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Kasten Port Snort Continues; Wieland Weighs In

26 Feb

As I wrote about recently, county councilman/school board member/city administrator Jim Kasten was denied reappointment to the county Port Authority board in December over concerns that serving multiple entities as he does constitutes a conflict of interest. The idea is that situations may arise where the interests of one body are not aligned with those of another. This issue came up again at the January 23 county council meeting, but more on that later.

State senator Paul Wieland introduced a bill on February 21 that directly addresses this issue – SB449. Here is the summary of the bill:

This act specifies that no member of a board of port authority commissioners shall be an employee or independent contractor of a city or county.

Kasten is the city administrator for Herculaneum, and as such this bill would prevent him from being appointed to the JeffCo Port board. Here’s what Wieland said in his weekly newsletter:

“Growing and expanding Missouri Ports are one of my highest priorities. Having had the opportunities to visit ports across our state and nation, I am convinced that limiting the conflict of interest of policies [sic] insiders and bureaucrats will allow Port Authority Boards to make decisions and react to market conditions quicker. The fastest growing and most efficient ports are ones without these conflicts,” said Senator Wieland. “I was impressed by the acumen of our county council that they too recently voted down a nomination to our Jefferson county port authority because they recognized the conflict by having a city administrator reappointed to the board.”

If SB 449 were to become law, it would remove the temptation for future county executives to attempt to appoint any career bureaucrats.

I don’t suspect this bill will go anywhere this session, but it sends a message. Not only one in support of the county council, but in rebuke of county executive Ken Waller, who nominated Kasten for reappointment and continues to support him.

Port Vote Discussed

Several individuals, including some family members, spoke in favor of Kasten being reappointed at the January 23 meeting. A few regular critics of Pevely government showed up to support the council’s decision to not reappoint, as did lawyer Stan Schnaare, who has been involved in several politically-connected legal actions in the county and ran for judge as a Republican in 2012.

Kasten himself also spoke. According to the meeting minutes, “he explained his anger at the December 27th meeting stemmed from sadness and fear, that his feelings were hurt that not one Councilmember called to confer about the appointment and he is now fearful there is no relationship with the people he serves with on the Council.” He stated his desire to stay on the port authority. However, it sounds like this question will not be reopened for consideration.

Waller also mentioned his disapproval for how the vote was handled, and presumably he means how Kasten was not informed beforehand. The council has done this type of thing a few times in the past, and while I agree with them on the principle of this issue, I also agree that council members probably shouldn’t blindside nominees when they are voting against their appointment or reappointment to a board position.

JeffCo Senators Miffed at Governor

7 Feb

Both of the state senators that represent parts of Jefferson County expressed displeasure with Governor Eric Greitens, a fellow Republican, last week.

First, in a spat that got a lot of attention, Greitens ventured over to the Capitol when it looked like the Senate was going to fail to block a pay raise for elected officials that was recommended by a citizen panel. The raises take effect unless the legislature blocks them by a 2/3 vote in each house. So Greitens called GOP senators who were considering a no vote (no to blocking the raise) or a recusal into the office he was occupying to attempt to convince them to stop the pay raise. Senator Paul Wieland, who later said he was leaning towards a no vote at the time, was one who met with the governor. Wieland said the meeting was tense and that the governor tried to intimidate him.

In the end, Wieland and another senator voted no on the issue, but the pay raise was successfully blocked. Afterwards, Greitens took to Facebook to express his displeasure:

greitens-fb

(see the rest of the post here)

On Sunday, Wieland appeared on the TV show “This Week in Missouri Politics” to give his side of the story. He stated that he “does not respond well to pressure;” that he didn’t want to give in because he thought the governor would come back on the next issue and try to twist his arm again. He said he went from leaning towards support for the pay raise before the meeting to being firmly in favor of it after the meeting, because of the governor’s strong attempt to get him to change his vote.

In explaining his position, Wieland said he opposed pay raises the past three years, but that this raise was only 2% for legislators, who now make about $36,000 per year plus $104 per day for expenses. The legislative session lasts from the beginning of January through mid-May, plus a few days of veto session in September. The raise would have given them about $1,800 more in pay and raised per diem to $150. Wieland said that to attract good people to serve in the government, the pay has to keep up.

Wieland said he met with the governor the day after the pay raise vote, and that they are committed to working together going forward.

The Other Senator

Senator Gary Romine was not happy about Greitens’ budget address:

Specifically, Romine did not like the governor’s reference to “career politicians” (a term Greitens uses a lot) in the legislature causing the current Missouri budget crisis. Romine stated that there are no career politicians in the legislature due to term limits, and that the executive and legislative branches are a team and need to respect each other.

All in all, I know the legislative majority is glad to have a GOP governor now, so he can sign the bills they pass rather than veto them. And I think it is good that we have a governor that is engaged with legislators, as opposed to previous governor Jay Nixon’s aloofness. I also think it is good that the governor and legislature are not completely in lockstep; they need to keep each other accountable so bad bills don’t get passed (insert liberal objections here). Greitens clearly feels that passing a pay raise would have been horrible optics amid the state’s current budget situation. There may be more tense moments going forward, but I think legislative-executive relations will be fine and productive.

RTW Roll Call

3 Feb

The Missouri Legislature has passed right to work and sent it to the governor’s desk, where it is sure to be signed. Below I will record the votes of the JeffCo legislative contingent on right to work bills (HB 91 and SB 19). There are no surprises here; everyone voted as expected.

Senators

Wieland – No

Romine – No

Representatives

Gannon – No

Harris – No

McCaherty – No

Roden – No

Ruth – No

Shaul – Yes

Vescovo – Yes

House Bills Sponsored by JeffCo Reps

15 Jan

The Missouri legislative session is underway, and with GOP supermajorities in both houses and a GOP governor, we should expect a lot of big items to be passed in the next few months. I’m going to take a look here at what bills our local representatives are pushing. I will look at the activities of the two state senators that cover Jefferson County in a separate post.

Shane Roden, R, 111th district, Cedar Hill –  He has a bill allowing adult motorcycle riders to go helmetless if they have proof of health insurance (motorcycle helmet freedom is a big issue with him) and another bill concerning firefighters and cancer and hazardous duty. On another interesting note, he is cosponsoring a medical marijuana measure. Roden is a paramedic and firefighter.

John McCaherty, R, 97th, High Ridge – He also has a motorcycle helmet law, but it requires everyone under 21 to wear a helmet, while Roden’s bill only requires helmets for those under 18. McCaherty has a bill regarding custody of in vitro human embryos and one about school library media services programs. He is co-sponsoring a bill to add crimes against police to the hate crimes law.

Rob Vescovo, R, 112th, Arnold – He is the most active local rep as it pertains to bill filing, and has several significant bills. One would require public entities to issue bonds via public sale, or competitive bidding. I wrote here about a state auditor’s report that stated that this change would save Missouri taxpayers millions of dollars by forcing the financial companies that work with public entities to get the best deal on bonds.

Another Vescovo bill would prevent political subdivisions from giving preferential treatment to unionized companies in public construction projects (aka project labor agreements, which drive up costs to taxpayers). This bill was introduced last year but did not come to a vote.

Another bill requires written contracts for school superintendents and assistant superintendents, and limits the amount of  severance pay that these officials can receive. This will stop the outrageous payouts to disgraced superintendents like Fox’s Dianne Critchlow.

Vescovo is also co-sponsoring the hate crimes against police bill, and is cosponsoring a bill to modify rules about expert witness testimony at trial (implementing the Daubert standard).

Dan Shaul, R, 113th, Imperial – No bills at this time.

Becky Ruth, R, 114th, Festus – She is trying again this year to create a Waterways Trust Fund to divert money to ports. She also wants to add two new genetics diseases to newborn screening requirements (she has added other diseases in the past) and add a teacher to the State Board of Education. Finally, she has a bill to create a tax deductible First-time Home Buyer Savings Account. Ruth is a former teacher and a current realtor.

Elaine Gannon, R, 115th, DeSoto – She is sponsoring a resolution urging the creation of a Joachim Creek Joint Task Force to battle repeated flooding in DeSoto, and she has a bill making some minor adds to high school equivalency degree testing programs. Gannon is a former teacher.

Ben Harris, D, 118th, Hillsboro – No bills at this time.

JeffCo Year Ahead

1 Jan

Greetings and Happy New Year. Thank you for checking out this blog on occasion. I thought I would list some of the topics that I’m sure will be discussed on these pages in the coming year.

  • We should get an idea this year whether there will be any justice for Dianne Critchlow, or whether she will walk away scot-free after pillaging the Fox school district. The St. Charles County prosecutor is currently reviewing the case.
  • The detente between Arnold mayor Ron Counts and councilman Phil Amato seems to be over, and they may face off in the April mayoral election. Will police chief Bob Shockey interfere again on Counts’ behalf (he sued Counts’ opponents last time around)? Will Amato have his campaign office inside the Arnold Food Pantry (cans for votes?)? Will someone young jump into the race?
  • It should be a very exciting legislative session starting this week. With Jay Nixon out of the way, the GOP supermajorities can pass right to work and other union bills as well as some need legal reforms without having to worry that Senator Gary Romine (GOP, 3rd district, Farmington), who represents southern JeffCo, will fail to support veto override votes. As usual, I will cover our JeffCo delegation in Jeff City as nobody else does.
  • Speaking of which, I’m sure other issues will arise where I will have to fill the vacuum left by the Leader when it refuses to cover them properly or at all. But it’s a service I am happy to provide.

Let me know in the comments if there are other events you are looking forward to this year, and as always, I welcome your news tips.

 

Big Labor Power Waning in JeffCo

16 Nov

According to liberal Post-Dispatch columnist (is there any other kind)?) Tony Messenger, unsuccessful Missouri Democratic candidate for governor Chris Koster began his election day in Arnold, speaking to union grocery workers.

This is not too surprising, as JeffCo has long been seen as a union stronghold. But the results of Tuesday’s election suggest that those days are in the past.

One of the major issues of the gubernatorial campaign was right to work. GOP candidate Eric Greitens was all for it, while Koster was strongly against it. One would think that this would have made a big difference in our county. But Greitens carried Jefferson County by a 53.6 percent to 42.7 percent margin, even bigger than his statewide 51.3 – 45.4 win.

In local legislative races, two incumbent representatives who have cast votes in favor of right to work were on the ballot. Rob Vescovo, Republican in the 112th district, won a rematch with Robert Butler by a 59.6 percent t0 40.3 percent margin. Two years ago, Vescovo won with 60.0 percent of the vote, so his right to work support had virtually no effect on his margin of victory.

Likewise, Dan Shaul, Republican in the 113th district, won re-election by a 57.8 to 42.1 margin. Two years ago, he received 56.9 percent of the vote against an arguably weaker opponent. His foe this year, Karen Settlemoir-Berg, actually works for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

While most Republican legislators from JeffCo still oppose right to work (RTW), it is clear now that supporting it is not a career-killer for local politicians like it has been perceived to be in the past. But now that Missouri has a Republican governor, only a bare majority in the Legislature, instead of a veto-proof one, will be needed to pass a RTW law. It is likely that, in a few short months, RTW will be passed and signed and will be taken off the table as a political issue.

Some Pre-Election Notes

7 Nov

Here are some things I’ve noticed, heading into tomorrow’s election:

-Trisha Stefanski ran as a Republican in the primary for associate circuit judge, division 13, and was unsuccessful. Now she signs on to a supposedly bipartisan Leader ad endorsing all the county Democrat candidates for judge:

judge-ad2

I understand the ideal that we should vote for the person, not the party, in these judge races, but if Stefanski thinks all the Democratic candidates are better, then one wonders why she ran as a Republican?

-I’ve seen a few ads for Democrat house candidate Karen Settlemoir-Berg on Instagram. It is interesting to see local candidates make use (or not) of social media.

-It doesn’t seem proper for sheriff candidates, and the current sheriff, to appear in uniform in their campaign ads:

meiny

This is Democrat candidate Steve Meinberg, with current sheriff Glenn Boyer. I have also seen GOP candidate Dave Marshak in uniform in his ads, but those photos aren’t plastered all over billboards. Meinberg also claims to have the endorsement of most of the sheriff’s office command staff – but do they really support him, or do they fear for their jobs if he wins and they aren’t on board the bandwagon?

Here is Democrat county assessor candidate Todd Melkus in a campaign photo, presumably in his office with his coworkers (he currently works at the assessor’s office). Again, seems rather inappropriate.

melky

-Democrat house candidate Robert Butler continues to talk about the lawsuit he filed against opponent and incumbent Rob Vescovo, even though he lost. I imagine this is not the first frivolous lawsuit Butler, an attorney, has filed.

-The Leader endorsements were an even split, with 7 GOP candidates getting the nod, including all legislature incumbents, and 7 Democrats selected, including 3 of the 4 judge spots.

judge-ad2

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