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Senate filibusters the withdrawing of Greitens’ appointees

Nasheed, Schaaf, and Romine lead efforts to deny the return of MHDC appointments

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. –  “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.” -Walter Scott, Marmion

Those were the words that stood out in the mind of Sen. Bob Dixon when discussing the matter of what should be done with Governor Eric Greitens’ withdrawn appointments on Wednesday evening.

Following the news that the Governor had withdrawn three of his appointments, Craig Porter, Alan T. Simpson, and John P. Scariot, to the Missouri Housing Development Commission, members of the Senate rose with concern.

Those three men had been named to the MHDC shortly before the Governor led a vote to end the issuance of low-income housing tax credits.

Five names were sent to the Senate to be withdrawn, but Sen. Jamilah Nasheed motioned to separate the three from the other two and send back the other two.

What to do with Porter, Simpson, and Scariot became the central issue of the night, with the senators airing their grievances against the Governor and his tactics in appointing nominees.

The debate centered around whether to send the names back to Greitens or hold the names. If the names were sent back, Greitens would be able to appoint the nominees again as soon as the legislative session ended. However, if the Senate did not send the names back…

“If you adopt her amendment, you ban these people for life,” Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said. “I think if the Governor decides to pull someone back, that’s their purview. There have been issues at MHDC for some time, and there’s been a lot of chatter, I would ask that people coming before Gubernatorial Appointments not be banned for life.”

Sen. Rob Schaaf said that allowing the names to return to the Governor was “totally unacceptable.”

“We cannot trust him. If we send these names back, he’ll do exactly what you expect,” Schaaf said.  he will wait and put them right back in for seven months. And these people are not acceptable.”

One of the arguments making the case to return the names was that “it’s hard to find people to serve in these positions.”

Sen. Gary Romine argued that the people chosen had proven themselves to be unfit, and said that the Governor had demonstrated a “pattern here that we cannot trust.”

He spoke to his colleagues about a bill he has filed, SB 794, which he said would go a long way “to correct the abuses of this Governor of appointing and removing people.”

That bill would change several things regarding the processes of making appointments:

It would require the Governor to inform the Senate, in writing, of any appointments made while the legislature is not in session, and states that no appointee can be sworn in until that notification would be made. It also states that the Governor cannot withdraw or rescind that appointment except for charges of malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance in office.

It also makes modifications to the State Board of Education, stating that at no time will more than two members be classified as “independent.”

It requires that each member of the Board be sworn in during open session, and that to establish a quorum, there must be five members who have “received the advice and consent of the Senate”, and that no official actions may be taken unless a majority of such votes therefor.

It also repeals a provision authorizing the Governor to make a temporary appointment to the Board if a vacancy arises while the legislature is not in session.

In the event that the Board cannot act, the State Treasurer would distribute funds and appropriations to school districts as necessary. That bill is expected to be taken up next week.

Romine has been a vocal opponent of the events leading to the ousting of former Commissioner Margie Vandeven, saying that he would filibuster these appointments.

“Fifteen minutes of decision making cost her the job,” Romine said.

The months since that act have only served to strengthen his resolve.

“They should be able to make votes of their own conscience. The only recourse we have is to have consequences,” he said. “If we’re going to be the ones to make the hard decisions, he is the one responsible for putting them in this position. There’s going to be collateral damage here, and I’m sorry.”

After a few hours of debate, Sen. Richard withdrew his original underlying motion and moved that the two other names be sent to the Governor. That motion passed, and he then moved that the other three be sent to the Governor.

“I object,” Nasheed said.

Richard’s actions basically passed what Nasheed had proposed, as Schaaf told her, but the senators continued their filibuster.

“Governor, if you’re listening, send us a letter with your signature on it and your letter promising you won’t appoint these people,” Schaaf said.

After more discussion, Nasheed moved that the withdrawn appointments be returned to the Governor at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, which would be the deadline.

“I would ask you defeat this motion, all it does it ban these people for life,” Richard said.

At roughly 8:20, more than three hours after the filibuster began, Richard again withdrew his motion.

The Senate then moved to reports from standing committees.

At 9:08 p.m., the Senate voted 22-10 to appoint J. Benton Hurst to the Missouri Clean Water Commission, and later approved the appointment of Tim Noonan to the Missouri Veterans Commission before adjourning at 10 p.m.