Monday August 5, 2013

Two Things We Learned Last Week

In the aftermath over Speaker Tim Jones’ provocative interviews last week, I think there are two things we learned about Jones…

Jones No Rex Puppet

First, Jones is definitely not a puppet of Rex Sinquefield, and there doesn’t appear to be any coordination between the speaker and the new Grow Missouri coalition. 

Those pushing hardest for the override (Carl Bearden for example) want a vote on HB 253, and were startled when Jones indicated that he might not bring it up for a vote.

Jones appears to have concluded that the potential damage to his caucus members in swing votes (increasing taxes on seniors’ prescription drugs, and risking education funds) is only worth it if they can get the law enacted.

That makes sense, except that the coalition being underwritten by Sinquefield wants a vote.  They want folks on the record.  Are they for or against this tax cut?  And they were temporarily thrown into confusion when the guy who supposed to be leading the charge didn’t share their “damn the torpedoes” attitude.

Jones No Tilley

Also, in the McDaniels-Mannies-Rosenbaum interview, Jones said that he hadn’t spoken to the three Democrats who voted for HB 253 during session.  Those familiar with former speaker Steve Tilley’s style say that would never have been happened under Tilley. Tilley – and/or some member of his staff – would be in regular, maybe even fawning, contact with the Dems trying to subtly woe them.  “Just checking in,” “See if there’s anything we can do” etc.

As Rep. Jeff Roorda tweeted: “@SpeakerTimJones should call me himself if he wants to talk to me about my continued support of bipartisan tax relief legislation”

More 2016 Talk – Dem Side

It could just be the summer lull that has idle gossip happening, but there seems more talk about 2016 lately (although not much at all about 2014)…

Peters-Baker for AG?

Former state Rep, and current Jackson County prosecuting attorney Jean Peters-Baker’s name is floating again for attorney general. 

Says one Dem: “When asked, she remains kind of coy and non-committal. Plus, she has been getting around the state quite a bit meeting with people. To me, she is making all the right moves to head in that direction if she wants to.”  He adds, “I don’t know how others feel, but I would think Mike Sanders would have a heck of a time getting support… He oversaw the party when we got destroyed in legislative races…”

Jake Zimmerman for Treasurer?

Another rumor has former Rep., and current St. Louis County Assessor, Jake Zimmerman as a statewide candidate in 2016 – for treasurer.

Team Zimmerman isn’t keen on hyping anything beyond his 2014 re-election, but it is interesting to note that later this month Zimmerman will be traveling on a two-day trip to meet with Bootheel Democrats.

Koster Wants a Running Mate?

And finally there’s a rumor that gubernatorial-nominee-in-waiting Chris Koster likes the idea of Clint Zweifel running for lieutenant governor, thinking that the two could run as a team.  Aside from his methodically political discipline, Zweifel is as serious as you can get on the policy stuff, and wouldn’t be prone to making gaffes.  Indeed a rock solid partner if Koster wanted to go that unorthodox route.

More On RCGA Lobbyist Split

Here’s some of the chatter following news of the RCGA’s recent termination of their lobbyists…

The How

The former RCGA lobbyists (Kim Tuttle, Tricia Workman and Jane Dueker) are top-notch: smart and extremely hard-working, and at the Capitol at all hours.  So there’s some outrage at the way they were treated at the end of their nine-years working for the chamber.

It’s said that their contract was due up in October.  Yet RCGA decided to terminate now, rather than simply not renew.  That strikes some as “unprofessional.”

From the perspective of lobbyists, when organizations take actions like this, it’s a nightmare: organizations sign contracts for a one-year period, divide the annual retainer by 12 months, and the lobbyists work their tails off  for five months of session, only to have the organization cancel the contract immediately following the session and save themselves a bucket full of money?  Maybe the next lobbyists should insist on getting their money up front?

The Why

There are several theories about why RCGA would switch lobbyists.  But all center on the new CEO Joe Reagan.

First, the Cryptic Message Theory” holds firing the lobbyists was “Reagan’s way of sending some sort of a cryptic message to the Republican leaders of the House and Senate of his dissatisfaction with their lack of production in the last session.”  This theory’s weakness is that no one seems to understand how the House or Senate leadership would get that message or even understand that it was intended for them.

Second, the “We’re Not in Kentucky Anymore Theory” says that in Kentucky where Reagan led the Louisville Chamber of Commerce, he was used to different interactions with the state legislature.  Perhaps Louisville holds a bigger stick in Kentucky, so he was disappointed with the rural-heavy House elevating gun freedom to the top of the legislative agenda.

Finally, the “New Sheriff Theory” is the simplest.  New guy wants to clean house start over with his own people.  It was noted that Reagan instituted a freezing of PAC contributions, and that there are plans to add another staff member to the Public Policy Group.  In this theory, the terminations, however unfortunate the process, were just part of the general reevaluation and shake-up.  One observer believes this may auger a change in style, ultimately resulting in “an agenda that is much more focused.”

Who’s Next?

I assumed that all the top firms would pitch RCGA for the contract, but it’s also possible maybe not.

One lobbyist who says they’re not interested explains, “It’s a well-known brand, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a very attractive contract. They have a limited budget, high demands, and a weak PAC.”

Caleb’s Case

In the speakers’ race, Rep. Caleb Jones has been putting lots of miles on his car (see below).  As he travels the state meeting with members of the Republican caucus one-on-one his pitch is simple.  He promises to open up the decision-making process to the entire caucus. 

Except for episodic – and unsuccessful – mutinies, the House has operated with the few in leadership determining the agenda of the body.  According to hallway talk over the years, the real decisions for the House were made in the caucus leadership meetings, but even more often, before or after those meetings with an even smaller, more select group of two or three or four members.

Jones is promising representatives that if he’s elected speaker he will blow up the system, and have decisions about what and when the body will pursue to be made in caucus meetings.

It sounds like importing the Senate system where Pro Tem Tom Dempsey routinely refers to the “will of the caucus” and tends to talk about caucus priorities rather than personal priorities.

 

I may be overstating, but Jones appears to be running on implementing a “weaker speaker” system.  And if this was truly the organizing principle of a House regime, it would be a radical reworking of the system.

Imagine, for example, how something like giving the chairs of committees more autonomy would have changed the trajectory of utilities or economic development or transportation or Medicaid legislation.

Imagine how such a system would change a lobbyist’s work…

Caleb the Road Warrior

A look at Caleb Jones’ Facebook shows his travels around the state.  His last week…

August 2 – St. Joe

August 1 – Harrisonville

August 1 – Lee’s Summit

July 29 – West Plain

July 29 – Rolla

July 27 – Higginsville

July 26 - Williamsburg

More on HRCC Number

As I wrote last week, the House Republican Campaign Committee has over $380K in commitments from sponsors for their summer caucus.  That is 15% above last year’s then-record breaking sponsorships.

It’s said that key assists in the haul came from Reps. John Diehl and Todd Richardson, who had some of their donors write checks to HRCC instead of themselves.

Wyatt Engaged

On Facebook, former state Rep. Zach Wyatt announced that he became engaged over the weekend to his boyfriend David Gomez.

The former Republican state representative offers a real life example of the quickly shifting ground of the gay marriage issue.

NYTimes on Unicorns in Missouri

Over the weekend the New York Times wrote about Missouri as a case study where state legislators have worked diligently to create obstacles to the implementation of the federal health care law.   The lede: “Looking for the new health insurance marketplace, set to open in this state in two months, is like searching for a unicorn.”   See it here.

But what caught one politico’s eyes was this paragraph deep in the story: “Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, said debate on the ballot measures had been highly political. He has held dozens of events to promote the expansion of Medicaid, stressing its economic benefits for the state. But Republicans hold two-thirds of the seats in each house of the legislature.”

Missing from this description is, of course, that Nixon opposed parts of Obamacare during his campaign for re-election.  And, that one reason Republicans have a supermajority in the House is because Nixon didn’t spend a dime to help the Democratic legislative candidates.

Bits

From Rep. Mike Moon’s Facebook:  Upon my return from a week-long family reunion, I found a large envelope mailed from the F.E.C. (Federal Election Commission). About one year ago, following my last run for the U.S. Congress, another unsuccessful candidate filed multiple allegations against me and several others… I opened the envelope. The second paragraph on page one told me all I needed to know (and what I’ve been hoping for): “Upon further review… the Commission… voted… and dismissed the… allegations and closed the file.”  Now, the question that has been asked time and time again, what should I do next? What should be done to the one who filed the complaints (and the others who supported the actions)? Forgiveness, that’s it!..  PTL (Praise the Lord)!

Last week the Office of Administration released July’s state tax receipts.  The first month of the fiscal year started off with a 4.8% drop.  But the oddly, all categories of collections inched up, and the drop was entirely contained within the “other collections” category.

The St. Louis Business Journal editorial last week calls on the legislature to sustain the governor’s veto on HB 253.  “Indeed, meaningful tax reform is an important issue for Missouri. So are Medicaid expansion, tax credit reform, highway improvements and education funding. All of these issues are far too important to be ‘negotiated’ in slogans or demonized by partisan politics.  This veto should be sustained. Mr. Jones and his fellow lawmakers should focus on how to create meaningful change in a businesslike manner.”

$5K+Contributions

Sanders for Jackson Couny - $10,000 from Kansas City Power and Light.

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:

 

Kenneth W Dobbins deleted Missouri Research Corporation, and added Missouri Innovation Corporation.

Misty Snodgrass deleted American Cancer Society, and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; and added Missouri Coalition of Community Mental Health Centers.