Mo. Digital News
Missouri Digital News
Mo. Digital News
Missouri Digital News
By Phill Brooks
«RM75»«FC»COL236.PRB - Change
The actions surrounding the inauguration of Missouri's new governor suggested to me a level of governmental transformation I cannot recall since Kit Bond's first gubernatorial term in 1973.
Bond called for a more transparent government and a broad package of consumer protection laws.
Missouri's new governor, Eric Greitens, also based his campaign on a promise for change.
In his inaugural address, he paraphrased John F. Kennedy's presidential inaugural address to "let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation."
Greitens echoed that theme using the term "direction."
"The people have spoken, a new direction has been decided," he announced.
And in a sentence that echoed Kennedy's warning to foreign adversaries, Greitens issued a warning to special interests.
"This is the peoples' house," he said speaking on the steps of the state Capitol.
"And to those who would trouble this house for their own selfish and sinful gain, hear me now: I answer to the people. I come as an outsider, to do the people's work."
He demonstrated that intention when just minutes after his speech he signed an executive order to ban executive branch workers from taking lobbyist gifts.
Actually, Greitens' demonstration of change came earlier in the morning of inauguration day when he canceled the inaugural parade to provide time for Greitens to host a ceremony honoring Missouri heroes.
A Greitens staffer emailed reporters that the purpose for abandoning the parade was to "take the spotlight off of politicians."
But, in fact, that parade, with decades of history, had included not just politicians, but also high school marching bands from throughout the state.
It included all the newly elected statewide officials as well as other dignitaries riding in cars.
My close colleague Bob Priddy noted in a recent blog that in 1961 that parade included Former President Harry Truman.
This year, the day after the abandoned parade, Greitens initiated another change.
He issued an executive order his staff described as a "Regulatory Freeze."
It orders all agencies to suspend making rules for seven weeks. And, it bans agencies from even proposing regulations "until approved by the Office of the Governor."
I'm not sure about the real impact of that order.
There are a pile of laws giving agencies power to adopt regulations. There is a detailed process for public comment before rules can be implemented.
Can a governor, simply by an executive order, suspend those laws that grant rule making authority to agencies such as boards that license and establish training requirements for health care providers like doctors and nurses?
I'm equally uncertain about Greitens' earlier order banning executive branch workers from accepting lobbyist gifts.
There is another pile of laws providing job protections and rights for "merit system" employees to protect state government workers from arbitrary job decisions by partisan-elected officials.
Can a governor, simply by executive order, fire a worker under the merit system for accepting a cup of coffee from a lobbyist? Does that mean the governor can issue an order banning merit system workers from any other activity he does not like with the threat of dismissal?
And if you're going to ban employees from taking lobbyist gifts, why not extend that ban to the governor himself from taking contributions from special interests seeking government favors?
These questions make me wonder about the actual purpose of Greitens' first actions as governor.
Two of those executive orders suggest Greitens seeks to concentrate unprecedented powers into the governor's office that Kit Bond never sought in his effort to change government.
But Greitens signed another executive order later in the week that suggests he's ceding power.
The order transfer assigns to a "chief operating officer" what had been one of one of the major responsibilities assumed by every other governor I've covered -- "overseeing operations of the State of Missouri's executive departments."
It's all going to be an interesting few years to see what Eric Greitens means in his promise for a "new direction."
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and an emeritus faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.]
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.