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Nonstop November Action: Winners and Losers

November is typically a sleepy month in off-year Missouri politics, but not in 2017. Normally there are only a few weeks between the end of the Cardinals season and the pre-filing of bills. However, as October is silent for yet another year, it seems that the entire state is restless from unfilled days making for one of the most eventful Novembers in recent memory. 

Those who came out with a winning November

  • Tony Messenger – No one has ever worked harder from the 4th estate to affect a policy change than he worked to end rural Missourah’s portion of the state LIHTC program. His columns led to the editorial page following suit, and then the news sections all combined in unison ravaging the program. It makes sense that a Governor who lived 30 blocks from the Post-Dispatch offices would be the one to have taken his lead, it’s just curious that it was one who got elected on the same party line as Reagan and Ashcroft who created the program would be the to do it. 
  • Teachers, School Boards, & Administrators – Boy, I tell ya’ – what a mess on that DESE board. There are a lot of good folks who support the school choice argument, but, golly, it seems that the Governor is having the darnedest time finding five folks to go about it his way. The cycle seems that the Governor appoints someone he claims is a fine upstanding Missourian of sound judgment and character, then the educators make their case for the current commissioner, and that person agrees with the educators, the Governor pulls them and the entire messy embarrassing process starts again. 
  • Senator Gary Romine – For a senator in a leadership race, this DESE issue is a golden opportunity to defend the Senate’s role in confirming administration appointees and show that he is tough enough to make a stand. The real question may be whether he decides to focus on this fight or become spread out on too many issues.
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Perhaps more important for the state is after the real stroke an influence the state’s largest mainstream media outlet had on the Governor in the LIHTC debate. Today you can criticize but you cannot deny the influence of the traditional media, including and, especially, in this case, the Post-Dispatch. Bureaucrats may enjoy tweeting that the mainstream media is irrelevant, that is right up until a big city newspaperman like Tony Messenger showers them in tweets of praise, then those “like” buttons light up like an east coast bureaucrat on Missouri employees payday.
  • Senator Bill Eigel – Is there anything weaker than the Republicans who claim to want to cut government while they’re running and do the ol’ Republican three-step of waste, fraud, and abuse when they get elected? Well, the Senator from St. Charles County actually produced a real plan that can be debated, amended, supported, or opposed, but actually could become law. Hopefully, it gets plenty of debate next session. 
  • St. Louis and Kansas City – Some that didn’t attend the MHDC meeting have alleged that this was the end of tax credits, but they ain’t real keen on math figures. There will be tax credits in Missouri, millions of them in fact, but now they will only be spent in urban communities. Now, mind you, they will be cheaply built and poorly maintained. This will be a windfall for inner cities. I can’t quite recall – where is that outside-y Gub’ner from again?
  • New House Floor Leader Rep. Rob Vescovo – Both him and his team at Palm Strategies were confident during the entire race, but it still came as a surprise to many when he won the hard-fought race. It’s clear that a lot of legislators were drawn to his message of a tougher stance from the House. What remains to be seen is if he takes the easy route of beating up on the three-and-a-half dozen House Democrats or takes the much tougher path of reclaiming some of the House’s relevance from the 2nd floor. 
  • Graves Garrett Law Firm – If the trend continues, employees and direct kin of their law firm could hold literally every appointment to every board in the state. Some will say “you ignorant hillbilly, a lot of those boards require someone from every congressional district.” Well, I recon Dexter, Crystal City, Bellefontaine Neighbors, Tuscumbia, and Shell Knob would welcome a local Graves Garrett office. 
  • Senator-elect Mike Cierpiot – Sometimes the good guys win, and by any account, Mike Cierpiot is one of the good guys. Look for him not to need too much time to get up to speed in the upper chamber. However, it’s a dramatic change from being the man who decides what time adjournment is in the house to meeting quorum calls during filibusters in the senate. 
  • REMI Corporation – The left-wing Massachusetts Corporation has been sucking rural  Missouri tax dollars to the east coast for decades, and REMI has been selling administrations a pig in a poke just as long. As the Governor pronounced victory for St. Louis and Kansas City just to put a little salt in the wound, he even quoted some of those east coast pencil whipped stats. You wonder why east coasters like those folks a REMI or them hipsters at Saturday Night Live look down on us and mock us? It’s because we let ’em and in this case were payin’ ’em to do it. 
  • House Budget Chair Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick – It’s nice to see that doing a really good job still matters in Missouri politics. His stock has skyrocketed this session and many attribute it to doing his homework, working hard, and having a backbone, you know the Missourah way. You wonder how much money REMI and metal detectors get this year…
  • The Kansas City Star – Any time you have the Governor of the state making Facebook posts complaining about your coverage, it’s a good thing.
  • Governor Eric Greitens – Yes, he has made a mess of the DESE board, but he really wasn’t around the state much in November anyway. The honest truth is he may have to go through a good part of the state’s 6 million Missourians, but surely he will find five to go along with him. I think when you look past the failures, most agree that a Governor should have his own person in the job – after all, he will be judged on the performance of the schools, but many don’t believe that he truly believes in his cause as much as he is doing the bidding of Washington interests (Washington D.C. not Washington County, Missouri). If they did, this likely would have been relatively easy to do. On the other hand it makes sense that he would in fact believe in killing LIHTC, building more Pruitt-Igoes in St. Louis and less Vine Street Apartments in Poplar Bluff is the right course for the state. However, if these moves did have widespread support, would his board members have to scramble to inflict his policies before they are submitted to the senate for confirmation? He may have had a bad November, but he will most likely see wins in December. However, 12:00 p.m. January 3rd is coming….
  • Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard – Speaking of 12:00 p.m. January 3, the champion of out-state Missourah will be heading up Highway 44 before long. Now some folks might suggest that he had a bad November, after all the Governor stuck it straight in the eye of the Senate trying to cram boards and have them enact major changes in state policy before submitting them for confirmation. Some may think it’s quite insulting to nominate a prominent constituent of the Pro Tem of the Senate and not even bother to call him about it. Others might assume it quite the snub to next humiliate that constituent for not following orders. Ya, you might think those blatant signs of disrespect and belittling by the St. Louis Governor would make for shabby November for Joplin’s favorite son. However, it’s this ol’ hillbilly’s thought that these type insults and of mockery of the senate won’t be taken lying down by the man who has upheld the traditions and customs of this state more than anyone else over the last 15 years. The government and the state that some enjoy taking to Facebook to ridicule has a lot of Senator Richard’s mark on it, and it won’t surprise many if come January he decides to lead the charge defending it. Say maybe an 8:00 a.m. January 4 Gubernatorial Appointments Committee meeting, I hear the chairman of that committee is a hell of a bowler. 

Those who had a bit tougher November

  • The Missouri State Senate – In a system that is set up with three equal branches of government, it’s designed to see friction between the branches, keeps the radicals at bay. However, it’s new to see this level of disdain for the Senate by the Governor. It’s a deviation from the traditions and customs of the state to stack the commissions with appointees and attempt to rush major policy changes through before the state Senate has the opportunity to confirm their appointments. The Governor has backed even his supporters in the Senate into a corner of either being complete functionaries with no regard for the Senate or choose to stand up for the Senate opposing nominees they would have otherwise supported. There is a sycophant caucus in the Senate, but if they are complicit in a direct end run around the Senate, then they truly are what their detractors allege, just House members with bigger offices. 
  • Rural Missourah – Big defeat handed down with the gutting of the Missouri’s rural LIHTC program. It’s all well and good for big city think tanks to publish fancy reports and east cost number schemes to get what they want, but in the real world there is an actual effect on people’s lives and communities. In this case, without the state credits, the LIHTC program will be urban only. While there won’t be any more LIHTC projects like the one that recently opened in Senator Schatz’s district in Washington, Missouri, you will see new Greitens-Igoes built on Washington Avenue in St. Louis. 
  • That Out-of-State Guy Who Wants to Run DESE – You have to assume that eventually even if it has to wait til June the Governor will ultimately fire the incumbent commissioner at some point. One of the things that has been lost in this debate is that many people earnestly believe in school choice as the right thing to do for the state’s students, and these DESE commissioners are some of the good people who are among them. Most of them claim that they are not lemmings sitting in seats while on what is supposed to be an independent commission taking orders from the Governor.  However, if they do fire Vandeven only to hire the person that was flown in a few weeks ago before the Senate can fulfill their constitutional duty to decide on their appointments, that argument won’t hold water, and they’ll be remembered as the five dwarfs as long as this drama is remembered. 

If you have time tune into This Week in Missouri Politics Sunday, we will be joined by former Governor Jay Nixon.