Monday, June 19, 2017
Kansas City Democrat: Greitens calling expensive special sessions to promote his political career
I’m pretty certain that those who are reading this are aware of Governor Greitens’ affection for calling special sessions as a way to elevate his ongoing campaign for his political career, and to attempt to shame and punish those who disagree with him. Now, a bipartisan group of senators is seeking an investigation of the Governor.
Four Republican and two Democratic senators filed a resolution on June 12, seeking an investigation into Republican Gov. Eric Greitens for possible ethical – and potentially criminal – violations relating to his campaign’s procurement and use of the donor list from a non-profit organization Greitens founded.
On April 28, Greitens admitted to violating state campaign finance laws by failing to disclose his campaign’s use of a donor list from The Mission Continues, a charity for aiding former veterans that Greitens ran until his run for governor. Greitens’ campaign was fined $1,000 by the Missouri Ethics Commission and amended its campaign finance reports to claim the donor list as an in-kind contribution from the charity.
How Greitens’ campaign obtained the donor list remains unclear. If The Mission Continues gave it to Greitens, it would forfeit its tax-exempt status under federal law. A spokeswoman for The Missouri Continues told The Kansas City Star that it didn’t provide the list to Greitens or his campaign. However, if the campaign didn’t obtain the list with permission, the only alternative explanation appears to be that it was stolen.
The Senate resolution would establish a five-member committee to investigate the matter, with full power to subpoena witnesses and records. While Senate Republican leaders said the measure won’t advance during the current special legislative session, they left open the possibility of it being considered during next year’s regular legislative session.
Which brings me to my next topic - Special Sessions
GOVERNOR CALLS ANOTHER SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Before even signing the legislation that was passed at the first Special Session in May, on June 7, Governor Greitens called a second special legislative session asking lawmakers to nullify a St. Louis City ordinance prohibiting employment and housing discrimination against women who are pregnant, use contraception or have had an abortion. Greitens, a Republican, also asked lawmakers to impose various new restrictions on facilities that perform abortions.
This Special Session began last week on June 12 and will be continued on into this week. The targeted St. Louis ordinance, which the Board of Aldermen enacted in February, expands the city’s anti-discrimination law to prohibit employers from firing or refusing to hire women because they are pregnant, use contraception or have had an abortion. It also bars such discrimination in housing, including the refusal to rent or sell property to women based on those reproductive decisions. The ordinance includes an exemption for religious organizations. You can view it here if you are interested.
There is so much ridiculousness around this it’s hard for me to know where to start. First of all, the supposed primary purpose of this is to protect women. Again, the St. Louis ordinance prohibits discrimination of women because of their reproductive decisions. Secondly, house members who do not sit on the Children & Family Committee where bills were heard, were not encouraged to attend or paid for their time if they did. So legislators, witnesses and Capitol staff all stopped what they were doing and put in hours of extra work - to be dismissed. Furthermore, the disgusting display of incivility on the part of the Chairwoman toward witnesses and committee members who were opposed was vulgar. Finally, Governor Greitens called this special session on abortion after similar legislation failed to pass during this year’s regular session. I believe this is an abuse of the special session provision, which under the state constitution is only supposed to be invoked on “extraordinary occasions.” Some critics contend the special session is primarily for Greitens to establish political credibility with anti-abortion groups after he was the only one of the four Republican gubernatorial candidates last year who wasn’t endorsed by Missouri Right to Life.
Our State budget is really hurting. We had to make severe cuts that help support some of our most vulnerable. Next year, more tax breaks that were enacted in 2014 will start to kick in leaving us even less to work with. Special legislative sessions cost taxpayers roughly $25,000 for each day both chambers are in full session. Actual costs are less, however, on days when only one chamber meets.
One bit of good news….
GOVERNOR SIGNS REAL ID COMPLIANCE BILL INTO LAW
On June 12, Governor Greitens signed a bill into law that seeks to bring Missouri driver’s licenses into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. Although many states initially resisted the federal law due to privacy concerns, that resistance dwindled to the point where Missouri was one of just four states that still hadn’t complied.
The approval of a REAL ID compliance bill marks a sharp reversal for the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which in 2009 went so far as enacting a statute outright prohibiting state compliance with the federal law, which sets standards for security features on government-issued identification cards.
However, with the federal government warning that as of Jan. 22, 2018, it won’t allow people to use non-compliant state-issued IDs to board commercial aircraft or enter federal facilities, most of the resistance from Republican lawmakers crumbled. With the signing of House Bill 151, it is expected that the federal government will grant Missouri a temporary waiver from the REAL ID requirements to give the state time to implement its new law.