Saturday, November 29, 2014

We interrupt this vacation for a brief update…


Governor Jay Nixon announced that he’ll call the legislature back for a special session.  While no firm date has been given yet.  It appears we’re looking at next week.


From the press release: The Governor said that with the ramped up presence and role of the Guard and Highway Patrol in the region, financial obligations are on track to exceed the current appropriation authority for emergency duties.  In a call with legislative leaders tonight, the Governor emphasized the importance of taking action quickly to ensure that Guard members are paid on December 15… Unlike during prior emergencies, a special session is necessary for Ferguson-related obligations because the appropriations for the state's emergency duty costs no longer include an "estimated" designation. Without the estimated designation, the Governor must ask the legislature to appropriate additional amounts when needed.


Normally a special session to fund the National Guard should be an open-shut affair.  It’s hard to imagine that any legislature, much less a Republican led one, would balk at funding these men and women doing their duty.


However, there’s a volatile mix right now.  One lobbyist describes the intersecting story lines, “Speaker Tim Jones is about to launch his private sector life, and now has a pulpit.  Rep. Rick Stream is in a position to bail out (or not bail out) Steve Stenger.  Three different models of firebrand conservatives comes back – Sens. John Lamping, Brad Lager and Brian Nieves – each of them with seemingly absolutely nothing to lose.  Plus you add in all the House Dems who just lost.”


One more potent ingredient is the two legislators who have been most vocal about Ferguson and very often critical of Nixon.  It’s unclear whether Sens. Maria Chappelle-Nadal and Jamilah Nasheed would actually seek to disrupt Nixon’s plan to fund the Guard, but one cannot imagine that they wouldn’t use the opportunity to express their displeasure.


Republicans, as indicated by the statements below, would appear to be ready to partner with the Democratic critics and make a bipartisan rag-session out of this.  Furthermore on Nixon’s conference call with legislative leaders, it’s said that legislators were already voicing their concerns.  Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer “pushed hard” on the issue of timing, and asked for a detailed breakdown of where the $7 million of emergency funds have already been spent.


From Speaker-elect John Diehl’s statement: "I believe both parties in the legislature are committed to ensuring the men and women in law enforcement and in the National Guard are fully compensated for their service in protecting our communities during unrest.  Since the crisis in Ferguson began, we have had little to no communication from the governor.  Even the mayors of those cities being overrun by looters and vandals calls go unanswered by the governor.  Without consultation or communication, the governor has spent millions of taxpayer dollars while making poor decisions impacting the safety of our communities… It is time for Governor Nixon to come forward and provide answers.  We are open to a special session to address this crisis, but we expect the governor and his staff to provide a written and responsible plan going forward.  We also expect the governor and his staff that made decisions during this crisis come forward and appear before the legislature.  It is time for an accounting and for leadership that will not only communicate but work with the legislature to solve this crisis."


Speaker Tim Jones tweet: “I completely agree the #MO National Guard should have whatever resources they need...including a new Commander in Chief. #Fergsuon”