Monday, November 13, 2017

Q&A#1: What’s Driving Today’s Floor Leader Vote?

Short answer: Three things: personality, personality, personality.


Today the House Republicans will caucus, and elect a new floor leader to replace Mike Cierpiot, who won the Senate 8 special election last week.

The two vying for the position – Reps. Kirk Mathews and Rob Vescovo – are both very conservative.  No one I spoke to could name a serious policy difference between them.  Instead the race seems to be about personality and imagining how each will play the leadership position.

Even “personality” is not an easily discernable feature. There’s a caricature of Vescovo as “young and hard-charging” and Mathews as “mature.”  But the truth is they’re not so different.  They’re both ambitious, and energetic. And while Mathews is known as a “nice guy,” he’s had his moments of passion on the floor – particularly working the Uber/Lyft bill.


Remember: the team of Speaker Todd Richardson and Cierpiot has been the exception in recent history for lacking any drama.  Pretty much every pairing before has had tensions.  The most polite floor leaders in the past have simply said “I’d be doing things differently” or “I will be doing things differently.”  But more often floor leaders have actively undermined the speaker, their staff leaking items to the press, snarky asides to other legislators and lobbyists.


One building denizen agrees we’ll be seeing more light between the speaker and floor leader in 2019 and especially 2020.  But he doesn’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.  A floor leader carving out his own power base can be an extra “stopping point” to kill bad legislation.  It can act as a counter-balance to insure compromise. When it comes to the end-of-session tug-of-wars and games-of-chicken between the House and Senate, it offers the possibility of playing “good cop, bad cop.”


For those who need to know before everyone else… I can’t help you.  As far as I can tell both sides really do think they have the votes to win.  This is a close race.


Sumners Wavers

Post- Dispatch reports that the new Greitens majority on the State Board of Education might have a weak link. Late last week, word spread that the SBOE was planning an emergency meeting to discuss personnel matters.  It was assumed this would be the ousting of Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven to clear the way for Governor Eric Greitens’ chosen successor.

However the Post reports “In an email sent Sunday, John T. “Tim” Sumners asked his colleagues to delay a special meeting… ‘We all know the purpose of the meeting. I am concerned that we are asking a brand new member who has not had the opportunity to learn the workings of the department to vote on an issue of this magnitude,’ he wrote….”

There are two schools of thought on this situation.  One group of folks – as articulated by SBOE President Charlie Shields – sees the state board as deriving their mandate from the constitution, and therefore shouldn’t be mere pawns to shuffle personnel according to the governor’s whim.

The other group argues that principles of democratic accountability mean the governor should be allowed to have his own person running departments.  He’ll face the voters’ ire if things go wrong, so he should have some measure of control.

Regardless of where you stand on that issue, you got to wonder: who the heck is vetting these folks for the governor?  This series of fumbling appointments doesn’t inspire confidence in the governor’s ability to manage anything – much less the state’s public education.

And remember: Timing matters.  The Gov’s office has to get this right soon.  Because once session starts they might lose an appointee or two in the Senate confirmation process.  They need Vandeven out and their person in before January.  Yes, it’s a Republican super-majority Senate, but Greitens isn’t the most popular person in the building.  And Senate tradition allows senators to veto a nominee from their district.


Opioids Deaths > Cars Deaths

Columbia Tribune reports an astounding factDeaths from opioid overdose could reach a grim milestone this year in Missouri as narcotic fatalities appear likely to exceed those from traffic accidents for the first time in official state statistics. In 2016, the Department of Health and Senior Services recorded 908 opioid overdose deaths and the Missouri State Highway Patrol catalogued 947 traffic fatalities. Through Aug. 31, the death toll from opioids stood at 733 and the count for traffic fatalities was 591. Both agencies have higher, more recent figures - 22 additional opioid deaths through Oct. 31 and 183 more traffic fatalities through Saturday -- but a comparison is difficult because overdose reporting takes longer to process than traffic data…“We have two phenomenon going on,” [Randall] Williams said Thursday. “In St. Louis we have people dying of fentanyl. In rural Missouri, especially in southeast Missouri, it is the number of prescriptions being filled and the misuse and abuse of oral narcotics.”


Rehder Tells Messenger Her MeToo Story

Tony Messenger writes a gripping lede – “She was 11 when Papa crawled into her bed” – as Rep. Holly Rehder comes forward with her story of childhood abuse.  Read it here.



The movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri opened over the weekend. It stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam RockwellWashington Post named it one of “14 movies to see this holiday season.”  The movie, set in Missouri, was filmed in Asheville, NC.


Ed Martin on Roy Moore’s accuser… “she’s got multiple bankruptcies.” See it here.


Former Rep. Bill Otto on Facebook mulls photodynamic therapy: I'm looking for anyone who has undergone PTD therapy (photodynamic therepy). I am scheduled for this procedure this week and I am nervous. This is where they put a chemical on my face & scalp and then set it on fire with an ultraviolet light. Maybe that's a bit graphic but it is sort of what it is. The website says the basic premise of PDT is "selective tissue destruction" I have horribly dry skin and no amount of salve or cream has had any effect….


Former state senate candidate Caleb Arthur on Facebook sees pot and solar as next cash crops for state revenue:  The state of Missouri has defaulted on millions of dollars in payments to county jails. Why is this allowed to happen? I'm all for tax cuts, but I'm not for pushing the states responsibility to the already cash strapped counties. Maybe fixing our criminal justice system would help some? Get all the non violent drug addicts into rehab and out of jail. Pass medical Cannabis and use it to fund state programs in need. Pass laws to allow more solar. Hundreds of millions in taxes could be collected without a tax increase.


Today’s Events

From Mary Scruggs’ indispensable calendar:

Rep. Dan Shaul & House 144 Republican candidate Chris Dinkins Reception – HRCC Office – Jefferson City 8AM.


Lobbyists Registrations

Scott Penman, Jessica Petrie, and David Winton added Missouri KidsFirst.

Michael Yaki and Theresa Garza deleted Renovate America Inc.


$5K+ Contributions

Missouri Senate Campaign Committee - $15,000 from Friends of Caleb Rowden.

Citizens for a Safer St. Louis STL - $30,000 from Citizens for Responsible Government.

House Victory Committee - $15,000 from Chipp Political Account.



Happy birthdays to former Reps. J.C. Kuessner and Jack Jackson, Melissa Panettiere, and Steve Hoven.



To the family of Julia Miller.  She worked for years in the House IT department.  See the obituary here.

Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Monday, November 13, 2017, at One In Christ Baptist Church, 900 Jefferson Street, Jefferson City, MO.

Funeral service will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, November 14, 2017, at One In Christ Baptist Church, 900 Jefferson Street, Jefferson City, MO.