Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rex Everywhere

Governor Jay Nixon recently raised the suspicion that the tax cut bill “error,” which he claims will eliminate the state income tax on almost everyone, might have been the workings of a certain billionaire.  He was invoking the specter of Rex Sinquefield.

Sinquefield has become a polarizing figure in Missouri politics.  As an ardent free market enthusiast with a joyful willingness to write six-figure checks, Sinquefield is in the middle of many big issues in the state. 

Tax Cut – This is a signature Sinquefield item.  He apparently helped fund efforts for tax cuts in neighboring states as a way to pressure Missouri to do more on this front.  And the latest incarnation of tax cut bills have their genesis in an impulse among the Republican legislature that Missouri should do something to counter Kansas’ aggressive tax cut.  The Sinquefield-funded Grow Missouri organization spent millions to try to build momentum behind last summer’s veto override, and has been collecting signatures to put some tax measures on the ballot.  The Sinquefield-funded Missouri Club for Growth issued a threat to the “Flimsy 15” and is active in primaries and general elections trying to get advocates for less government elected.

Schools – Sinquefield-funded Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri has been working to help kids in failing schools take advantage of the law allowing them to transfer to better districts.  As a result they are players in this year’s legislative effort to make changes to that law.  And the Sinquefield-funded teachgreat.org is behind a ballot proposal to eliminate “teacher tenure.”  It’s opposed by the teachers’ unions, a consistent foe of Sinquefield.

Ethics Reform – Democrats have noted that campaign contribution limits both poll well, and would help level their fundraising inequality with Republicans.  They’ve been pursuing ballot initiatives to take the issue to the voters.  Sinquefield has been one of those fighting this, filing a lawsuit, and invoking First Amendment rights to spend his money on speech as he sees fit.

Tobacco Settlement – Fair Trade Missouri has been working to amend the Master Tobacco Settlement.  Its lobbying team – Gate Way Group – has stated that it is working for RJ Reynolds and the effort is not affiliated with Sinquefield.  Yet opponents point to all of the shared resources (same lobbying team, same pollster, same spokesperson, same ballot attorney) and speak of the potential Sinquefield conspiracy to use the tobacco funds to… gasp… cut taxes. 

There is no shortage of scoffers who point to the very little he has accomplished of his agenda.  The larger impact of Sinquefield is often missed: he is mostly playing offense.  In other words, Sinquefield, his team, and his money have been contributing ingredients to defining the legislative agenda.  And making folks like Governor Jay Nixon and the education establishment spend most of their time playing defense.

Curls to Spike Scott Appointment?

Sen. Kiki Curls is leading an effort to derail Governor Jay Nixon’s appointment to the Missouri Highway and Transportation Committee.

It’s said that for Curls it’s “not about Bryan Scott,” but rather sending a message to the second floor.  She apparently thought that she had received a commitment which has not come to fruition.

The Gubernatorial Appointments Committee didn’t vote on Scott yesterday, pushing the vote off for another week.  This happens sometimes when a senator has expressed concern about a nominee.  It gives the senator and the appointee (or the governor) some time to work things out before the nomination is sunk.

Nixon Calling on Flimsy 15?

I spoke to one Republican representative, a member of the so-called Flimsy 15 who voted against last year’s tax cut bill, who said that the governor’s office had called to schedule a meeting.  Presumably the meeting was to discuss the governor’s concerns with this year’s tax cut bill.  The representative declined the invitation.

 

House Impeachment Hearings

The House held a hearing on impeaching Governor Jay Nixon.  Eyes rolled on both sides of the aisle in the building.  One Republican shook his head in the halls saying, “Do we really want to open this can of worms?  Someday there’ll be a Republican governor and Democratic legislature, do we want them impeaching our governor for every little disagreement?”

Post-Dispatch reporter VirginiaYoung astutely noted that Nixon enjoys the folly with this tweet: “Kinda funny/revealing that Nixon tweets this: MT @JayNixonNews Republicans Advance Effort To Impeach Gov. Nixon http://www.snsanalytics.com/pExMy2”

Bits

The House passed their version of the student transfer law change out of committee yesterday.  Post-Dispatch’s Alex Stuckey has a good report on it.  Read it here.  Three weeks left after today for this thorny issue…

The Missouri Ethics Commission fined the Committee to Restore Pride $9,500 for various untimely and incomplete filings.  See the consent order here.

Pro Tem Tom Dempsey established the Senate Select Committee on Capital Improvements “to monitor proposed state-funded capital improvement projects; monitor new construction on state buildings and state-funded capital improvement projects; and monitor all leases and proposed leases of real property funded with state moneys.  This committee, to be named at a later date, shall consist of five members, three of the majority party and two of the minority party...”

And in the Senate Journal, Dempsey instructs, “Due to my absence during the legislative day of Thursday, April 24, 2014, or until my return to the Missouri State Capitol Building, whichever occurs first, I authorize the Senate Majority Floor Leader to exercise the following duties:

• Refer bills to the Committee on Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight for fiscal review.

• Receive reports of bills on the Senate Third Read calendar or House Bills on Third Read calendar that have received the committee’s fiscal review.

• Receive the following reports from the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee: HB 2001, HB 2002, HB 2003, HB 2004, HB 2005, HB 2006, HB 2007, HB 2008, HB 2009, HB 2010, HB 2011, HB 2012, HB 2013

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Gate Way Group website:

Jewell D. H. Patek added Star Development Corp., And National Kitchen and Bath Association.

$5K+ Contributions

Ameren Missouri Political Action Committee - $5,073 from Ameren Fed PAC.

Birthdays

Happy birthday to Sen. Brian Munzlinger (58).