The Special Investigative Committee on Oversight was formed by Speaker Todd Richardson on Feb. 27, 2018. The house unanimously voted to establish the committee to “investigate allegations against Governor Eric R. Greitens.” The committee was tasked with reporting back to the house within 40 days.
The committee has issued its first report, outlining through testimony the extramarital affair Greitens had engaged in prior to serving as governor. The report can be found at www.house.mo.gov. Please be aware this report contains content of a sensitive and sexual nature. The report includes sworn testimony from the governor’s former mistress as well as other witnesses.
Prior to the release of the report, Greitens held a press conference in his office, stating the report was “full of lies,” and a “political witch hunt.” According to the committee’s initial report, the governor was given multiple opportunities to testify under oath to the committee and he declined. Greitens further stated that he would be exonerated of the pending charges in criminal court.
Greitens maintains support from some members of the legislature, but there have been numerous renewed calls for his resignation. Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe issued one of the strongest statements Thursday morning, “The governor should resign immediately for the good of the state, but more importantly, for the good of his family. Unlike any political office, his family will be with him for the rest of his life.” Sen. Kehoe further stated, “Remaining in office reeks of the self-serving actions of a ‘career politician’ the governor has mockingly derided since his inauguration.”
Speaker Todd Richardson and President Pro Tem Ron Richard stated that at the conclusion of the House investigation at the end of session, it was possible the legislature would call itself into a special session to deal with the impeachment of Greitens. The committee is continuing its work, and it has been reported they are investigating the governor’s use of a nonprofit fundraising list that was obtained by his gubernatorial campaign.
The legislature will return on Tuesday to continue work until the session adjourns at 6 p.m., Friday, May 18.
The Senate Committee on Gubernatorial Appointments gave approval to a controversial appointment to the State Board of Education. The recommendation from the committee now goes before the entire Senate.
The committee voted 6-3 to approve the appointment of Eddy Justice, a Republican from Poplar Bluff. Justice, along with other new appointees, was originally appointed while the legislature was not in session. This allowed them to serve on the State Board until the Senate could act on their appointment.
Minutes before the 2018 legislative session convened, Gov. Eric Greitens withdrew his nominees and once the Senate was in session, reappointed the five previous nominees. While interim appointments can serve and vote in the capacity of the office, appointments made during session must be confirmed before they can act in an official capacity. The State Board of Education currently lacks a quorum, and is unable to meet and conduct business.
During his time serving on the board, Justice was one of the board members who voted to fire Margie Vandeven as Commissioner of Education. At the hearing Wednesday, Justice was asked if firing Vandeven was a requirement of his appointment. Justice said no. “There were no conditions placed on me,” Justice said. He said he decided to fire Vandeven after meeting with her and other people within DESE and assessing the department’s culture. “I came to the independent conclusion that I believed there needed to be a culture change in the department,” he told the senators, “and the best place to start that change was at the top.”
Justice is the first appointee to the State Board to have a hearing before the Senate committee.
Between July 31 and Dec. 1, the governor appointed 10 people to fill five vacancies that existed through resignations, expired terms and the withdrawal of the governor’s own appointments.
There are four other appointees that are awaiting a hearing and possible confirmation. The next step is to have the full Senate consider Justice’s appointment, which Sen. Ron Richard said could happen next week.
The House Special Committee on Government Oversight heard SB695 (Wallingford), an MSTA legislative priority. SB695 would require the governor to appoint a teacher representative to the State Board of Education. The teacher representative would attend all board meetings and participate in deliberations. However, the teacher representative would not have the right to vote on any matter or be counted for purposes of establishing a quorum. The teacher representative must be a resident of Missouri and be certified to teach, have at least five years of teaching experience, employed full time as a teacher in the state and not be on leave. The teacher must also have the written support of his or her local school board.
The teacher representative would serve a four-year term and future appointments would be made in a rotation from each Congressional District, beginning with the First Congressional District and then progressing in numerical order. In the event of a vacancy in the position of teacher representative, the governor would appoint a replacement by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The teacher representative would not be permitted to participate in closed meetings of the board, unless authorized by the seated members of the board. The bill includes a sunset date of Aug. 28, 2026, unless renewed by the legislature.
Currently, the board is made up of eight citizens appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Members serve staggered, eight-year terms so that one term expires each year. No more than four members of the board may belong to the same political party. No more than one member of the board may reside in the same county or Congressional district. When terms expire, members continue to serve until being replaced or reappointed.
There were several questions during the committee meeting, mostly related to an amendment that was added in the Senate regarding changes to the gubernatorial appointment process. This language would have made important changes to the appointment process and provide for accountability and input from the Missouri Senate.
The House Pensions Committee had a very passionate hearing on a bill that would affect PSRS. HB2660 (Miller) would change the structure of the Board of Trustees for the Public School Retirement System. Currently, the board has three elected trustees from PSRS (certificated) and one elected trustees from PEERS (non-certificated). This bill would restructure the seven-member board by replacing one of the elected PSRS members with a school board member of a PSRS member school district.
When the bill was first introduced, MSTA lobbyists met with Rep. Miller and expressed our concern that his proposal would reduce the voice that active teachers currently have on the Board of Trustees. During the hearing Rep. Miller introduced a substitute bill that would leave the elected members of the Board of Trustees as they currently are, but require that one of the board members appointed by the governor must be a school board member. Currently there are three appointments to the Board of Trustees that are made by the governor. One of those three appointments must be a retiree member of the system.
The bill would also require PSRS/PEERS to pay to a covered employer any contributions made on behalf of members who no longer are active and withdraw/refund their contributions with interest from the systems. Currently, if a member is no longer an active member, they can withdraw their contributions with interest. The employer contributions remain in the system and are utilized to offset the cost of the retirement benefit for the other members and employers.
Once MSTA met with Rep. Miller and explained the cost this change would have to the system, he told committee members that he would not move the bill forward unless this portion was removed.
MSTA still has concerns with any change to the make-up of the PSRS Board of Trustees. The board structure has worked well, and changing that structure could make decisions that affect everyone involved with our retirement system more difficult.
The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee held a hearing and gave approval to a Senate bill designed to promote computer science education in Missouri schools.
SB894 & 921 (Libla) requires that before July 1, 2019, DESE develop a high school graduation policy that allows a student to fulfill one unit of academic credit with a district-approved computer science course for any math, science, or practical arts unit required for high school graduation. The graduation policy shall require that all students have either taken all courses that require end-of-course exams or are on track to take all courses that require end-of-course exams under the Missouri School Improvement Program.
School districts are required to communicate to students electing to replace a mathematics unit with a computer science unit that some institutions of higher education may require four units of math for college admission. The parent of each student who chooses to take advanced computer science in place of a fourth unit of math is required to sign and submit a document acknowledging that not taking a fourth unit of math may have an adverse effect on college admission decisions.
The bill requires DESE and the Coordinating Board for Higher Education to cooperate in developing and implementing academic performance standards relating to computer science, however, the ultimate responsibility remains with the State Board of Education.
Before July 1, 2019, DESE is required to convene a workgroup that will develop and recommend academic performance standards relating to computer science. These standards must be adopted and implemented beginning in the 2020-2021 school year. The board is also responsible for developing a procedure by which any licensed teacher who demonstrates sufficient content knowledge of computer science will receive a special endorsement on his or her license signifying this specialized knowledge.
SB894 & 921 also creates the Computer Science Fund for the purpose of providing teacher professional development programs relating to computer science. The State Board shall award grants from the fund to eligible entities, as defined in the act, who have submitted an application to DESE, as specified in the act.
While MSTA has had broad support in the legislature from strong public school advocates as well as former and current MSTA members, finding individuals that will fight for the success of public education has never been more important. To continue being an effective player in the political process, MSTA needs to be involved much earlier in the campaign process, not only supporting and retaining great candidates, but also recruiting them. MSTA will again hold a campaign workshop for those interested in learning more about political campaigns or considering a future run for office. This one-day crash course will cover a broad range of topics including campaign management, fundraising, advertising, and media training.
The MSTA Campaign Workshop is a great introduction to the time and work that is required to run for office, and a great way to learn how to effectively help campaigns. Quality candidates that will advocate for Missouri’s students, teachers and communities in the Missouri Legislature come from all walks of life, and if you have thought this might be a position for you, come explore your options.
The course will cover both campaigns for the Missouri Legislature as well as information regarding school board elections. Dates for 2018 have not yet been set, if interested, please contact MSTA Government Relations Manager, Matt Michelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.