names from consideration.
Romine’s motion also asked that the letter be sent back to the Governor, and with no senator challenging the motion, it passed with a voice vote.
Greitens’ controversial nominees for the Board of Education have been a major issue of contention this year, as the five appointees – Eddy Justice, John Russell, Marvin Jungmeyer, Jennifer Edward and Eric Teeman – cast the votes needed to remove Commissioner Margie Vandeven.
The appointees did not need Senate approval before casting those votes, as the legislature was not yet in session, but after the vote, a number of senators made it clear they would not confirm those picks.
That was proven later in the session when the Senate quickly shut down an attempt to bring the confirmation of Eddy Justice on the floor, lasting just 20 minutes before being withdrawn.
If the nominees are not confirmed or withdrawn by the end of the session on Friday, they would, by law, be barred from serving on that board for life, per Article IV, Section 51 of the Missouri Constitution, which states: “If the senate fails to give its advice and consent to any appointee, that person shall not be reappointed by the governor to the same office or position.”
Senate counsel confirms that any ban would only apply to the board to which the appointment was made.
If, however, they are withdrawn, as the Governor hopes, they could potentially be appointed to the same positions at a later time.
Romine’s procedural motion was simply an attempt to reject their withdrawal, which he hopes will prevent Greitens from reappointing them once the legislature breaks after the session. Romine contends that the appointees are in the possession of the Senate, and therefore, cannot be withdrawn without the Senate’s allowing of them to do so.
The Governor’s Office has cited a 1977 opinion signed by Attorney General John Ashcroft as grounds for withdrawing the nominees, but Romine hopes that his move will prevent what would almost assuredly be a major legal battle over whether the appointees had been successfully withdrawn or barred from serving.
Under that opinion, a person who is appointed to a state board during a legislative session “could withdraw himself from consideration by the Senate before the Senate rejects the appointment or fails to approve the appointment” yet still retain the “right to be reappointed” at some other time.
The Board, meanwhile, canceled yet another scheduled meeting, the fifth one now, as the eight-member board lacks a quorum, with just three members serving. Until a quorum is found, they cannot act on any items or decisions.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.